Hotel de France Nice
Saturday Nov: 2nd
My dear Papa
I will begin first by an account of letters received at Cannes yesterday – one from you to Mama, <1> a short one, mentioning that the House in Gt Stuart St <2> is let – one from Charles <3> to me, and also Mrs Menteith’s which he enclosed – all these were forwarded from Geneva, as they arrived there after we were gone. Mrs Newton’s <4> letter to Mama which Charles asks about was received before. Lastly a letter from Charles to Ela, <5> of the 29th Oct directed to Cannes, and in which he mentions that you had also written to Cannes the day before this letter of your’s <sic> we could obtain no tidings of, after most particular enquiries at the Post office. Perhaps Charles was mistaken? Please thank him for his letter. Ela wrote to him from Hyères, last Monday, I think, so that you have already heard of our arrival there. We were much interested in the place, it is so very characteristic and full of outlandish vegetation. You had slandered the Palm trees by saying they were only a foot high – those are the new plantations, but they can boast of two at least of a most noble size, forty or fifty feet, I should think – and looking up through their foliage into the deep blue sky, made one feel very oriental indeed. Then all the curious cactuses and Indian figs sprouting all over the bare rocks are so comical; but they do not make the most of their advantages or understand the arrangement of a garden. We took a drive through the forest of pine as the Guide book calls it; but the trees are small and the road very rough. Altogether I am glad we have seen the place, but I do not think it would be the best to choose for a lengthened stay – There is no shade, and the sun at noonday glares fiercely on the white rocks and houses, at the same time we found the air so sharp in the early morning and evenings, that it is difficult to understand how it can be suitable for invalids – L’Hotel des Iles dOr is not very dear but not good either. Apparently in a state of decay, not very clean, attendance indifferent and cuisine very so-so. We stayed from Sunday to Thursday, and then went to Cannes, where Bayer <6> foolishly took us (as he had already done at Geneva) to the dearest Hotel in the Place, le Grand Hotel de Cannes. a very large showy house, which perhaps you remember, at the eastern extremity – appartments 50 francs. When we found this, of course we would not stay more than one night – and as Mama was very tired, as she always is after any move, she could do no more than just pace about a little in the garden and on the sands close bye <sic>. The weather was perfectly lovely – one could not realize that it was the first of November; the only drawback being a perfect plague of mosquitos by which we were all terribly bitten, Ela especially is quite disfigured, for there were no curtains round the beds to keep them out. There is also a kind of small black fly, to all appearence like the common fly, but which bites most venemously causing more irritation even than the mosquitos, but as it make <sic> its’ <sic> attacks by day, it is more easily guarded against. We heard nothing of the Mount Edgcumbes <7>at Cannes; I suppose they are not arrived yet – The train which brought us from Cannes here was more than an hour behind time, so that with the usual habit of omnibuses of starting much too soon, we had to wait one hour and 3 quarters at a not particularly interesting station, and contrived to convert a little journey
of or drive, as you would call it, of one hour, into three! So much for railways – but we have done with them now for the present – This charming town of Nice, for it is very charming even on so short an acquaintance, is, I am sorry to say, very dear also – but this I suppose one was to expect – This Hotel de France is not showy or very new, but most comfortable – a really good style of house – well after much solicitation we could make no better terms with them than 40 francs a day – they first asked 45 – But as it is so pretty, and we shall probably not come back here, (if we did they say that later in the season their terms are still higher!) we have settled to remain till Wednesday, then sleep two night <sic> at Mentone, and finally reach San Remo on Friday the 8th. So I do not think you will have time to write again here after you have got this letter, but direct to San Remo, to the Hotel Victoria perhaps will be safer than the post office. Please give the same direction to Charles, and to Goodwin <8> in case he has any occasion to write – Hotel Victoria San Remo, Riviera di ponente. Italie. that is how Bayer says it should be. How is it you never told us of a little plantation of shrubs here, called le Jardin public, full of curiosities, some with their names – A remarkable pretty tree in groups – said to <illegible deletion> be the Pepper tree – with feathery foliage like an acacia, and covered with clusters of red berries & many other things. I have been out a long time with Mamie who is so happy to revisit all her old haunts which she says are quite recognisable although the town has grown so much – The weather is perfectly summery, but this evening clouds are gathering and threatening a change. I suppose it cannot be always fine even here. I must conclude now for fear of missing the post – I hope you will not give up your visit to Dabton <9> Tilly <10> would be so disappointed and then Goodwin could bring home Pussy. It is very good indeed of Tilly to take charge of her in the meantime, when she has so many of her own already
Goodbye now dear Papa, with love from all
Your affectionate daughter
1. Constance Talbot, née Mundy (1811–1880), WHFT’s wife.
2. 13 Great Stuart Street, Edinburgh, frequent home of the Talbots from 1863-1871.
3. Charles Henry Talbot (1842–1916), antiquary & WHFT’s only son.
4. An aunt of her mother's.
5. Ela Theresa Talbot (1835–1893), WHFT’s 1st daughter.
6. M J Bayer, courier.
7. Ernest Augustus Edgcumbe, Lord Valletort, 3rd Earl of Mt Edgcumbe (1797–1861), WHFT’s brother-in-law.
8. George Goodwin (d. 1875), footman at Lacock Abbey.
9. Dabton, Dumfriesshire: home of WHFT’s daughter Matilda
10. Matilda Caroline Gilchrist-Clark, ‘Tilly’, née Talbot (1839–1927), WHFT’s 3rd daughter.