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Roger Fenton's Letters from the Crimea
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Letter number 8

Date: 9 April 1855
Recipient: William Agnew
Letter book: Joseph Fenton letter-book, Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin

To Mr Agnew of Manchester rec’d April 9th 1855

(Private)

Dear Sir,

I send by this days post a few views & portraits the explanation of which you will find on the back[.] It is so difficult to print pictures here especially the large ones that I send what I have got whether true or not[.] About a fortnight since I sent off a parcel by Mr Smith one of the Post Masters here, who was going down to Constantinople to take charge of the post office there. He was to shew them to Lord Stafford & send them on from there[.] You will by this I suppose have rec’d them[.] I have got about 3 times as many as what I have sent but have had no time to print them[.] Lord G Pagett & Gen’l Scarlett, I think I have sent you —

My van is now half way up to head quartors [sic] & had today been fine would have arrived there. I have been after establishing myself at Balaclava working my way up taking pictures of remarkable sights & persons so that I may not have to return here except to embark[.] Sir C Campbell I have not yet got [ — ] he is up at 4 every morning & either writing & not to be disturbed or scampering about. Yesterday I was up at head quarters & got a site given me on which to erect my tent[.] I shall have some days work up here before I can do much[.] I have to get up my tent build a stable & find a Cook[.] The latter is the greatest bother if possible I shall get one of Lord Raglans body guard as I can make out a case of necessity I think the application will be attended to [ — ] our time is so completely occupied with work that there is no chance of our getting anything to eat if we have to look after it ourselves

I have never touched my colours yet I must devote some days to sketching when every thing else is finished [ — ] there are a few good sketchers in the Camp which I shall try to get but generally the officers who are at the front are too hard worked to have time for sketching[.] Simpson who is working for Colnaghi makes only pencil outlines on the ground & puts in the colour from memory[.] Goodall who is here for the Illustrated News has been ill & not doing much[.] His sketches which appear in the paper seem to astonish every one from there [sic] total want of likeness & the nullity & it is not suprising that it should be so, since you will see from the prints sent herewith that the scenes we have here are not bits of Artistic effort which can be effectually rendered by a rough sketch but wide stretches of open country covered with an infinity of detail

I have found a much better way of getting my van conveyed to the site I select than by applying to the Authorities — As soon as a few of the prints had been see [sic]. I was overwhelmed with applications to go here & there to take a portrait or a view of some tent or camp. If it is a place where I want to go that the application has come from, I go if they will drag the van & if to go does not take me out of the road to head quartors [sic] For any very heavy pull the Artillery give me 6 horses for small distances, the me [sic] turn out in the hopes of getting Photographed in a group[.] This way I have travelled during the past week a great part of the way up & had it not been pouring with rain I should have got there this evening[.] All the heavy part of my baggage not immediately needed I leave in my hut down here where I print [ — ] the rest will be sent up by one of the railway waggons to the top of the hill & I shall have to cart it from there if I can borrow a cart, or convey it piece meal on my horses by pack saddle

Today is the first wet day we have had & the [workers?] say that now that it has begun it will last a fortnight[.] The streets in Balaclava are already almost impossible but it has been coming down in torrents & cannot go on in the same way — Water was much needed for the wells were drying up & the earth baked hard as a stone[.] In the valley round Balaclava there is not a blade of anything green to rest the eye upon but on the hill tops & away from the neighbourhood of the troops the ground has been sprinkled with crocuses & snowdrops & now it is covered with the purple & yellow Iris with primroses & other flowers unknown to me[.] I generally get a ride up there in the evening to neutralize by a little pure air the poison breathed in Balaclava

Though my horses will not draw the van I find them exceedingly useful, as the distances are so great that without them much of our time & bodily strength would be wasted in mere locomotion[.] It will take me longer than I calculated to get through my work here[.] I shall write to the Museum to get them to defer if possible the commemcement of this years Photographic work[.] I shall be obliged to you if you will place £30 to my credit at Roger Cunliffe’s & Co 24 Bucklesbury Cheapside[.] I shall be glad to have a letter from you to say what you think of the prints[.] If you have not got a portrait of Lord Cardigan I should recommend you to take no trouble about it as you will before long have a very different account of his [illegible] that he has himself given[.] I have heard men & officers in the Cavelry regts discussing his conduct & not one have a good word to say for him[.] He is said to have been 20 minutes before any one else out of the Action at Balaclava Lord Swan is no great favourite but the Officers all sympathize with him & say that he is badly used & that he had no chance but to as he did[.] Please remember that this letter is not intended for every body to see generally [ — ] it would be very injurious to me were any of my letters to get into the papers.

The report has been circulated all last week that the fire was to open from all the batteries to day at 5 in the morning [ — ] such reports have been so common that we do not know what to believe but if one can believe ones own ears it is this time true for ever since I was up we have heard guns firing up in the front, about two to five shots a minute. The rain is so heavy that the booming can only just be heard on deck & not at all where I am sitting in cabin of the Hecla [ — ] it is said that it is to last 5 days & that then the troops are to storm[.] If they do no more than dismount the Russian guns I shall be able to take my van down to the batteries[.] At present it would be smashed in two minutes after it was seen on the top of the hill. There has just come a report or as it is called here a shore that Sebastopol is on fire in six places & that Lord Raglan goes in tomorrow [ — ] we shall have plenty such reports before night[.] There seems really no doubt that the business has at last begun & that shot & shell & nothing else are going up by the rail today —



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