This hand written note from Dame Nellie Melba to her dentist Mr Hain, was written by the great lady herself in grey lead pencil. My grandfather’s working relationship with Melba started around 1915 when he was 13 years old. She was unwilling to use his musical services, however, until he was made cosmetically suitable. I wonder just how bad his teeth looked?

I imagine this letter was sent to my great-grandfather, Albert Parkes, who would have taken it as a letter of introduction to Mr Hain, who would have handed it back as a matter of course.

It reads –

Dear Mr Hain

Please look after little Cecil Parkes teeth (my bill), which need attention very badly.

Yours very truly

Nellie Melba

I have assumed that she was a guest of the Governor General at the time she wrote this note as she used the note paper from his office or residence. At the time I am estimating this note was written, the Governor General was The Right Hon. Sir Ronald Craufurd Munro Ferguson, the sixth person to hold the title after the Federation of the Australian states in 1901.

My apologies for the quality of the scan. The writing is very faint. I must say it surprises me that in that era, anyone would have written to a professional practitioner in pencil. I was taught by my grandmother in the 1970s that writing a letter (or note to someone) in pencil was a very rude thing to do, but I have heard stories about Melba’s personality that makes it less surprising than it might have been from another luminary of the period.