London, South Kensington
29 November 1996
CHARLES BABBAGE (1792-1871)
Autograph letter signed ("C. Babbage") to I. K. Brunel, 3½ pages, 8vo, D. [(?) for Dorset St.], 25 Feb. 1845.
At this date Brunel was working on the installation of the atmospheric system on the South Devon Railway, and it may well be for this reason that Babbage relates his own boyhood memories of cliff subsidence outside Teignmouth.
".... it occurred to me that it might not be without interest to mention to you the state of the Cliffs when I was living there as a boy. The large mainly broken ground which occurs to the amount of 5 to 10 acres each in several places in those cliffs was then called a Woone or Wine. Three or four of them belonged to my father. I send a sketch of that which is nearest to Teignmouth [not present]. About 1806 my father had some bricks made from a pit dug for that purpose at the top near the edge. If this pit or any part remains it will assist in giving the rate of destruction. There was at first about six feet of ground between the pit and the edge. At another part of the same Wone at the top of the cliff I remember a little stile and a small elm tree in the hedge within side. This tree slowly subsided retaining its vertical position and after above a twelvemonths journey went off to sea."
After suggesting a scientific explanation for the subsidence, and alluding again to the plan he is sending of the Wone and to the continually changing "state of the sand and shingle on the beach," Babbage ends his letter: "I send for Mrs Brunel the Syren's glee which is dedicated to you although the printer by mistake has knighted you."
Vertical crease mark.
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