Monday, July 20, 2009

Field Talfourd: Gymnast, Artist, "Lovely Flower"

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, by Field Talfourd
I’ve been quiet, but only because I am waiting to hear back from some archives in regards to potentially relevant holdings. In the interim, I’m thinking of writing something on Field Talfourd, neighbour to Sutherland, and one of the founders of Froomfield (with his brother Froome, of course). In particular, I suspect he was key to the Ruskin-Sutherland connection. Talfourd lived in Upper Canada briefly, before returning to England where he gradually transitioned from making his living as a civil engineer to a career as an artist. Elizabeth Barrett Browning thought his portrait of her the best of them all (then again, she didn’t really like having her portrait done). In some ways, I wonder to what degree her approval was due to Field’s personal charm. Smart ladies apparently found him quite compelling, including Ada Lovelace (daughter of Lord Byron) and Sophia Peabody (wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne). Mrs. Hawthorne practically swoons when describing him as “a lovely flower”—after commenting on both his “high breeding” and “marvelous power as a gymnast.” Despite such successes Talfourd appears to have been a confirmed bachelor (though you can interpret that however you would like).

My question for anyone who stumbles across this: a travel diary Talfourd kept in the 1850s survived into the early part of the twentieth century at least, and appears to have been passed down among his brother’s descendents, or the descendents of Grace Sutherland and Dr. Thomas Johnston in Canada. If anyone is aware of its current whereabouts, I would be very gratified to hear of it.

1 comment:

  1. I just started digging into the name Talfourd today, and here you are! My interest was sparked by William Talfourd Salter, a cousin, a lawyer in London in the 19th century and certainly a relative. Not sure if I have anything of use to you! But everything is connected.