Letter from Bridget to Frances Hodgkins

21 Dec 1911
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21 Dec 1911
c/o Sen’a de Peña Beatas 33 Malaga Spain Dec 21st
My dear Francis [sic]
Thank you so much for your nice long letter, it was good to hear from you & to hear that you are doing so well with your class. I am so glad. Don’t overwork yourself, for I know what a grind it means for you to keep the thing going & teaching perpetually is wearing. It was awfully good of you to take so much trouble about our pictures for the Hostel. It was splendid for Kempie to get the 2nd prize & I hear I had an Hon. Mention for the boats which was cheering. I expect we owe it all to your “Mothering” & giving our babies their best chance of being seen!
It seems ages since we left dear little Palma behind & took ship for Malaga. St Paul wasn’t in it as far as suffering goes, we have undergone nearly everything but shipwreck since we left! To crown all I left my holdall on board containing all my boots & shoes, dressing gown, bath, & sundry other valued possessions!
Kempie tells me that in an exalted moment yesterday, she wrote you a glowing account of Malaga, she wishes to unsay it all. The fact is Frances, Spain is no place for women to paint in, especially in the South. The sight of a paint box in the street is enough to cause jeers & hoots from every urchin. Even without paint boxes we are stared at & feel miserably conscious of being women.
Yesterday Kempie had unspeakable dirt thrown on her head while painting & today she was stared at while in her bath; her feet also create great attention & excitement in the streets. My sandy hair (only seen here on dyed heads, chiefly vauderville actresses) excites attention of an unenviable kind; I would rather ride à la Lady Godiva than wear my painting coat here! We are so mobbed while working that we are limited to subjects of a most uninteresting kind just where we can find shelter. A kind member of the Yacht Club sheltered us today and yesterday we skulked behind bushes in the Hospital Garden & did what we could.
Malaga itself is an amazing place. Half European, half oriental, very dirty with a nest of vagabonds & beggars prowling about the ancient Phoenician ruins in which they have made habitations & ready to swoop on foreigners & strangers at a moment’s notice. A perfect climate, roses growing luxuriantly out of doors & every sort of tropical vegetation, but there is such a feeling of neglect and degeneration & squalor in the whole place that one wishes the civilized Moor would come back & exterminate the demoralized Spanish Christian.
Today we found (beyond Villadom) what nearly approached real country, & there seems a chance of getting subjects without a crowd, so we are going to have a shot at it. Also the President of the Yacht Club has given us permission to use a ruined Renaissance Chapel on the quay overlooking the harbour, so things are on the whole brighter.
The De Peñas are nice kindly people, the two daughters especially. Kempie takes kindly to the language & is going ahead, I don’t seem to get hold of it very well, but hope to do more when we start lessons after Xmas. We are a good deal bothered by the noise of this street which is so narrow that you can shake hands with the person in the opposite house! Our bedrooms are very noisy indeed. There is a nice patio & a sunny verandah gives onto it which is a compensation (but no privacy). Had it not been for the difficulties of food, servant language etc etc we might have taken a villa on the sea which is the ideal thing here.
Models seem out of the question unless we can get the Senoritas here to pose for us or let us paint them while they work. I am afraid our work this winter will be sadly inefficient & limited & we get very depressed when we think of it. However we have not done yet & I intend to pull off something while here, somehow! When we go on tour to see the big towns, we shall leave our horrible luggage or send it home by boat as we are terribly hampered by our impedimenta.
Thank you so much for the Saturday Reviews, it was so good of you to think of it, but you must not send more as Lily sends hers on nearly every week. She writes very cheerily & is spending Xmas with an aunt! I hope you will have a festive time I expect you will be dining out or having a party chez-toi. My very best wishes for the coming year.
We saw some dancing the other evening at a Cinematograph show, it was quite Spanish & very good. The Spanish ladies of Mantilla & fan are not quite up to one’s dreams; the hobble skirt does not go with a beautiful headdress, & oh! The hats my dear!!
Kempie has just come into my room shivering in her great coat as I am doing, it gets so cold after sunset. We both agree that this is a damnable hole & we both send you much love before we go out & commit suicide. Yrs Bridget
[In margin on front page:] Please write a line soon to cheer us up.
Sender's address
C/O Sena de Pena, Beatas 33, Malaga, Spain.
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-0085-25. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.