Letter from Gertrude Crompton to Frances Hodgkins

03 Dec 1908
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03 Dec 1908
Thriplands Dec. 3rd
Dearest Frances
How very horrid you must be thinking me keeping this long silence. And I have read & reread your nice letter with such interest. But there really hasn’t until today been time to sit down for a minute & I was too utterly tired out at bedtime to begin a letter to you. I thought that as soon as the show opened I should be able to rest on my oars but divil a bit of it. People have asked me to meet them here & there & Maud has been staying with me & I had to take her about to see things & even now the little [?Kinnear] boy who is up for his exam falls to my lot to exercise & entertain in his off moments for the 2 sisters are very ‘strong’ as we say in Yorkshire. H has been gadding continuously day & night which she seems thoroughly to enjoy & O is filled up with social reforms, so I see very little of them. The description of all yr doings is most interesting. Like you I feel sure I should hate the babel & sordidness of the ordinary art school. I expect they are much the same as the English ones only if anything a degree less attractive. [?Berméaux] sounds very nice & quiet & inspiriting though & I should think you will do well there. It makes me long to come out & join you when I read of your life. If not luxurious it is very interesting & alive & I wd love a little experience of it. By now you will have been hunted out by Rosamond! I expect as you don’t have to live together she will get less on your nerves for you needn’t see more of her than you like & with less contact there is less irritation.
I think Morley Fletcher is a contemptible mean grasping pig with his wealth & good appointment he hasn’t the feeling of a common louse. I give him up – he is no artist.
I am very sorry about Patterson. Though honestly I agree with you he is rather a broken reed. He doesn’t have the selling faculty & I really believe you wd do better elsewhere. You will want to know my luck or rather my affairs generally. Well you know what a heavenly Nov. it has been. Absolutely fogless & warm. Well Private View day it changed & has been cold & dark & yellow murky fog ever since – isn’t it damnable. The Gods might have given me a slight extension. Sat: the Opening Day was black! Nevertheless, a fair show of people came about 100 to 150 I should think. Everyone very kind & nice talking a lot of rot of course about art & my pictures. Only a bare 2 or 3 who knew anything about it at all. But it was nice of them all coming. 3 little 3 guinea sketches sold & one yesterday. So, there is still a fair sum to cover before my expenses are paid. It is early days to speculate about it, but I don’t think it promises to be a very lucrative affair. A good many people have written to say they are sorry not to be able to see it as they cannot be in town & others again have told Puckle if they had any money they wd have liked to buy this & that etc … but everyone seems pretty hard up. Otherwise the ones I demurred about sending in are the very ones that are most popular. Do you remember the big one of the sheep that we agreed below the standard – well that is the universal favourite & next to it the gold & silver Venice. They barely looked at my little Dutch things that I consider my best. It is interested to tap the public taste & shows how little we know what their standards of attractiveness are.
It was nice having Maud & we went to a play or two & the Tower of London which she had never seen. We chose a particularly murky afternoon just before closing time & got there to find the doors on the point of closing. However, the fat bobby there insisted on our going in & seeing the new S. African diamond in the regalia & we also saw the Beauchamp Tower & the Scaffold & the ravens & the Beefeaters. So, it was quite successful after all. The river was looking wonderful. Simply a glow of yellow fog with great forms of boats & steamers & barges moving vaguely about in the oily water. Big yellow flares & lights making long wiggling reflections, little row boats bustling in between & the faint shape of the Tower Bridge behind looming out in the fog. Big & fine & Brangwynish. If it hadn’t been so cold I should have stayed & gloated for a long while. The Bloody Tower looked very fluggy & awesome & the Traitors’ Gate might have been full of traitors it was so full of mystery & gloom. Quite the right atmosphere to have yr first impression of the Tower of London.
Dad is trying a new medicine the sour milk [?] it certainly has the effect of putting him in a very good temper with himself & everyone else. Such a blessing! Long may it last. He came down to my show & I think enjoyed talking to his friends. The man who has taken over Heatherley school came in & I hear was complimentary. He has asked for tickets to send his students. So that is an appreciation I value. The studio man came too & the Times but whether they will see fit to report anything remains to be seen. The Ladies Field whatever sort of a rag that is had asked permission to reproduce. But all this may come to nothing. One lives & learns to pin ones faith to nobody. Sad awakening but inevitable. My little Rijsoord one with blue sky & trees has sold. I shall be sorry to lose it though I am glad in a way to be represented by my better work. But there is no doubt one does get fond of certain of ones babies that one has brought forth in pain & labour. One hopes they will have a sympathetic home & be tenderly treated for they are verily a bit of ourselves. I don’t know where this particular one has gone. The purchaser asked not to have his name given!
One of my Torcios pupils, a rich old lady, bought the little woman & child at Dinan. Mr Bryce I am sorry to say, has not sold any yet. I do hope he may before the exhbn closes. I have been puffing him all I know but there is no doubt money is very tight everywhere. His various sitters came & he certainly has the gift in seizing likenesses. They were the image of his pictures & it ought to have been a very good advertisement for him. A good many of his friends came too but the poor little man had a bilious attack that day & was feeling so cheap he couldn’t enjoy things very much. I have to go down to meet some friends there this afternoon so expect I shall see him again. He says he is going over to Paris for a bit. How I wish he could take me in his roll of ptngs. What fun we could all have. But so far Paris is many leagues off unless things mend.
I must stop the lunch bell has rung & if I leave this unfinished now it will not get posted today.
Send me another letter soon I do love to get news of you. I won’t be so long again in writing. Yr loving Gertrude.
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Letters from Frances Hodgkins to Rachel Hodgkins. Field, Isabel Jane, 1867-1950 : Correspondence of Frances Hodgkins and family / collected by Isabel Field. Ref: MS-Papers-0085-22. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.