Letter from Gertrude Crompton to Frances Hodgkins

07 Feb 1909
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07 Feb 1909
Thriplands Sunday Feb 7th
My dearest woman
I am sending you some notices that came yesterday. Are you pleased to be like Sargent & Arthur Melville rolled into one! I wonder who writes these funny things?
How are you faring my heart? I don’t get too much news of you, you know. I know you are ceaselessly at it, so I tell myself not to expect to hear. Nevertheless, you are leading a big strange life that feels very far away from me and I can’t catch onto anything. It is like trying to catch and hold the people who walk through the cinematograph they are gone out of the edge of the picture before you can spring up & cry ‘hold’!
I hardly know how to tell you of my doings, they have been so varied. The sum total even in my own mind is a hodge-podge very difficult to sort into order. Maud came here for 2 nights & we rushed around & did plays & pictures. I had a lame foot – some sort of sprain which did not like being walked on & is still rather weakly so the tearing round with Maud was a bit of an effort physically though I enjoyed the plays – chucked my work & took a two days holiday. I think I told you of my afternoon at the Burlington Fine Arts. I have been having some quiet afternoons at the National Gallery too. Really to hunt out & enjoy the pictures by myself & I am head over ears in love with the early Flemish school. I don’t know what it is that is so utterly charming in their quality but while they gain a lot of romance from Italian influence – they retain so much that is quaint & pictorial which doesn’t hail from the South. I am trying to get to the bottom of Michel Angelo but we have so few specimens of it, it is difficult to get to him through so little. What do you feel about him. The Italians are much less easy to grip then the French or Dutch. While as for the Germans, Albert Dürer is the only one I have any admiration for. Its rather nice to spend a little more time than usual over our National Collection. One usually scurries around just the picked favourites and never give a glance at the rest. I met Miss Partridge again who took the trouble to say a pretty speech about some one who had liked my picture at the International. I do not know that I altogether believe her version, for it does not smack of probability, but it was meant to be very friendly. She is a cute little lady, ever ready to say nice things & never trapped into unsafe admissions. A wise precept in life if you want to get on. I love to see the cautious look creep into her eye when I say “What do you think of Mr Mayor”?
I don’t care a hang what she really thinks but I love to see how she will sail round it without even a bump! I wonder if anyone ever gets at her private impression. I doubt it.
McCulloch’s big collection at the Burlington House show is on now. One or two pearls & the rest canvas & paint & fine gold frame. Whistler’s portrait of himself is there & his Valparaiso & a nice series & some Bastien Lepages. Did I tell you of all this before I have a faint feeling I did.
Mother & H go to Cambridge tomorrow to keep Nigel’s 21st birthday. I stay to keep house here. After all I don’t think I should quite fit in with their jolificating. H is all right for the job. Poor dear Mother will be quite out of it but she will loving seeing Nigel enjoy himself among his friends.
Do you remember Mr Stuart the rather dull American. He has turned up again having been in Rome all the winter. He has much more to say for himself now but is lonely in London & always hunting me out to do things with him. I am sorry for him being alone in a boarding house & no friends but I confess I do not find him very exhilarating. We have killed off most of the Museums & Galleries & Churches now & I forsee we shall soon come to an end of them – what then! it is very hard work!
Maud is now at Penzance for a two months painting time. To you only do I mention it dear one that the bare thought would freeze every thought of painting out of my soul. That atmosphere – our dear old Norman, little Emily, Mrs G. I love them in their way but if I want to paint and suck in inspiration – ye gracious gods whip me up in a whirlwind! And plant me elsewhere even be it the Sahara. I am pining to paint again. We have had one or two days that have a hint of spring in them & I want to try experiments but I don’t ever feel happy working indoors & it is really still too cold to go outside yet a while.
I must go to bed as I have to be up early tomorrow to pack Mother off to Cambridge. Goodnight my beloved. Yrs ever 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-0085-23. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.