Letter from Frances Hodgkins to Rachel Hodgkins

14 Jan 1915
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14 Jan 1915
St Ives Cornwall Jan 14th [1915]
My dearest Mother
It has been almost possible to forget the War so quiet has it been this week & except for the long casualty lists there has been nothing at all dramatic from the Front. Every one is pleased the way things are going. The weather is so atrocious, I suppose it is because of this that the enemy is so quiet. I have been almost festive – quite a number of people at the Studio saying pleasant things & another pupil to the good. The lady of the china collection gave a tea party on Saturday. The Studio was so crowded by the time I arrived I could hardly squeeze in & when in there was hardly room to light a cigarette. Much the most interesting person there was a Submarine man, wounded of course but not badly, a large cheerful person who pulled everybody’s leg & lapped up muffins & compliments with equal relish. His great success was announcing to the company at large that Italy was joined with Austria. Sensation & uproar! Cries of Oh! No! I don’t believe it. Who told you? & so on. Look at the map!! Said the happy submarine man very pleased with himself & feeling an awful hero. A lady with a face like St Augustine’s Mother recited some bad poetry in a sobbing voice & upturned eye – about the War. The S.M. was heard to say it made him sick & wouldn’t help recruiting. People who do real things are so simple in their mode of speech. He was next heard to remark that he hoped a few German shells would fall in St Ives & rouse up the lazy Cornishmen. This cast a slight shadow on the sun of his popularity – but he didn’t seem to mind. I saw him later in the evening at the Art Club take a black bottle from a locker & retire with it while yet we were listening to a humdrum lecture on Burmah by Sir Somebody Something ex Governor of Rangoon. A large breezy soul, entirely undismayed. His boat is now on the bottom of the North Sea after a raid as far up as Borkrun! He came to the Studio one morning & told thrilling tales & incidentally was most intelligent over my Water Colours. I hope my letters are arriving more regularly. Prices are rising alarmingly – coal & bread are the big items. I am eating N.Z. butter with a Wellington brand on it & S. Australian honey, both about 3d cheaper than the local product & much nicer. Cornish butter is filthy stuff – they are too lazy to squeeze the water out of it. Meat is very dear & bad but vegetable plentiful & varied & earlier than elsewhere. I take a sandwich to the Studio & have my one meal at night. I meant to write to Willie this mail but there have been so many compulsory letters to get off. In a mild way I commence to be busy. Many old pupils & friends are finding out I am here & talk of coming in the Spring. Shall we know our Fate by the Spring do you think? The country is drifting towards conscription fast. Ld. Rosebery in a fine recruiting speech says we will “want millions to push back millions”. Sound sense if the country would only realise it.
Such a dear woman, young & so pretty was in my Studio yesterday, she has two boys just off to the Front & her two gardeners & chauffeur, she left with the two young wives & the baby sons. I took a great liking to her – she was so crisp & courageous & cool. She took a fancy to that baby of mine & I think she intends buying it. No more dearest Mother. I am still in dark as to the Election. Have the soldiers voted or are they waiting for the returns from Egypt & elsewhere. What of Geoff? Is he in training? Love to all from your loving Fanny.
4 pages
Sender's address
St Ives, Cornwall
Institutional No.
Credit Line
Letters from Frances Hodgkins. Field, Isabel Jane, 1867-1950 : Correspondence of Frances Hodgkins and family / collected by Isabel Field. Ref: MS-Papers-0085-29. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.