These letters of a Victorian Scotswoman who married Spain's first ambassador to Mexico would appeal to Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir. The former would enjoy Fanny Calderon's bubbly intelligence, the latter would envy her adventurous spirit. The book appeared more than a hundred years ago, has been reprinted from time to time, and now reaches us in a splendidly annotated edition with ""new material from the author's private journals."" The picture it presents of mid-19th century Mexican life bulges with social, political, and human interest. As an historical document, it influenced Prescott's Conquest of Mexico, as well as upsetting the Mexican government: ""unjust, passionate, virulent diatribes"" was the angry opinion of the government supported newspaper. The criticism was largely sparked by Fanny's candid view of the Santa Ana revolution, an affair she described with a good deal of biting wit, suggesting both comic disorder and tyrannical pomposity. But though Fanny had ambivalent feelings concerning the customs and management of her host country, there is no doubt that the Mexican sojourn was an intense, once-in-a-life-time experience: her pages ripple with heady descriptions, a sharp, but generous, eye for the idiosyncratic in person or place, and batches of informative chatter about everything from food and etiquette to rough treks out to the silver mines or a risky exploration of the beautiful cave of Cacahuamilpa. Cultured and blessed with extraordinary vivacity, Fanny's responses to the bull rings or cathedrals or state visits are always spontaneous, vivid, shrewd. A little classic.