Hotel Victoria San Remo
Tuesday December 24th 1867
My dear Papa,
I must begin by wishing you, and all at Dabton, <1> a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from each and every one of us, and as you will receive this between the two days, it will be equally appropriate to both. At any rate you are sure to spend a very happy Christmas with John <2> and Tilly <3> and all the dear little children, and how I wish we could suddenly transport ourselves into the midst of you all and join the party. Here it does not seem much like Christmas, altho’ Mrs Cowan, the Chaplain’s wife, and other ladies have been toiling all the week, sewing leaves, and making the usual devices for the adornment of the room which serves as temporary church. We shall see the result of their labours tomorrow. We are also promised an orthodox dinner of Turkey and plum-pudding; as for mince pies, I am afraid their fame has not yet reached these distant regions. Mama <4> thanks you very much for your letter just received, and containing an account of Charlie Edgcumbe’s <5> adventures – truly his experience of Avignon forms a striking contrast to ours. It seems indeed to be an exceptional season from the accounts of all quarters, and I fear the worst may not be over yet. Here, when a fortnight ago snow fell, (but never lay, as at Cannes & even Mentone) all the inhabitants exclaimed that such a thing had not been seen for twelve years. It is still very cold, although for the last week we have had almost uninterrupted sunshine, but the wind is so sharp that one requires all the wraps imaginable to keep it out, and how the poor consumptive patients manage to live through it, is more than one can tell. Everybody is always catching cold, and one hears nothing but coughing through the house. Mama has still got a bad cold which she does not know how to get rid of, and Mamie <6> is not very well. However we are certainly better off here than we should be any where else at present, and with the addition of a few articles of
articles furniture, which Mme Grossi made no difficulty in giving us, and a thick curtain over the doors to keep out draughts, we have made ourselves very tolerably comfortable.
The flowers, I am afraid, will be very backward – the violets are only beginning to make their appearance on the lower grounds, and they have not much scent. They are a pale kind, rather ragged in appearance, and growing on long stalks.
I suppose we shall have to wait a month, or perhaps two, before the most interesting plants come into bloom, and then I fear we shall have to go far to find them, as all around here the ground is so ploughed up and disturbed among the everlasting Olive trees, that many sorts must be quite destroyed. The sunrises are sometimes splendid –
they on the shortest day the clouds, of crimson and gold were particularly gorgeous, and exactly at half past seven, the sun itself like a ball of fire rose straight out of the sea, without a speck or vapour to dim it’s [sic] brillancy [sic] – This is what we do not often see at home. It is perfectly wonderful ly how many people one knows something of, are abroad in these regions this year – until one wonders who can be left at Home? Tilly mentions the Lenys at Nice, today. At Mentone all Cumberland is congregated: and here Mrs Stanger of Lairthwaite, Keswick, is expected daily. She lost her husband about 18 months ago, and she is now travelling with her daughter, Miss Murray, whom Tilly will remember. Our next neighbours, in the rooms adjoining Mama’s, are four Miss Stuarts, cousins of the Stuart Gladstones of Capenoch, traveling with their maid and Courier. They lost their father three months ago, and are living in retirement, but having found out that we have mutual acquaintances they have wished to make ours. They are said to be pleasant people. I am glad you gave us good account of Lady Mt E. <7> at Cannes, as Galignani put in a paragraph a short time ago about her being in so extremely delicate a state as to make us rather uneasy, and half resolve to write to Val <8> to enquire. I wish newspapers wouldn’t always invent. I suppose Aunt Caroline <9> said nothing about her plans? I do not think she will leave England, or it would be settled by this time. Tell Tilly that Mamie will write to her very soon, and thank her very much for her letter. And so it seems that Charles <10> is to be with you after all. What has made him change his mind so often?
Your affectionate daughter
1. Dabton, Dumfriesshire: home of WHFT’s daughter Matilda.
2. John Gilchrist-Clark (1830–1881), Scottish JP; WHFT’s son-in-law.
3. Matilda Caroline Gilchrist-Clark, ‘Tilly’, née Talbot (1839–1927), WHFT’s 3rd daughter.
4. Constance Talbot, née Mundy (1811–1880), WHFT’s wife.
5. Charles Earnest Edgcumbe (1838–1915), JP, WHFT’s nephew.
7. Wife of William Henry Edgcumbe, ‘Val’, 4th Earl Mt Edgcumbe (1832–1917), JP & Ld Steward of the Royal Household; WHFT’s nephew ‘Bimbo’.
8. William Henry Edgcumbe, ‘Val’, 4th Earl Mt Edgcumbe (1832–1917), JP & Ld Steward of the Royal Household; WHFT’s nephew ‘Bimbo’.
9. Caroline Augusta Edgcumbe, née Feilding, Lady Mt Edgcumbe (1808–1881); WHFT’s half-sister.
10. Charles Henry Talbot (1842–1916), antiquary & WHFT’s only son.
11. John Henry Gilchrist-Clark, ‘Jack’ (1861–1902), WHFT’s grandson.
12. Constance Stewart, née Gilchrist-Clark (b. 1863), ‘Connie’, WHFT’s Scottish granddaughter.
13. William ‘Willie’ Gilchrist-Clark-Maxwell (1865–1935), WHFT’s grandson.