Annie Grace Transcripts

Date: 13 May 1855
Recipient: Grace Fenton
Book: Annie Grace Fenton letter-book, Royal Photographic Society Collection, National Media Museum, Bradford

May 13th

Dear Grace

I have been rather longer than usual in writing to you, it is very hard now for me to get a chance of writing. This sheet of paper I have carried in my pocket till I could get a table to write upon. I am present at the railway station at the top of the hill above Kadikoi. My last letter left me at Genl Bosquet’s – Well I lived with him sleeping on the ground in a tent which he put up for me, whether it was the intense heat or the diet or the damp ground or sleeping with my tent open I do not know but I was taken ill with Diarrhoea [sic] & finding my self getting worse set off down here & took shelter with the railway folks knowing that I should be quite at home among them & receive good medical care as there are 9 doctors living in the hut – [illegible] made a shake down for me & let me lie quietly without talking, It was fortunate that I did for the same night the cold weather was followed by a great storm of wind & rain which lasted for 3 days without ceasing. The rain came down in floods and the whole country is once more a complete quagmire. I kept in doors, in fact I could do nothing else, and thanks to the change of air, the quiet and cessation from work, and the kind treatment I received I am now quite right but I have lost a week.

I do not like living with the French, they are very kind, but their habits are so different and the effort to maintain my part in conversation when tired out and wanting nothing so much as to lie & shut my eyes and sulk is too fatiguing; They seem to like me and tell me they wish I would join them for good and go through the campaign with them and I could get on with them very well but there is one great drawback in their camp which is not very easily described (much better understood than told): There being no woman here, they are not particular as to how they exhibit themselves, & there has been a story going about the camp that I had given up taking views in disgust because I could never get a picture without there being in it some object not fit to show to a British Public: In the French camp, this I really the case; and as every one in Rome does as they do in Rome. I had no resource being an Englishman and troubled with diarrhoea but to come to a place where there was a Christian water closet, Now you need not show this letter to any one but it will just serve to show you some of the agreables of our present life. I’ll tell you a few things when I come home if you will promise not to be shocked, but this will do pretty well for a letter. Just as I was getting better I received 4 letters, one from you (20th April) one from Betsy, one from Emma Hayes and one from Agnew and very welcome they were. Agnew seems very pleased with the picture I sent him.

To day I went over to the French camp and looked in at my tent[.] The ground inside it was soaking, my bed mouldy[.] On lifting it up from the ground a rat ran out, I turned the things over and tomorrow shall air them and put them in the sun but I did not dare sleep there to night so came back again to the station. I am getting very badly off for clothes, the warm things I brought out are too heavy to wear, one of the thinner pair of trousers is all rotten at the bottom and is dropping off piecemeal; the other pair will perhaps last till I have done. I have bought some light canvass trousers but they will not do to work in as they would show the nitrate spots; I have not worn a shirt for the last two months and as there is no washing to be got I am obliged to buy a new flannel shirt whenever I want a change. My working coat is all patched and but for the needles you gave me would have dropped off my back before this; It is in such a costume as this that I go to dine with generals. In the English quarters I do not mind this because there free and easy is the order of the day, but the French are very smart and dress magnificently and with them I cannot help sometimes drawing comparisons.

I am not yet ready to leave, my illness and the weather have hindered me much. If lucky I shall get away by the Propeller which is to leave in a fortnight but I rather wish than expect this. You may rely upon one thing that the moment I can leave, I will. I have refused to do any more portraits than those which I am strictly obliged to do. These I could do pretty quickly but there are some views to take which are of a very difficult character being all distance, and I have been at one for the last week making failure on failure. The more I dont succeed, the more I get determined to master the difficulty but at the same time the more sick of the work. I have got quite to dread the sight of English officers riding up to my van. I am obliged to answer all their questions to give a civil refusal to their demand that I will come to their quarters, and to have any time wasted when I am puzzling my brain to find out the cause of some inexplicable failure or if not failing am thinking how I shall best arrange a group so as to make of it a pleasing composition[.] Some of them wont be turned away by any amount of uncivility which I can muster. I know that I shall carry away with me the reputation of being a great bear but should not mind that if I thereby be allowed to work tranquilly,

Now is not this a dismal letter? Do you think I shall ever recover my good temper? I tell you if I could get away this minute and forget that I had left work undone I would not be long before being in Albert Terrace, but it wont do to shirk one’s duty; After all I have no reason to grumble I really am treated with the greatest kindness everywhere and the discomforts I meet with are inseparable from the rambling way in which I live. The depression of spirits is owing to excitement and too hard work and no doubt the rest I shall have on my way home will restore all my elasticity of mind. There is one thing that makes me ashamed of being so soft and that is to see the men here who have been out 12 months who have as many inducements to get home as I have but who are obliged to stay with no prospect of returning perhaps for years. There is an immense deal of home sickness here both among officers and men though if the army were to move forward every one would recover their spirits. You should have seen Edmund Hallewell when the expedition to Kertch came back without having landed. Poor fellow, he was quite crest fallen[.] Champagne even could do nothing to recover him; They were all the same [ – ] it was impossible to cut a joke about the matter. If some active step is not taken soon to occupy the energies of our troops I am afraid there will be a great amount of illness among them; They all congratulate me about going home so soon and wish it was their turn.

If you see Mr Hawkins tell him it is not inclination that keeps me here, that I am longing to be once more in my quiet retreat on the leads of the Museum; I have got portraits both of Turner and Verschoyle, I shall send another batch of portraits to Agnew soon now that I know he has received the last, He tells me it would be desirable if I could take a view of a Russian sortie “very desirable indeed, but not for me, as my van, apparatus and myself would be all knocked into everlasting smash if seen within half a mile of the advanced trenches; It is amusing to see how little idea people have of what is possible in this world. Could my van have been seen when I took it down to the valley of Death which is a good mile I should think from the town I should have had small chance of writing this letter. Even when there is a flag of truce no one is allowed to sketch on either side. Simpson has sketched a little in the trenches but only on a bit of paper with pencil and that by getting under cover where no Russian could see him. However I shall have lots of interesting pictures though I cannot get any of the trenches unless the town is taken before I go, which is about as likely as that the sky should fall.

Well I must say good night, kiss my dear bairns for me; I shall have a good lot of tales to tell when when [sic] I get an old fellow. By the way my beard is pretty strongly sprinkled with gray now. I do not think you would know me if you were to meet me especially if I were dressed in the Zouaves costume which general Bosquet has promised to give me.


Monday. The weather is again beautiful and I have taken full advantage of it having taken several stereoscopic pictures of the battle field of Balaclava. Tomorrow I move to Inkerman, I am once more installed at General Bosquet’s but as my tent is not yet dry, the gound in side being almost a puddle, one of his aide’s Capt Dampierre who was taken prisoner by the Russians at the beginning of the seige and has just returned lends me his tent for the night. I wish you would have Fanny or Emma Hayes to stay with you till I come back[.] I should be much more comfortable if I knew you were not alone. Dont show this letter to any body. If you could see how many invitations I refuse every day from people who want me to come to their camps, you would be quite satisfied that I am losing no time.

Good bye General Bosquet is just arriving. there is a grand flourish of trumpets both when he sets out on a ride and on his return:

Joseph Fenton Transcripts

Joseph Fenton’s letter–book does not contain this letter