Royal Observatory

                                                                                                            Edinburgh

                                                                                                            23 Jan 1904

7.30 p.m

 

My dear Fred Holloway,

 

I was indeed delighted to hear from you.  For some time I had been wishing to write to you, but every day some pressing matter or other kept me employed until I was too tired to write even a few lines.

 

Just at present my wife is trying to shake off the traces of a sharp attack of influenza but we hope she will be about again in a few days.  Until this attack came she had enjoyed remarkably good health for fully eighteen months.

 

At this moment my medical daughter, Paula, is with us.  She had been fully six months in a London hospital where she enjoyed the work very much, in spite of the damp climate they have had there of late.

 

Agnes too is at home and is very busy with her violin.  By a fortunate chance she has secured possession of a wonderfully good 17th century instrument & this has helped her very much as she is firmly convinced that any shortcomings in her efforts are due to her own deficiencies & by no means to any conceivable imperfection in her instrument.  Her own leaning is towards teaching and merely appearing on the platform from time to time with a view to securing pupils.  She has certainly made great progress since you were last here.

 

From Theodore we have a long letter every week, or a telegram sent down to Bombay & on by the mail to say that he had failed to get his letter off in time.  He is now Assistant Commissioner and Sub-Judge at Kohat in the NW Frontier Province.  Last summer he had very trying work at Attock  close to the big railway and road bridge over the Tudes(?) often with the thermometer at 110 degrees, 112 degrees & even once at 120 degrees he presided in court from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with only a few minutes for lunch and then sometimes wrote judgements until 1 a.m.  Happily his health was excellent throughout this trying period.

 

My own health has been somewhat indifferent, but the University authorities have appointed a Lecturer in astronomy who will take the summer course off my hands and assist with the practical work of the winter class.  At present Dr H?? is lecturer and I need not say how anxious he is to help me as much as possible.  The students too come up here for the lectures.  This winter we have a particularly clever and nice lot of young men attending the class.

 

I am very glad to hear that you are still able to work at your cylinders, & if you have an occasional spell of a holiday it can do you no harm, and is well earned.

 

I wish your daughter much happiness & I am glad that my namesake is so kind to his mother who would miss him greatly if he started a house of his own.

 

Have you seen the spinthariscope i.e. the little instrument in which a hundredth or two of a grain of radium bombards a piece of pitchblende?

 

Sir Robert Ball was here a while ago and lent me an instrument that Sir Wm Crookes had given to him.  The appearance seen in the dark is almost like one of the d? star clusters we used to look at, only that a lot of the stars are continually dancing about.  It is the very next thing to perpetual motion.  One cannot say what the discovery may lead to.

 

This winter we have had about the best weather there has been in the British Islands, very much better than any point in the south of England.  This has made me more reluctant to take any steps towards leaving this place, to which we are all so much attached.  If all goes well, Theodore will have a good long holiday next year & it would be very pleasant if we could have him here once more.

 

With very kind regards to yourself, to Mrs Holloway & to such of your circle as know me,

 

Ever sincerely yours,

 

Ralph Copeland.