Object Detail

23 Nov 1911
Grand Hotel Palma de Mallorca Iles Baleares Succursale : Villa Victoria Grands Jardins, Au bord de la Mer, Terreno. Maison de 1.er Order J. Palmer, Direct. Propriétaire Nov. 23rd
My dear Frances
It was very nice to get your long & cheery letter, we greatly enjoyed it. It is good to know that the class “walks” well, indeed I call it splendid to be able to fill up both morning & afternoon!
No wonder you are lost in admiration of Miss Archibald, I felt just the same tho’ I only know her slightly. It seems to me that the one defect is that she is too highly specialized – a modern day defect – which prevents her having or showing the lighter side of what must be a beautiful nature. Perhaps a little lacking in a sense of humour too? A woman who specializes is in such deadly earnest, lighter things must go to the wall – a man keeps his frivolous side handy because his creative energy is not so much absorbed. Is this not so?
What am I to say of ourselves and of Palma. Well the place itself is packed with charm & beauty & mystery & is as many sided in character as its people.
A glorious Cathedral over hanging massive old ramparts & the blue Mediterranean, a Royal Palace, now used as barracks & domicile for the Captain General & his staff; an Episcopal library with priestly clerks in charge – scholarly looking priests patrolling the ramparts & cloisters as if such a thing as “Separation” & “Agnosticism” never existed – all this makes one feel in a mediaeval Cathedral town such as Rouen. Then the waving palms, tropical creepers, Moorish courtyards & fountains, minarets to the churches, flat roofs, slim women with long dark African faces, marble & tiled floors everywhere with lithe soft slippered men gliding about like ghosts, white irregular buildings against turquoise skies and above all dazzling sun which takes your breath away for brilliance. All this makes you swear you are in the land of Moslems. But when you get into the labyrinth of narrow streets with a gem of Renaissance or Gothic architecture at every corner, delicious old cloisters open to any who care to wander therein, winding steps leading everywhere, apparently to Heaven & Hell and a babbling bustling market full of very human peasants bargaining & chattering in a sort of jargon which is more French than Spanish, you just realize that you are in Palma de Mallorca which must surely be, as Havelock Ellis surmises the closest link between East & West of any European town.
It seems that the conquering Christian never exterminated the highly civilized Moor of the 12th Century, they just dovetailed into each other and the result is fascinating.
This is only just a birdseye view of the place as it strikes one, & it is so confusing that it takes time to unravel the artistic & paintable part. Also the practical difficulties of painting are great we find. The first day I sallied out with painting kit & attired as usual in blue painting coat. I felt like a veritable Lady Godiva – not one peeping Tom but hundreds! Working out of doors means at once the gathering together of a vast crowd, very good tempered & friendly but dreadfully embarrassing to people who dislike being stared at. Not knowing the language also is a trouble; one day a kindly old policeman kept guard over me & the crowd, and every time I looked up he saluted!
In the market on Tuesday Kempie & I were almost killed with kindness, old ladies insisted on being painted & business was suspended until they were done, then they refused to take a sou for it all!
We have a couple of work dens at the top of a piggy Hotel & the use of the roof when the washing is not there. We tried to capture models to paint there, the first one ran away when she caught sight of the dark stairs leading apparently to the land of ogres. A Mother & baby & little sister were beguiled into sitting another day (at least the little sister sat while the Mother suckled the babe to stop its wails) but the whole party was so bored that they never turned up again!
The weather has also been full of surprises, so cold that we wore furs, so hot that we painted on the roof, so wet now that I yearn for my dear sea boots!
This Hotel (The Grand!) is the only clean & possible one in the place, we simply had to come & they reduced our charge in consideration of our dilapidated appearances & a possible long stay. It is a great cold marble place like the ‘Invalides’, the tomb of Napoleon being a small billiard table in the depths of one of the marble halls. There is a lift, electric light & when the season begins there is to be a central “chauffage”! In the meantime we have both caught chills, poor Kempie’s being of a particularly noisy & aggressive description & very difficult to get rid of. She is nearly well now & I am starting another on a small scale. The extreme heat by day & cold here at night is most trying.
There are only a few non descript people in the Hotel at present, we have just made the acquaintance of an English couple who seem rather nice, but they are not to stay long.
I think we shall get something out of the place if we can overcome the difficulties of crowds etc & if the weather keeps fairly good. I feel it full of stuff.
Spanish is an awful language to master, it is so full of Arabic gutterals, Kempie’s previous month in Spain helps her & she is getting on well, I can only muddle it up with Italian.
No time for more now dear Frances, we think of you a great deal and - oh! how we envy your warm studio at night!!
This bad weather delays letters no boat arrived today & there never is a boat on Thursday or Sunday to Palma, & none out on Friday or Tuesday. We are rather Robinson Crusoe-ish.
Poor Lily had a terrible shock, her lady housekeeper was taken ill & died in three days. I am thankful to say Miss Hobson was with Lily & helped her a great deal. They had a doctor at once & two nurses but could not save her. Lily keeps well she says & Miss Hobson writes the same, but I hate being so far away from her poor old girl. I dreamt last night she was dead. It was terrible.
Much love from us both. Yrs affectionately Bridget
Sender's address
Grand Hotel, Palma de Mallorca, Iles Baleares
Institutional No.
Credit Line
Letters from Frances Hodgkin to Rachel Hodgkins. Field, Isabel Jane, 1867-1950 : Correspondence of Frances Hodgkins and family / collected by Isabel Field. Ref: MS-Papers-0085-24. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.