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Title: The Life of Sir William Quiller Orchardson

Date of first publication: 1930

Author: Hilda Orchardson Gray (1875-1952)

Date first posted: Jan. 17, 2018

Date last updated: Jan. 17, 2018

Faded Page eBook #20180129

This ebook was produced by: Mardi Desjardins, Alex White & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net

The Personal Property of the late The Rt. Rev. John Taylor Smith C.V.O., K.C.B, D.D.

Chaplain General of the British Army

Presented to St. John's College Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada



By kind permission of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

The Life of Sir William

Quiller Orchardson

R.A., D.C.L., H.R.S.A., P.S.P.P.

Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur; Membre de l’Institut

de France; Membre de l’Académie des Beaux Arts

B. 1831. D. 1910.






HUTCHINSON & CO. (Publishers) LTD.

34-36 Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4

Printed in Great Britain at

The Mayflower Press, Plymouth. William Brendon & Son, Ltd.












II.Edinburgh (continued)37
III.London—Before Marriage51
IV.London—Before Marriage (continued)66
V.London—Honeymoon Days76
VI.London (Spenser Street) and Westgate90
VII.London (Spenser Street) and Westgate (continued)108
VIII.13 Portland Place, W.—Art118
IX.Dry-Fly Fishing—Amesbury and Ramsbury136
X.13 Portland Place: Friends and Acquaintances: Clubs141
XI.Scotland—Fishing and School Holidays164
XII.Scotland (continued)177
XIII.Dry-Fly Fishing—Ramsbury184
XIV.Hawley House191
XV.Letters to Hilda and Ian in Germany, 1889-1900200
XVI.Visitings in Scotland219
XVII.1900 to 1905230
XVIII.For the Benefit of Lovers257
XIX.Scattered Memories of the Pictures260
XX.South and West297


Portrait of the Artist, 1890Frontispiece
Wishart’s last Communion, 185324
Scene from “Peveril of the Peak,” 18—32
On the Grand Canal, Venice, 187140
Miss Moxon (Lady Orchardson), 187246
Charles Moxon, Esq., 187454
Lady Orchardson, 187562
The Queen of the Swords (charcoal study), 187668
The Queen of the Swords (head study), 187674
The Queen of the Swords, 187780
Conditional Neutrality (Charles M. Q. Orchardson), 187886
The Social Eddy, 187896
The Connoisseur, 1879104
Hard Hit, 1879112
The Chinese Cabinet120
Napoleon on Board the “Bellerophon,” 1880126
Housekeeping in the Honeymoon, 1882132
In the Triforium138
Voltaire, 1883144
Mariage de Convenance, 1884152
Study for her first Dance, 1884160
Mariage de Convenance—After, 1886166
A Tender Chord, 1886170
Master Baby, 1886174
The First Cloud, 1887180
Her Mother’s Voice, 1888188
The Young Duke, 1889192
“If Music be the Food of Love, Play on,” 1890198
On the North Foreland, 1890204
An Enigma, 1891210
Sir Walter Gilbey, Bart., 1891216
Saint Helena (1816), 1894222
Miss Orchardson, 1894228
The Rivals, 1895234
Sir David Stewart, 1896240
H. B. Fergusson Esq., 1896246
Reflections, 1896252
W. Q. Orchardson, 1897258
Trouble, 1897264
Charcoal Study for Lord Peel, 1898270
Lord Kelvin, 1899278
Windsor Castle, 1899, 1900286
The Borgia, 1902294
Mrs Siddons in the Studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1903304
Sir Samuel Montagu (1st Lord Swaythling), 1904312
Professor Sir James Dewar320
The Last Dance326
Sir William and Lady Orchardson in the Studio332
My Father standing at his Easel painting his last Picture (of the late Lord Blyth), ten days before his Death340


1848Sketching from Nature.
1849Interior of a Cottage—Bed-time.
1851The Astrologer.
1852The Weary Coble o’ Cargill.
      He put his foot into the boat,
        He little thocht o’ ony ill;
        But before that he was mid-waters
        The weary coble began to fill.
Prince Charles Edward and the Catherans.
A Village Maiden.
1853Wishart’s Last Exhortation in the Castle of St. Andrew.
(?)Portrait of himself.
(?)Sholto Douglas Campbell (afterwards Lord Blythswood).
1854The Cottage Door.
Portrait—Master Henry Keith.
1855“Little Nell.”
A Highland Milkmaid.
D. M. M. Crichton.
1856Claudio and Isabella (Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene I).
1857(?)The Idol.
1858Marley Gray.
(?)The Salutation.
1859Through the Corn.
Jeanie Deans—“O Jeanie Woman.”
1860Jeanie Deans and the Laird o’ Dumbiedykes.
Under the Vines, Heidleberg (in collaboration with John MacWhirter).
1861Portrait of a Gentleman.
1862Robert Horn, Esq.
James Tytler, Esq., of Woodhouselee.
1862The Children of C. Scott Plumer, Esq., of Sunderland Hall.
Mr Henry (inventor of “Henry” rifles).
Rev. D. J. K. Drummond.
1863Jeanie Deans.
An Old English Song.
Little Nell and her Grandfather.
G. H. Brown of Quarter.
1864The Challenge.
Flowers of the Forest.
Peggy (Allan Ramsay’s “Gentle Shepherd”).
1865Hamlet and Ophelia.
1866The Story of a Life.
1867Talbot and the Countess of Auvergne (Shakespeare)
Christopher Sly (Shakespeare).
Mrs John Pettie.
1868Prince Henry, Poins and Falstaff (Shakespeare).
The Shrine in the Forest.
1869The Duke’s Antechamber (Shakespeare).
1870Day Dreams.
The Market-girl from the Lido, Venice.
Toilers of the Sea.
1871A Hundred Years Ago.
On the Grand Canal, Venice.
1872Casus Belli.
The Forest Pet.
Miss Moxon (afterwards Lady Orchardson).
1873The Protector (Mrs Glas Sandeman).
Oscar and Brin.
(?)The Revolutionist.
1874Hamlet and the King.
A Venetian Fruit-seller.
Charles Moxon, Esq.
1875Mrs Orchardson.
Too good to be true.
Moonlight on the Lagoons (Venice).
1876A Tête-à-tête.
Flotsam and Jetsam.
The Bill of Sale.
The Old Soldier.
Dorothy Heseltine.
1877The Queen of the Swords (Scott).
Jessica (Shakespeare).
1878Conditional Neutrality—C. M. Q. Orchardson.
Mrs Moxon.
1878A Social Eddy.
1879Hard Hit.
The Connoisseur.
Don Cæsar de Bazan.
1880Napoleon on board H.M.S. Bellerophon.
The Young Housewife.
1881The Farmer’s Daughter.
The Rejected.
Mrs Winchester Clowes.
1882Housekeeping in the Honeymoon.
Mrs J. P. B. (now Lady) Robertson.
J. Macvican Anderson, Esq., F.R.I.B.A.
Alexander Stevenson, Esq.
1883Voltaire (Carlyle’s “Frederic the Great”).
1884Mariage de Convenance.
A Morning Call.
Her First Dance.
1885The Salon of Madame Récamier.
Mrs Ralli.
1886Mariage de Convenance—After.
A Tender Chord.
     Have I forgot the words?
     Faith! They are sadder than I thought they were.
Master Baby.
1887The First Cloud.
     ’Tis the little rift within the lute
     That by and by doth make the music mute.
Mrs Joseph.
1888Her Mother’s Voice.
     Upon his widowed heart it falls
     Echoing a hallowed time.
1889The Young Duke.
1890“If Music be the Food of Love.”
On the North Foreland (Portrait of Miss Orchardson).
The Joseph Family.
Portrait of the Artist (for the Uffizi).
J. C. Stevenson, Esq., M.P.
1891An Enigma.
Walter Gilbey, Esq. (afterwards Sir Walter Gilbey, Bart.).
1891Mrs Gilbey (afterwards Lady Gilbey).
Sir Andrew B. Walker, Bart.
Professor Nichol.
J. M. Heathcote, Esq.
1892St. Helena, 1816—Napoleon dictating the account of his campaigns.
Mrs Taylor Whitehead.
Mrs John Keiller.
P. Waterhouse, Esq.
1893“Music when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory.”
The Rt Hon. Lord Rookwood.
Dr Thornton.
Master Alistair Elder.
1894In the Conservatory.
Miss Orchardson.
Prof. Sir James Dewar.
Herr Edwin Bechstein.
A Flower.
Monsieur Léon Gauchez (“Paul Leroi”).
Mrs Beit.
Sir David Stewart, Provost of Aberdeen.
James Tullis, Esq.
H. B. Fergusson, Esq.
John Stevenson, Esq.
Dr D. Binning Munro, Provost of Oriel, Oxford.
The Bishop of St. Asaph.
Mrs Tullis.
H. Dickson, Esq.
The Earl of Derby.
1898Viscount Peel (the Speaker).
Mrs Pattison
Miss Fairfax Rhodes.
Sir Lindsay Wood.
1899Lord Kelvin.
The Marquis of Lothian.
1899The Earl of Crawford (James Ludovic, 26th Earl).
Edmund Davis, Esq.
1900Windsor Castle, 1899, Portraits (or) The Four Generations.
The Parting of the Ways.
1901Blossom’s Fair.
The Doves (Portrait of Miss Orchardson).
Henri Rivière, Esq.
James Bunton, Esq.
1902The Borgia.
In the Gloaming.
Alexander Asher, Esq., K.C., M.P., LL.D.
Mr Thomson.
Sir John Leng.
1903Mrs Siddons in the Studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds.
The Gambler’s Wife.
The Rev B. D. Alford.
1904The Lyric.
The Bishop of Oxford.
Sir Samuel Montagu, Bart (afterwards Lord Swaythling).
Mrs Temple Johnson.
1905Howard Colls, Esq.
1906Col. Sir Francis Younghusband.
1907W. C. Heaton Armstrong, Esq., M.P.
Sir Thomas Carlaw Martin, LL.D.
Humphrey Roberts, Esq.
John Temple, Esq.
1908Nurse Charles (Mrs H. Wood).
F. J. Weinberg, Esq.
1909Sir Laurence Jenkins, K.C.I.E., C.J.H.C.C.
Mrs Mosscockle.
1910Lord Blyth of Blythswood.
E. A. Abbey, Esq., R.A.
R. A. Robinson, Esq., L.C.C.

Note.—I have been unable to find out all W. Q. O.’s early pictures, but the most important are in this list and from 1862 the list, I believe, is complete.


This book is not a treatise on art but a record of an artist’s life. If I have succeeded in showing how beautiful that life was, how loving and sincere, I shall have attained my object. And if I mention myself too often I can only apologize by saying that it is almost impossible to write of the hero without something of the hero-worshipper appearing.

I would not have dared to attempt it had it not been for my Mother’s wish expressed in her will, as well as many times in her lifetime, and for her bequest of all her letters and diaries. Her sincere belief that I could do it satisfactorily has given me courage, and her diaries, etc., have given me much information, much, that is, compared with my own, but meagre compared with what one could wish. It has taken me years to write this “Life”—on a backveld farm where one is housemaid, nursemaid, cook, dressmaker and governess besides mother and wife. One is often too tired to think clearly, and quite too tired to hold a pen; half an hour a day uninterrupted is a luxury. So if this book is disconnected and incoherent I shall not be surprised, though very sorry and humble and apologetic. Indeed I feel that I should not have attempted it under such circumstances and with not a breath of art or beauty near—but needs must when a great love drives.

The last photograph of my father, in the studio, shows the worn-out body with the beautiful indomitable soul still there and energetically directing the frail hand in its last work—he had promised the portrait for the R.A. that year and he kept his promise—as always. The last signature was on the “Abbey” and, with the missing “r” in the middle, testifies to the feeble hand that could no longer write though it could still paint. How impossible to believe that a soul, a spirit so great, could ever die, though it must change its habitat.

After his death my Mother received many “beautiful” letters, as she called them, praising the beauty of his life. Dr Rainsford Gill who attended him for many years wrote: “His was one of the most beautiful lives I have ever known.” Miss Henriette Corkran wrote: “A sweet spirit, a beautiful spirit”; her sister: “Great artist, great soul and most lovely spirit.”

Others wrote: “Not only genius but loftiness of character and nobility of life.” “Great Artist and sincerest friend.” “A persuasive individuality.” “All who knew him loved him.” “He not only painted beautiful pictures but he possessed an even more beautiful soul.”

“He never could grow old”—all those who saw him even just before he died found him as lively and witty as ever. He even gave an interview (an occupation he did not like) shortly before his death, and the interviewer wrote of his liveliness and of “the voice that had a blessing in it.”

Arthur Gilbey, who sat for “The Young Duke” and “Her Mother’s Voice,” wrote: “I always came away from the sittings having learnt something from Sir William’s delightful conversation.” Many of his friendships began with portrait sittings.

The Prince of Wales (King George V) said in his speech at the R.A. Banquet: “Sir William Quiller Orchardson had been a member of the R.A. for thirty-three years. . . . I look back with pleasure to the sittings I gave him twelve years ago for the picture of the ‘Four Generations.’ ”

These words of praise and many more helped my Mother to bear her loss, an immense one, for they were lovers still. If he was great in mind, she was his equal in greatness of soul—a sympathetic greatness perhaps—and her gentle influence over him is difficult to estimate. Years ago, in ’91, Mr Orchar had written to her: “Mind, you have the charge of a great artist, but I am sure you can be trusted to take great care of him.”

Towards the end he lived a very retired life, loving privacy and friends, and I think the Great General Public began to forget him a little. Not so artists and real art-lovers, both at home and abroad—to them he was the outstanding genius of his time, the Old Master, and they raised a monument to him in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

“The artist is the man’s double; the style is a perfectly natural evolution from a chastening self-discipline and an exquisite sense of refinement.”[1] That is just the man, stern self-discipline and an exquisite sense of right and beauty.

I give grateful thanks to my sisters-in-law, Mrs M. P. Andrews (née Shah Gray) and Miss Leila Gray for their first sorting of my Mother’s papers, and particularly to Mrs Andrews, and Mrs. Baird for copyright collecting; to W. D. McKay, R.S.A. (now dead), and Mrs Ford (“Chattie”), for their help about my Father’s early life; and to my uncle C. F. Moxon and many old friends and acquaintances for so kindly answering my letters of enquiry, even when they were unable to answer my questions.

Mrs Andrews has kindly made most careful enquiries for me about Monsieur Gauchez’s heirs but can find none. As he himself mentions in one of his letters that he is the “last of his race,” I have ventured to include some of his many letters to my Father; they not merely give Monsieur Gauchez’s views but reflect my Father’s, and are in fact my only means of knowing and recording their long conversations. I am absolutely certain that Monsieur Gauchez, were he alive, would give me every help in his power to honour his “so great friend ‘le maître’ Orchardson.”

If I have quoted anything “out of order” and without permission I crave forgiveness; distance lends enchantment but also adds difficulties.

H. Orchardson Gray.

Wolvehoek, O.F.S.P.,

S. Africa.

[1] E. Pennington.


Looking back on my long visits as a girl to 13 Portland Place I can still feel most vividly the vitality of “Orchardson’s” personality.

Sitting in the atmosphere of an ordinary breakfast table, his entrance made one’s faculties all alert. At once commonplace remarks or acts were taken up, they were whimsically tossed about, assuming different laughable shapes and meanings. Explanations and self-defence only gave him a wider scope. The play would almost invariably end in some delicate and subtly worded epigram, full of wisdom and kindly tolerance.

At times the talk would start by his making some paradoxical statement which one was forced to challenge. Again he had the fun of tossing it about, looking at it from a score of different angles, always summing up with some whimsical little bit of wisdom—another epigram.

I was a Slade student at that time and had to meet much friendly banter on “modern methods,” but that would end with the remark: “If you are hungry you will get on; hunger is what matters.”

I remember, too, the thrill when he took us for a little walk. From being an ordinary girl I was changed to a princess. He joined us—so elegant, so jaunty—with light spats, his topper, as always, slightly on one side. It was not an ordinary “walk”—he handed us down Portland Place, he steered us like a highly finished dancer among the crowds in Oxford Street, avoiding for us any possible jar or confusion. He talked of things we liked, and brought us back thinking very highly of ourselves!

His movements, like his talk, had an exquisite deference, delicacy and precision. With all his charm there was nothing of the fop about him, he was quite un-self-conscious. His speech, his movements, his dress were the natural expression of himself.


The first time Sir David saw Orchardson was at a banquet in Edinburgh, given by the Royal Scottish Academy.

When Orchardson was announced, he entered slowly and deliberately, two stairs at a time. Some years after Sir David remarked to Orchardson that he had thought then he looked more like an Austrian officer than an artist.

“How strange you should say that,” replied Orchardson. “My mother was an Austrian.”

Sir David was invited frequently to Orchardson’s studio. On one occasion Orchardson was engaged on his picture “Mme Récamier” and on “Napoleon at St. Helena.” Sir David visited the studio the day before pictures had to be sent in to the Academy. Orchardson was in an exhausted condition and stopped for a few minutes to rest during tea. Sir David was struck by his overgrown hair, which spread across his forehead like a wreath. On each occasion also he found parts of the canvas untouched—an important head as a white egg,[1] whilst the draperies belonging to the figure were completed and the picture otherwise finished.

Sometimes his methods puzzled his sitters. He painted Howard Colls, the celebrated litigant, regarding the rights of Ancient Lights. This portrait was a presentation one. But the sitter, who was a great admirer of Orchardson, came in agitation to Sir David, telling him that the portrait was not getting on. All that the artist had done the first day was to draw on a piece of paper with a pointed pencil, looking from time to time at the results with a hand-mirror. The next sitting was for work on the canvas proper. At the end of the sitting Colls expressed his surprise that it had only resulted in one eye being painted. On being told that the other eye would be painted the following day he got accustomed to view the progress of the portrait as reaching completion by such stages. This was a method usually adopted by the painter and also by the Pre-Raphaelites.

Orchardson’s painting was very thin, so much so that sometimes his canvases were barely covered. But it was direct painting, luminous, and all in beautiful harmony of colour, which was very much associated with Orchardson’s own feeling for colour. In spite of this thin painting, his pictures have stood the test of time without deterioration in colour or cracking, whilst pictures painted in a much more robust pigment display have met a different fate.

Edwin Abbey, R.A., was one of his last sitters. He painted the portrait when he was practically dying and so weak that he left out one of the letters of his own signature. The picture itself is one of great beauty.

Sir David tells of an interesting episode in the painting of Orchardson’s picture, “Mrs Siddons in the Studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds.” All the different celebrities—Dr Johnson, Goldsmith, Garrick, etc., had been painted, and the picture was complete in all respects with the exception of Sir Joshua, for whom the artist had failed to get a sitter to satisfy him with regard to a likeness. Orchardson said in despair to his wife that he did not know how to get a model for Sir Joshua. She, always quick and helpful, answered, “Why not David Murray?”

This was on a Sunday, and Orchardson just crossed over from his own house to Sir David’s studio to ask when he could sit. Sir David answered, “Now.” Orchardson immediately set to work on Sir Joshua, and in two sittings the figure was complete. Sir David’s likeness to the portrait of Sir Joshua by himself had often been remarked upon by his friends.

[1] The heads being left to the last was very unusual and was owing to his being unable to find suitable models for historical personages.—H.O.G.

Devonshire House,


8 August, 1928.

Dear Miss Orchardson,

I am delighted to hear you are writing your Father’s biography. He was a remarkable man, and I cherish his memory as one of the pleasant things of life. I knew him when I was very young, for, as you know, my name was Harley, and I was born in Harley Street, and “Orchardson’s” studio was only round the corner, so that I often popped in as the years rolled on, and found him busily painting, while your Mother was reading to him.

Not only was he a great artist, but he had a peculiarly fine temperament. He was very sensitive. This is manifest in all his work. A strange care and minuteness of detail. A desire to have everything exact. A very thoughtful worker. He was not in the least inclined to dash things off, and I have often seen most careful chalk drawings made (in fact, I have one or two) while planning his pictures.

More than that. I have the original little Empire dress, that he painted so often, particularly in “The First Cloud” and “A Social Eddy.” I have also the wonderful white gown worn, I think, in “The Mariage de Convenance,” besides several more robes and adornments given to me by your Mother after his death.

Delightful were the parties they used to give. Not very many, but quiet little dinners of six or eight, and, strange to say, it was your Father who, when I was writing very hard to educate two sons, once said to me:

“My dear friend, you are an artist!”

“Nonsense,” I replied.

“You are,” he said. “For it is nothing for me to draw that girl’s head on your table-cloth, because with a pencil it is easy. But for you to work in that girl’s head and all the other things on this table-cloth with red cotton means that you must be an artist, or you could not possibly do it. The red cotton is always the same thickness, and yet you manage to get the eyes and the details not only correctly, but in the actual style of work of each person who has drawn on the cloth.”

Years rolled by, and after the War—after years, in fact, of war work, and the loss of one son, followed by the loss of the second son later, also for the country—I bought a few paints and brushes and went to Spain for a little change. It was my Mother who sent me, herself an intimate friend of your Father’s. She was then an old lady of eighty, and implored me to go away and try and paint, or do something new as a relaxation from those strenuous war years with two sons at the front from early days.

I started to paint, and three weeks later, with my little sketches tied and sealed in a paper parcel, was on the way to the post office to send them to her in England when a telegram was put into my hand to say she was dead.

I have worked hard since then, and your Father’s prophecy was fulfilled, when eight years later I showed over a hundred sketches at the famous Gallerie Georges Petits in Paris. That exhibition was opened by the great Marshal Foch. It was the first time he had ever done anything of the kind, and he did it gladly, as he said, for the Mother of two sons who had fallen for their country.

Sincerely yours,

E. Alec Tweedie.

“Though a small particular may appear trifling to some it will be relished by others; while every little spark adds something to the blaze.

“To record his sayings after some distance of time was like preserving or pickling long-kept and faded fruits and other vegetables, which when in that state have little or nothing of their taste when fresh.”

Boswell, Life of Johnson.


N.B.—Readers are requested and advised to read the Foreword first. They are also advised not to read the letters unless they belong to the Order of Letter Lovers.

The Life of Sir William Quiller Orchardson


My father was born in Edinburgh in 1831; most of his friends thought 1835, but he neither knew nor cared; and when his children asked for a day to celebrate, he said that three friends claimed his birthday to be the same as theirs, so he would choose his favourite friend’s day, Pettie’s, March 27th. Years after he explained that his memory never retained anything unimportant nor forgot anything important. I dared to correct him by asking “Wouldn’t it be more correct to say you have an absent-minded memory?” He marched up and down the studio with his head in the clouds, then suddenly stood still and laughed a little. “Yes,” he said, “not merely more correct, but absolutely correct, I think.”


About 1836.

See a first picture; a little fellow standing at his father’s knee—he has no mother—asking questions. A delicately beautiful child, yet not delicate; tall and slender with fair waving hair, big blue eyes, dazzling complexion of pink and white; a shy retiring spirit with a most robust strength of will. Very serious just now. “Father, I saw pictures in a shop-window to-day; how are they made?” His father explains a little, is eagerly interrupted: “Could I make pictures?” “Yes.”

Pencil, paper, ardent heart, eager hand, observant eye—behold! a picture of promise.

Another picture—school-time:



A dreamer of dreams, far away in the clouds, star-gazing. A crowd of other boys sporting and fighting together—fighting seems to have been the chief amusement—“Hi, Bill,” shouts one, “come and fecht.”

“ ‘Bill’ Orchardson does not hear.” Says another boy: “Huh, leave him alane, he’s seein’ visions.”

The cry is taken up: “Huh, he’s seein’ visions!” Which wakes young Bill from his reverie and he proceeds to fight with great energy and resource.

In school hours young Orchardson has an easy time; he has only to read his lessons to know them; and also to have opinions of his own about them which, however, he is usually too shy to express. The class sits on forms on three sides of a square. “Bill” Orchardson is entitled to sit at the head of the class and rises there every day; yet every morning he is found snugly hiding in the corner where the forms join, with two boys sitting well forward to cover his movements. He is very busy with relays of copy-books that come in turn from all the boys, and each gets a drawing, the favourite being a coach and four.

At last the “dominie,” douce man, with apparently more of kindness than of discipline in him, discovers Orchardson’s absence from his rightful place, and on reflection remembers it is by no means the first time.

“William Orchardson, stand up!”

The boy shyly emerges from behind his two friends and stands with downcast eyes, and copy-book hidden behind him. The dominie continues:

“You were at the head of your class yesterday and the day before, indeed every day; how is it you are always back in the corner? And what is that you are hiding behind you? Bring that copy-book to me.”

Orchardson advances, shy, shamed, but fearless, and hands in the book. The dominie looks through the book—coaches, ships, castles, horses, dogs—there are more drawings than lessons; he enquires if there are any more drawings; many are produced; he looks up at the painfully blushing, handsome face beside him.

“You draw much, Bill?” he asks kindly.

“Yes, sir,” Bill stammers, blushing more than ever.

The dominie looks slowly over the drawings again; then very gently he says:

“Orchardson, you may go back to your corner.”

The favourite scholar evidently as well as the cleverest.

That quiet “Go back to your corner” is, I think, the first recognition of Orchardson’s genius.

The name Orchardson is a corruption of Urquhartson of the Clan Urquhart of Glen Urquhart, a valley in Inverness-shire leading down into Loch Ness. An ancestor visited England where the tongue-tied Sassanach was unable to pronounce the guttural Urquhartson and called it Urkurtson, thence Urchartson and finally Orchardson, Orchadson, Orchison, Orchartson. I have seen various spellings in the highlands. Our Orchardson went to Forfarshire and my grandfather came thence to Edinburgh, where he joined the merchant-tailoring firm of Meyer and Quiller, first as employee and then as partner and son-in-law.

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of F. C. Buist, Esq.

The firm specialised in tartans, and my grandfather became an authority on the subject which indirectly had to do with what my father described as “the happiest day of my boyhood,” the day it was settled that he should go to an art school. John Sobieski Stuart (“The Chevalier Stuart”) published in 1843 an illustrated book entitled Costumes of the Clans. Young Orchardson having, it is said, copied one of the drawings showed it to the Chevalier, who admired it so much that he endorsed the boy’s application for admission to the Trustees Academy.

In 1707 the Act of Union set apart certain moneys for fostering Scottish manufactures, etc. In course of time such help became unnecessary and part of the money was used for the upkeep of a school of design, called the Trustees Academy, which finally became an art school.


About 1846.

On his first day at this school Orchardson wandered round in his dreamy way, and finally put up his easel in the life school. The curator found him there and ordered him to the antique room, the place for beginners. The “beginner” bowed politely, went on with his work, and was in the same place when the curator came back.

“Mr Orchardson, I told you to go to the antique.”

Mr Orchardson explained, blushing, shy, courteous, but determined, that he had decided not to draw in the antique, but to paint in the life. Such obstinacy and disobedience accompanied by such a courteous manner so astonished the curator that he said nothing and went round to look at the refractory student’s work. A look at the drawing, a glance at the embarrassed but determined boy, then a long critical gaze; finally he walked off without a word, and thereafter young Orchardson was left in peace to work as he pleased. When my Father told me the incident he was still embarrassed and ashamed of his misbehaviour, and ended: “What else could I do? I knew what I wanted to do then as now, and I had to do it.”

In 1850 Robert Scott Lauder was appointed curator, an event which proved of very great importance in the art world. Not only Orchardson but Chalmers, Herdman, Pettie, MacWhirter, M’Taggart, Peter Graham, Tom Graham and Hugh Cameron all came under his extraordinary influence; an influence so strong that the work of his pupils became “The Scottish School,” recognizable as such by the veriest amateur.

On my Father being asked for a description of Lauder’s teaching, he replied that he practised “the wise neglect” of Fuseli. “Lauder, in fact, was a good master because he never ‘taught,’ because he never interfered. When he arrived we waited nervously for his criticisms as he came round behind the double row of easels. At last he reached mine, and I stood aside while he leant over the back of the seat looking at my work. ‘Yes,’ he said at last, ‘yes,’ and then began to talk about the weather and other matters.”

It is difficult to understand how so “douce” a man as Lauder could have had so great an influence, especially if he did not actively criticize. I think perhaps it was the wonder student who escaped criticism. “Only a boy-student’s practice work, but how wonderfully perfect! Just an arm and hand—or hand and wrist or so—or a shoulder in perspective, but each a thing of beauty and a work of one who seemed even then to have had little left to learn of the mere technique of his craft!”[1]

This is a criticism written in 1907, but his fellow-students have often told me of the wonder, almost awe, with which they regarded the precision and delicacy of his boy-work.

About the age of fifteen or sixteen he went for a holiday in Arbroath staying with aunts, I think, where he made the acquaintance of an old sea captain, a great sea fisher and owner of a small schooner.

At five o’clock in the morning this quaint pair, old sea dog and embryo artist, would meet on the pier, the former Captain, the latter Crew, and with cunning skill would work the schooner out of the crowded harbour to the open sea. The Captain kept one elbow on the tiller, one eye on the sails, what was left of him helped the Crew to bait the lines with mussels. The new hand soon became an expert—quick at learning seamanship as at everything else. They caught mackerel chiefly, but occasionally had exciting hauls of other and bigger fish; my Father remembered one in particular, a mystery fish that they towed for miles before they could get in near enough to gaff, and when at last it got close enough, its own weight tore through the gaff, broke the line, and it disappeared. It was washed ashore next day, and proved to be a turbot six feet across, and with a great gash almost cutting it in half.

At ten o’clock at night the fishers returned, steering by the rose window in Arbroath Abbey (like the professional fishers), and were met on the pier by a crowd of people, come for the distribution of the day’s takings. Then the old sailor rolled off to his cottage and my Father ran home; when he awoke in the morning to hear the clock striking five and fishing time, he generally found himself lying half-dressed, fallen across the bed.

It must have been sometime after his return from one of these visits that he wrote the following letter to I know not whom:

How are all the sons of all the mothers

  That bask mid herring nets and sundried bloaters?

The pretty girls too, also the others;

  And in your ear, pray, how are all the “doaters”?


That keg you kindly sent to me—

  Say, what the devil has come of it?

Are the contents still in the sea,

  Or what sea-cook has got the profit?


Or has the hand of Providence

  Been laid upon it, by the way,

To sell it for some meagre pence

  To guard against a rainy day?


Fate is in the right—beyond all question

  Some of that sort Fate the other day,

Gave me the pangs of stubborn indigestion,

  For which I had some pills to take and pay.


The truth of this you safely may rely on

  Nor think I bait my pen to catch salt herring;

To salt you is a point I’d not be shy on

  And really here, I rank you with the erring.


The clock, I hear, has just struck one,

  I’ve sat two hours and do begin to wink,

My pen is good, my paper is not done

  Tho’, damn it, neither is my use of ink.


Good night, and may your slumbers still be soft

  If that your pillow be an old and hard one

Like that to which I go as you’ve felt oft

  When here. But truly I am yours, Orchardson.

On the back of this is written the following beginning of a letter:

Royal Crescent,


My Dear Boy,

I have just recovered from the surprising shock I experienced on learning the fact of your continued existence; far from ranking you among “the things that were,” I felt more disposed to give you a place among [those] that were not to be . . . [Unfinished.]

Climbing was another “ploy” at this time. I remember well his vivid description of how he climbed the Salisbury Crags—supposedly unclimbable—and how his schoolfellows down below nearly caused him to fall when he was half-way up at a particularly dangerous spot. The rock on which he was standing gave way and he was left hanging by his hands. The shriek the boys gave as the stone came bounding amongst them, and then their directing shouts nearly caused my Father to loosen his hold and look down; fortunately the jerk of the fall had caused one arm to get half wedged in a crevice, which perhaps saved him. At any rate he reached the top; but so far as I know, never again attempted so dangerous a climb. His climbing capacity proved useful, however, for when his sister took to sleep-walking on the roof he was able to follow her right on to the parapet of the tall Edinburgh house, without fear of falling, and was able to bring her safely inside again.

Which reminiscence produced a climbing tale concerning his father.

My Grandfather as a boy spent much time bird-nesting, and climbing with several companions in Forfarshire. At last there was only one climb left and one nest worth thinking about—an eagle’s nest up an inaccessible cliff. They tried it this way, they tried it that, and my Grandfather got the furthest but was always stopped by an impossible ledge, till finally this eagle’s nest became an obsession with him, and he thought of it by day and dreamt of it by night. One night he had an unusually vivid dream; that he had not merely reached the ledge but had crossed it, climbed up to the nest, driven off the eagle, successfully climbed down again and brought the precious nest home and placed it under his bed; then, still in his dream, he got into bed again and slept. When he awoke in the morning the dream was still so vivid that in order to assure himself it was nonsense, he looked under the bed—and there was the nest. A sleep-walker can face risks impossible to a waking person.

My Father’s steady head more than once nearly got him into trouble afterwards. He was visiting the Shetland Islands and walking one day with a friend on a high cliff, when he suddenly thought he would like to go to the edge in order to see over. Leading down to the edge there was a slippery grass slope over which he crawled and then lay down with his head hanging over the precipice, and watched the waves breaking on the rocks and the gulls whirling seven hundred feet below. He was so fascinated by the strange silent spectacle that he lay there for a long time, quite forgetful of his dangerous position. His friend becoming impatient called him, and he suddenly realized that his head had become too heavy (so he expressed it) and was gradually overbalancing him. It was only with the greatest difficulty that he crept back to safety.

Another time he was visiting, I forget where, and came across a pier in the building. There was a single plank running right out to the end, and he walked along it to enjoy the breakers. It was only when he turned to go home that he realized the narrowness of his path, and felt, for the first and, I believe, only time in his life, a sudden access of vertigo. He waited hoping it would go off, but finding it only increase, he fixed his eyes on a distant object and crossed safely, not daring to look down.

One of my Father’s friends at this time was an art student called Ebsworth, with whom he often tramped for miles across the Pentland Hills. They discussed the scene—the purple heather, the sunset, the effects of light on colour, my Father doubtless indicating pictures with his thumb, pressing imaginary canvases; they discussed everything that art students invariably discuss, but always wound up with the recitation by Ebsworth of part of a Scott novel, a poem perhaps, or other literary masterpiece. In this way my Father said he “read” quite a lot of great works, Ebsworth being able to recite a great many—he could repeat anything by heart that he had once read. Once for a test my Father read him a newspaper article, and then asked him to recite it backwards, which he did without mistake. Mr. Ebsworth failed as a painter and became a parson with a living in Yorkshire. My Father once laughingly told him that if ever he became a rich man and wanted a library, he would employ Ebsworth instead—he would make reference so easy! My Father’s own memory was rather remarkable. He read all Scott as a young boy; the first being The Black Dwarf, read by him to his father when the latter was ill. He was so enchanted with the tale that his father suggested Ivanhoe next, which was even more fascinating, with the result that he read all the Waverley Novels one after the other. He never read them again, yet he knew all about them, and in many instances could repeat the very words. He read Shakespeare once through before he was twenty and never again, yet could repeat all the most beautiful passages off by heart. It was difficult to get him started but once wound up he would go on for quite a long time. On anyone venturing to express admiration for his long memory, he would smile and say: “Ah! but Ebsworth . . .” and then would follow the reminiscence of the Pentland walks and many other tales if the listener only knew how “to work the oracle.”

Dancing was a favourite amusement, and he used to tell how on one occasion, after dancing all night, he and some companions ran to the top of Arthur’s Seat (as they were, in evening dress) to watch the sun rise. My Father, determined not to be late, ran the whole way without stopping, with the not unnatural result that on reaching the top he fell down unable either to breathe or move. It is possible that this was the cause of the heart trouble he suffered from late in life, and for which no one could account. He ran twice up Arthur’s Seat, the other time being in order to view from above a thunderstorm that broke over Edinburgh. That was before flying men were even thought of, and it was a stranger sight then than now to view a storm below one, while enjoying serene unclouded sunshine.

Fencing was another amusement that he followed enthusiastically. He belonged to the school of Angelo, and always maintained that the thumb was a much stronger and therefore a better guide than the forefinger. But having sprained his wrist very badly he was unable to continue, so took to boxing instead. He went to a professional boxer for lessons, and on his first day the pugilist attacked him somewhat roughly, after showing him the guards. The new pupil did not appreciate the rough handling, and, well, he did not exactly lose his temper, but at any rate he attacked suddenly and furiously, and so surprised his teacher that he drove him to the wall. Said the boxer: “I never knew a young man with a good nose, but what he knew how to protect it.”

Orchardson’s appearance was not such as to inspire enthusiasm in a professional pugilist; he was rather tall—5 ft. 10 inches—and his slenderness and upright carriage made him appear taller; his shoulders were exceptionally broad, a fact that greatly pleased him; his hands and wrists, feet and ankles were very small and finely shaped, but muscular, as he was all over; a doctor once told him that if he struck, say, a wall with all his force, he would probably break his arm. In fact he was a Highlander. His face with its delicate colour and fine features suggested delicacy; indeed, two dear old ladies always shook their heads sadly over him when he was calling, and told him he would die before he was twenty-one. His fellow students and artist friends made great use of his head as a model for girls and for the head of Christ. One man was hunting for a particularly fine type of nose; said another: “What ails ye at Orchardson’s nose?” His chin was small but his jaw was square and strong, and the man’s whole air gave an impression of force and enthusiasm, which, combined with an exceptionally charming and courteous manner, made all who met him realize that here was a personality.

He wore his hair rather long with the quaint result that once, when it was clipped short—a French crop—by an energetic but mistaken barber in Holland, he came home to Edinburgh quite unrecognizable, and his friends had to stare hard before they were sure of him. He never cut his moustache, which grew to be of the kind called military; and never wore a beard except once, on the recommendation of a friend, but he soon took it off again as being too thick and troublesome.

In spite of his delicate appearance my Father never seems to have suffered from anything worse than occasional attacks of indigestion, except once, when there was a bad epidemic of cholera in Edinburgh, and he fell a victim. He collapsed in the street, but managed to call a cab and give his address. He was carried into his Father’s house and given brandy at his gasped request, but only in a small glass; with much difficulty he managed to get hold of the bottle and drank off more than half of it, to his family’s horror. They were consoled, however, by the doctor telling them that his patient would have been dead before his arrival had it not been for the brandy.

To someone unknown and undated. A scrap:

“On Saturday night I was unable [to come] as I had promised and to-night I am still a prisoner. I send my apologies, please treat them well. The weather and the gods have used me vilely since last we met, and though I possess neither the morale nor physique of a martyr, I have been rehearsing patience, but feel diffident as to my success, indeed it has not been flattering. Pray be weak enough to forgive; if virtue is allowed without interference to be solely its own reward, why should not poor sin have the satisfaction of being its own punishment?”

He never even suffered from toothache he told me, except once; he went to a dentist to get the bad tooth out and was drawn with the tooth round and round the room, which decided him never to visit a dentist again. This, no doubt, accounts for the following note in his handwriting:

“A degree of cold below the freezing point of water is, I believe, a new agent in therapeutics, which could probably be usefully employed for various other important purposes. A solution of salt of a very low temperature by acting upon the exposed nerve might at once and permanently remove toothache.”

Which is closely followed by this note on fire:

“The materials required to extinguish fire in the hold of a ship are nothing more than a cask of common chalk in the bottom of the hold, connected with the deck by a small pipe; and a two gallon bottle of sulphuric acid, which, on the alarm of fire, being poured down the pipe will generate a sufficient quantity of dense smoke or gas in which flames cannot exist.”

In the same-aged writing is the following—a lecture to himself:

“To laugh, to applaud, to weep, are the signs of a sentiment or a passion and have nothing to say to the reason. Do you then be as uninfluenced by plaudits as by censures, and fear neither, or you will never improvise. Be calm in the midst of your grandest oratorical moments. Moderate them because you yourself judge what is right, and not because you are wanting in courage to give them unrestrained vent; reason alone should be your guide.

“Does the young orator blush when he attempts to improvise, so much the better; if he does, his success is certain if he has but courage to continue. He has intelligence since he perceives his folly and he has force of character since, notwithstanding that perception, he perseveres in speaking.”

In after years my Father described these as his “young and curly days,” and they certainly seem to have been very strenuous both in work and play; the extreme concentration on the work and the rapidity making up for usually short hours. There is a tale which illustrates this particularly well.

At the age of twenty-two, one afternoon three days before the last sending-in day for the Royal Scottish Academy, he was working at a picture he had just begun—“Wishart’s Last Exhortation”—when he was interrupted by his late teacher and present friend, Robert Scott Lauder. One head was painted, the rest of the picture sketched-in in charcoal. Scott Lauder was so much struck by the sketch and the finished head that, of course, he wanted to know why the picture had not been finished in time for the R.S.A. Orchardson shyly admitted that perhaps it was not so bad, that he had forgotten all about the exhibition and, as a matter of fact, had not been working very hard; he added that if so excellent a critic as Mr Lauder thought the picture good enough, he could finish it in time. Of course, Scott Lauder laughed—impossible to finish thirteen figures, including many hands in three days. However, when his visitor had gone, young Orchardson set to work. He painted till dusk, then called his sister Mary and asked if she would light up for him; and would she be so very kind as to keep him supplied with coffee all night? History does not relate whether the sister was surprised or not, probably not; but, at any rate, she looked after him, keeping him supplied with food and coffee, opening the shutters at dawn, closing them at dusk, until she was exhausted. Orchardson worked on and on, scarcely pausing even to eat, never sleeping, never resting. At the end of three days and three nights the picture was finished and sent off; and you might suppose that the painter went to bed. Not at all; he squared his shoulders and marched ten miles across the Pentlands. I say “marched” advisedly, for the word describes his walk exactly—alert and vigorous as well as light and graceful.

The picture was accepted, and when Orchardson went to the Academy on touching-up day, he found it was hung on the line. On my asking if there was not a great deal of finishing to be done, he replied that no one was more surprised than himself, but everything was finished with the most meticulous care except one halberd, which had been forgotten, in a corner; even a vase and a shawl and all the hands were highly finished. People asked him why he had not hidden the hands like many if not most painters; and he could only reply that the hands were there and so had to be painted. By which he meant that in his vision of the picture the eleven hands were, he considered, correctly placed, and he could not alter them for the sake of a little less work—or, indeed, for any reason. One of the women is wearing a lace shawl, painted with Pre-Raphaelite precision. Even a shawl, if it belonged to the original vision, was sacred.

George Wishart was condemned by Cardinal Beaton to be burned at St. Andrew’s. On his way to the stake, passing the apartments of the Captain of the Castle, he was requested to breakfast with his family and a few friends. Having desired them to sit down he discoursed to them concerning the Lord’s Supper. After his having blessed the Bread and Wine he dispensed the Sacrament. This was the first time the Sacrament was administered in Scotland in the Protestant form.

Wishart’s last exhortation is being listened to most attentively by his small congregation and the armed guards, the night before he was burnt at the stake by Cardinal Beaton in 1546. The preacher is thinking earnestly of his words and of his fate not at all, in spite of the prison walls of St. Andrew’s.

The two figures on the left appear to have been painted from the artist himself, and from Paul Chalmers, who is sitting at the table in the full light of the lantern.

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of the Glasgow Art Gallery.

In 1851 my Father and Grandfather went to London together for the great Exhibition. I can find no written records of this visit, but remember my Father telling me that he was impressed by two things, the vast size of the Exhibition and the extreme badness of the art, which, he said, was dominated by the Prince Consort, who knew nothing whatsoever about art, and had a “merely German” conception of it. The Prince encouraged art, he said, but the wrong kind—Winterhalter, for instance. My Father emphasized this all his life.

At this distance of time and place, it is exceedingly difficult to get into communication with anyone who knew my Father in his youth. But having found a little girl’s letter to “My Darling Bill,” and signed “Chattie,” I had the happy thought to write to Mr MacWhirter’s daughter (Mrs Charles Sims), who wrote to Mr MacKay, R.S.A., to whom I am indebted for a re-introduction to Mrs Ford, who turns out to be “Chattie Clow.” She writes to me as follows:

“I remember my mother telling me that she knew him first as a rather delicate-looking little boy in tunic and belt, and she must have been drawn to the motherless child for they were great friends. My first introduction to him was when I was about four years old. I was afraid to go into the drawing-room as one of my sisters (aged eight) said, ‘Don’t go in, he has a moustache and he kissed me’; a moustache was not a common thing in those days. Then my eldest sister took me in her arms and carried me upstairs, and we were friends at once and for always.

“Like all children, I was a hero-worshipper and from that time he was my hero in everything that he did; as you will know he was charming with children. On one occasion I was sitting on his knee helping him to plant an acorn in a windowbox, and after it was in the earth he said, ‘Now it will grow into a big oak tree, upset the windowbox, probably upset the house, and all go crash in the street! and then what will the landlord say!!!’

“He was like Lewis Carroll, he seemed to understand the twistings of a child’s mind.

“He was always in great demand for social functions. I remember private theatricals in our house and sundry fancy dress dances. I am sure he enjoyed his life in the intervals of work. About 1853 or 1854, he went to study in London for a time, I think about two years, but I cannot be sure. I had two letters from him (1854) enclosed in letters to my Mother (I was about five). He came back to Edinburgh for some years before ultimately going to reside in London. He never failed to come to see us when in Edinburgh. Here are the letters:

I have just come into possession of your delightful little letter in a very singular way. I was standing by the fire just now when I saw something white under the mirror that stands over the fireplace. After pushing it about for some time with the end of my brush I got it out at the side and was not a little astonished to find it to be your letter, which had fallen through from the side where the servant always sticks my letters.

I had begun to think you had forgotten all about the letter-writing, and I suppose you were thinking that I was a fine fellow! to be sure, wasn’t I? However, if you will forgive me this time I will close up the letter trap in the mirror, and promise to be a good boy for the future. I am sorry to hear that you have been ill, Chatty, and I assure you if you do not write soon and tell me that you “are quite well, I thank you,” I will think you very cruel.

I enclose a lock of my hair as you request. It’s not grey, but I can’t help that, for, strange to say, it seems unconscious of care, even of the care with which I search for a grey lock, so Aggie need not be afraid to take great care of it to lock it in her locket, and I will always venerate the organ of veneration from which it was cut. I found in your letter the fossil remains of two unfortunate rosebuds, they now figure in my geological collection.

Let Mrs Clow know that I received her kind little letter and I am glad to hear that she has been down calling on my sisters. Tell Aggie I have treasured up the relic she sent me. I have dreamt over it too, but the dream is a secret and won’t stand pen and ink. Only it was not about Rizzio.

As I must be suffering dreadfully in your estimation, Chatty, and I therefore wish you to get this as soon as possible, I will conclude with a “brief,” as the Highlandman says, and sending as much of my love as can possibly pass through the post to be distributed at the tea table,

How I do envy Eliza,[2] the romps you have with her, and when you speak of the kisses you have for me don’t I wish I was at home again, that’s all!

I am glad Mrs Clow had got over her illness before you wrote, as I should have been very uneasy till the next bulletin; I hope the recovery is complete.

I am rather astonished about the lock of hair which I thought was enclosed in my letter, as I have not seen it since. It certainly must have made away with itself in despair. I sincerely trust that this one is reserved for a better fate.

You talk of having no one to romp with. Oh! Chatty how I wish, you were here, would we not startle the natives! Why, you would light up my lonely room like a ray of veritable sunshine dancing into all the corners, warming everything it came across and finally resting in the heart of your own fond Bill! who is only sorry that he can’t kiss you otherwise than in imagination. But never say die, Chatty, there’s a good time coming.

Till then I must be content with a kiss by post. This little letter is all over with them, they are even lurking in the corners of the envelope. Treat them kindly for the sake of your ever loving


“I remember when a girl at school, I showed him my drawing (shading from the cast), and he said, ‘Child, who teaches you to do such fine work—what a waste of time!’

“In 1858, your Father had a picture in the Royal Scottish Academy entitled “Marley Gray,” with a quotation from a ballad:

Siccar on brae and bentie knowe

The bowmen they maun stand or fa’

Amang the lave young Craigenden,

They’ve bound him fast—the wale of a’.


Sae dreich and sair and tenderly

Fair Marley loots upon her knee

Wi’ boding heart sae tremblingly

She seeks her love where he may be.

After the opening day Mr Tytler, of Woodhouselee, came along to the studio (he was a collector of old Scottish literature, especially the old ballads). “Where did you get that ballad? I can’t place it. I have never seen it.” “Oh,” said your Father, “I just made the two verses myself to suit the picture.” “Well,” said Mr Tytler, “they suit the picture, and are a very exact imitation.”

I wonder how long Orchardson was studying in London. Mrs Ford thinks about two years. But “Wishart’s Last Exhortation” was painted in Edinburgh at 4 Torphichen Street in 1853; and “The Cottage Door” and portrait of “Master Henry Keith” in 1854, at 26 Royal Crescent, where he remained for three years according to the R.S.A. catalogue. “Bill’s” two letters to “Chattie,” dated “London 1854,” and the following invoice:

Mr Orchardson

Bot. of George Rowney & Company,

Artists’ Colourmen,

51 Rathbone Place,


September 12th, 1854.

1 Mahogany Rack Easel — — — — — £1 15 0

Recd. F. Foster

together with a very youthful poem dated Sunday, October 14th, 1854, 26 Royal Crescent, make me suppose that he was in London for only a few months. I never heard him mention this time in London, but the poem suggests that he enjoyed English Sundays better than Scottish Sabbaths, and that the contrast made the “Bright day of dull repose” very noticeable.

26 Royal Crescent,

Sunday, October 14th, 1854.

Sweet day of rest from all save sin

  And that, too, of the deeper sort

That prompts the yawn amid the preaching din

  Or warbles in the sleepers’ tuneful snort.


Or stretched upon the sward looks on the sky

  And deems the bells sound better at a distance

Though many in her few alone may sigh

  And pray the saints to come to your assistance.


Bright day of dull repose or something worse

  When wings abroad the clergy’s tender curse

Against all those who really know no better

  Than stay at home to sleep or write a letter.

I have no clue of the date of this letter, except the writing and the early signature, beside the general youthfulness and liveliness of it:


Bruce Arms.

Dear Father,

I arrived here yesterday evening all safe and began my sketch to-day; it is a glorious bit, and will answer my purpose even better than I anticipated.

I astonished the natives of little [illegible] last night by making a forcible entry into the byres where they were milking by a well-remembered back way, overturning the candle, and alarming an indefinite number of cats. They—the Henrys not the cats—are all in excellent health, they have had a splendid harvest, and have a choked-up stack-yard.

They are very keen for you to come over for [a] time if you could manage it, which, I think, you might, seeing you are not very busy—try!

The weather has broken unfortunately, but it will likely clear up soon.

[1] Samuel Reid.

[2] W. Q. O.’s sister.

EDINBURGH (continued)

It seems to have been a custom in those days to write illustrated letters, often in verse. I am, unfortunately, unable to find any finished letters, but my Father had a habit of composing his letters on scraps of paper, in pencil, and consequently illegible in parts, and, of course, not illustrated. They mostly show the lively side of his character, but as liveliness was a great characteristic of his all his life, that will not matter. He was the life and soul of any party, and needed no spur of drink or smoke; Chalmers used to say: “Orchardson, you are the most unsociable of fellows—you won’t make yourself ill for anybody.” The incongruity of making himself ill and thereby pleasing a friend amused W. Q. O. to the end of his life, and he often told the tale and laughed at it. Of Chalmers, by the way, he had a very great opinion and always said he would have been one of the greatest of modern painters had he lived.


From Orchardson in Dollar, Clackmannan, between 1850 and 1860, to John Pettie:

My Dear Pettie,

Weep for me! The skies that look on Dollar are at it day and night; the hills are impassable and sketching impossible. Yesterday I made a bold advance with my umbrella at the charge into the hills. A track leading through a valley, and fondly described in Dollar as a road, I found to be in reality a watercourse, defended on either side by a marsh relentless and sticky, with arms that seemed to reach the hilltops, and outlying bits placed exactly where most inconvenient. Advancing against a heavy wind and struggling through these pleasing slopes I reconnoitred from under my parapluie. The clouds soaked down on the hills sponging out the “scenery.” But reaching a spot at last, a Pisgah, I fancied that, supposing a clear sky over all, the way to be passable and the torrents quieted, here might be the dreamed-of happy valley. I am still sublimely trusting in to-morrow, though the to-morrows have hitherto scarcely justified my faith.

Dollar is not amusing in the evening. I tried it last night, but the only excitement I found was the cleaning of the dishes; this, though not great, is continuous. True, I met one young Lady, but she was evidently much startled or exceedingly shy, for on looking round and finding that I had obeyed the same natural law, she fled like a deer, though I would rather she had stayed like one.

Dollar I should say is favourable to sheep, for judging from the exceeding toughness of the chops, they attain a longevity unknown elsewhere. Another fact in the natural history of Dollar has come within my observation; the servant maids are constructed after the manner of the ancient elephant, destitute of knee joints. The specimen kept on this establishment washes the floor in a standing position, resting on her left hand and taking a wide sweep with her right and keeping her knees quite straight—the total absence of crinoline enabling one to establish the latter point beyond doubt; moreover, she was performing this feat with apparent ease.

Capt. Andrew’s society at the Hold is good; there is a drunken [some words illegible] whom I take to be a butcher [illegible phrase], he appeals to me for his interlocutors’ meaning after every drink; he sinks them quite . . . [Unfinished.]

My Father often stayed with the Cranstouns in Perth, and always retained his friendship for “Old Cranstoun.” The following letter must have been written after one of these visits. Miss Fisher, of course, was only one of his many “flames.”

26 Royal Crescent,


  My dearest Duncan, I trust you still are well,

And still survive beneath each passing shock

Of falls without a rise when “Bears” will sell

And “Bulls” are sometimes sold, too, with the stock

And lose besides their own dear stock of patience

And learn to know the pangs of indigestion

Although they grow more cautious o’er their rations

And steam their brains with punch to save congestion.


But how is our old friend

I hope in all his parts he’s still intact

And safe on earth to grin where others grumble

And scratch his head and know that “it’s a fact.”

And then again our good friends Mrs Gentle

And Gentle Cockletops the witty farmer

Ask for their healths both physical and mental

And if the latter had his Ayrshire charmer.


But ah! why linger o’er such themes as these

Which fall unheeded on thy faithful ear

Whose drum is beat in vain vain hope to please

Unless struck by her name whose love you bear.

Sweet name—though long or short ’tis sweet to thee

And jingles gently round or right above you

Then hush! and in soft tones say how is she

The greatly unexpressed the glorious lovely?

That purest unnamed myth of joy and fears,

That unblown bud of seven lang lang years.


Pray call her Mary, Nell or Isabel

The former pair are garnered in my breast

And being pretty may answer pretty well

To mark your special lovely from the rest.

But there! the Muse has heard the name of mine

And cannot sing of yours though your wellwisher;

For Helen sweetly chimes in every line

And looking in my head she finds Miss Fisher.


How oft at even by the gliding Tay

My thoughts have floated o’er its gentle breasts,

To wonder midst those lights which point the way

Where beauteous Helen wakes or slumb’ring rests,

To fix on one and fondly call it Hers,

And whisper to my heart its own dear choice,

And hear it murmured in the stilly hours

And echoed by the waters’ gurgling voice.


Oh! she is sweeter than the morning sigh

Which rises fragrant from the waking rose

To greet with frankincense the world’s great eye

And praise the source from whence its beauty flows

So sweet, so pure, so wrought about with grace

Spring in her step and summer in her eyes

She shows the seasons in her blooming face

And moves the Hesperus of earthly skies.


How passing pleasant (when the weather’s choice)

To stroll sans thought or care down by his side

To list the music of his gushing voice

Or read the unthumbed page there opened wide.

So poets think, I know, which is a pity

For after all I do prefer the city.

Mr Drummond does not refer to the above letter, but what he says seems appropriate here. He writes from Perth to W. Q. O. in December 1855, thanking him for “your very clever poetical epistle, which is really very witty and took amazingly—I read it that very night to [illegible] Smith and [illegible] and they enjoyed it vastly. I also read a part to the Widow McGregor and Mr [illegible] and endeavoured to make it thought the sweet bits were meant for the young lady there, Miss Fisher; how far I succeeded I know not, perhaps you may learn that sooner than me.

Pray what is the size of the little gem you are to give me? When you are in a good humour bestow an hour upon it and in the meantime let me know what the subject is.”

I remember when I first went to Edinburgh three ancient maidens living together, sisters, much older than my Father, were pointed out to me as having been early “flames”; tradition said they had never married for love of him. Perhaps the following is addressed to them:

Then dearest sweet and ever charming Three,

  List to the pleadings of the tuneful Nine

Without whose intercession as you see

  I dare not venture nigh your triple shrine,

Fearful and anxious lest neglected duty

  Has hurt me in the eyes of so much beauty.

And this translation too I was to send

  In weekly numbers and in solid prose

With learned annotations at the end,

  And all those aids to timid authors’ throes.

But I suspect that this with me is morally

  Impossible, I rather do it orally.

Another letter and another Lady:

Oh! Kate how shall I begin, how end

  How lay my heart before you upon paper

How say unutterable things, how send

  In sorry ink dropped by the midnight taper

The spirit of my love to hover near

  And whisper thee of more than meets the ear?

Not all the Ladies (there were no Girls in those days) waited for “Bill” to become serious, and clearly he enjoyed being deserted:

My dear, my sweet and charming Sophy

  I read your pretty little letter

Had it contained one word of me

  I would have liked it better.


In dear Coatbridge you’re now at rest

  And happy in your early lovers

And he the dearest and the best

  Now proves the heart his waistcoat covers.

And again:

Then Amy, dear, pray listen here,

  You know the blarney stone?

He kissed it with the very lips

  That vowed he was your own.

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of A. Henderson Bishop, Esq.

Orchardson fell in love once only, at the age of forty-two, and then he married his love. All these early “affairs” were mere “leather and prunella,” as he would himself have said, but they evidently occupied a very considerable amount of time and thought—or perhaps fancy; which is my excuse, besides the character, the poetry and humour shown, for dwelling on them. The following is probably a portion of a letter to a man friend:

This preface here begins to swell

  Its length just like a first quiet visit

Made to some lady to see if she is well

  And take her hand perhaps to kiss it,

If she allows, and is not backward;

  Time runs so that you never miss it

Till at a point that’s rather awkward

  You to the devil wish your visit.


The casual sweets I relish most

  Just like flirtation after supper

When hunger in some dish is lost

  Nor yet is found upon the nightmare’s crupper.

You then are soothed and sentimental

  And pleased to talk or walk or sit

Especially if she’s ornamental

  About the head or has some wit.

So that evidently a lady must be either witty or beautiful to attract “Handsome William.”

In another letter he writes:

The stoics hold true happiness is found

  With those alone who never knew a pleasure,

And being rather fearful lest they run aground

  When ebbs the tide and they, cautious beyond measure,

Lay out their scheme with all due circumspection

  But overlook the joys of retrospection.

I do not know who Berkeley was nor what “this” was, but the ingenuity of so many doubts is intriguing:

Go walk with Berkeley on creation’s brink

  And feed and gaze on doubt, and doubt your sight

Think you are not, or that you do not think,

  Then doubt that you are either wrong or right;

Doubt pleasure, pain, or even lovely’s kiss

  And be not certain that there’s day or night

  But doubt your doubt if that it doubt of this.

Here are some of his early views of love:

    Love is but a flower

      Trembling as it grows,

    Bedewed in every shower

      Fading as it grows.


    Love is but a dream

      A day dream of the heart

    A glimpse of heaven between

      Breaking clouds that part.


The woods are leafless neath their shade

  No lovers walk or birds now sing.

Can love or song with dull leaves fade?

  Ah! do they grow but with the Spring?

But Winter sweeping on the ground

  Her name bears on his stormy wing

And thrilling memory at the sound

  Casts o’er my heart eternal spring.

The rose the lily from their stalk

  Fall trembling neath sere autumn skies,

And every gem in Flora’s walk

  Gleams but awhile then faded dies.

But such is not the fate of Love

  It withers not but still doth rise

Where planted by the hand above,

  The only flower which never dies.


      Oh! such an eye

        To kill or cure again.

Amy, Kate, Sophy, Mary, Helen, Nell, Emily, Isabel, besides Miss Fisher and the charming Three, all come into these “curly” times, and their names and the poems have been preserved by my Mother for this book.

An almost illegible scrawl seems to be an account of a dream picnic “with sunshine dappling the sward,” and several flirtations going on, from which I deduce that flirtatious picnics were frequent amusements.

“I do prefer the City” remained true of Orchardson all his life, but that he greatly appreciated Nature is, I think, shown by the following, which may be called “Winter”:

Exhausted Nature seeks awhile to rest

  And calmly sleeps upon the earth’s cold breast,

While creeping Winter with his icy hand

  Spreads his cold sheet in folds upon the land.

Breathing his stillness o’er the lake’s pure face,

  He casts death’s shadow o’er life’s wonted place;

Or wildly bounding from his northern lair

  Scatters his tempests through the howling air.

A passing thought:

“And think it sport to hold a candle to the fluttering moth, as a child that thinks its little hand may catch the dancing flame and keep it as a toy; or is it not as fairies do, and laugh and clap their tiny hands.”

When he was about twenty, Orchardson went on a tour with his Father in the Highlands, which no doubt gave rise to the following:

The bright moon rises as we cross the ferry,

  The dancing waves support her silver train,

And all on board the passage boat are merry

  In various ways, some dance with might and main;

Some sit and lounge alone, while here and there

  In happy silence stand some wiser pair.

Did he or did he not mind leaving Scotland? This was probably written when he went to London about 1854:

Farewell! my native shores, farewell!

  Ye scenes that smile upon the Forth,

Ye hills and dales I know so well,

  Ye islets of my native North!


Farewell! your voice sits on the breeze,

  It sighs a last farewell to me,

Your form sinks faintly in the seas

  And night veils my sad heart and thee.

I do not know to which of the many ladies the following was addressed nor does it matter very much, for all these little poems were only passing thoughts:

You blooming flowers, say how she passed

  Or left you with a rosy kiss,

Which bashful bud looked on her last,

  Which last received that touch of bliss.

You songsters mute that linger here

  Ah! lead me to her gentle feet,

To her who is my dove, my dear,

  My sun and flowers, my all, my sweet,


Or lend your voices sweet awhile

  And with the linnet’s note I’ll call.

Its tones her footsteps here may wile

  To list its loving madrigal.

And when I sun me in her smile

  And bathe deep in her liquid eyes

A wreath of love I’ll twine the while,

  All buds and bloom, hopes, fears and sighs.

My Father told me that in his early youth he fully intended to be an explorer and that he read every book on exploration that he could get hold of. He read every newspaper, too, and any new discovery caused him a “pang,” he said, for it meant so much less for him to discover.

“And what made you give up exploration?”

“Oh! well! I had to paint, you know. I had no choice in the matter; it was really rather curious, I chose to explore, yet I had to paint. You see, there are some things one must do.”

Apparently he tried writing, too, and, it would seem, started a story with Rudolf as hero, who lived in a “house which from its general appearance might be judged to embody the quaint, the picturesque and the uncomfortable; if this was the intention, it succeeded to a miracle.” “The one window of Rudolf’s apartment” was in one of the turrets, and he was pensive, but what about does not appear.

To an unknown:

“You have escaped, I believe, from that unpronounceable wilderness you so pathetically describe in your last. How do you like solitude? Not at all, I suppose; the vegetable existence of a recluse is ill-adapted to one of your constitution.

“I can fancy you seated on the rocky shore not exactly like patience on a monument but more like unto the last woman mourning over the final extinction of the race and weeping a very flood of briny tears into the advancing tide in the desperate hope of another deluge. How you must have rejoiced in a return to the haunts of man, the [?] of small talk and that sweet delightful but judicious system of flirtation, the account of which made such an impression on my inexperience.

“You will have heard all about our picnics; that to the [?] was a great success, the company harmonious, the dinner excellent, the beer abundant and the fiddler sober. We dined alfresco under the greenwood tree and danced like fairies on the lawn, that is to say fairies in so far none of us got mortal. We had a monstrous kettle suspended gipsy fashion on three sticks, a triumph of skill and a fountain of consolation. The dishes were washed most picturesquely, being thrown into the river, while the men with coats off and sleeves turned up fished for them from the bank, and hanging spanging (?) out desperately as they floated past.”

Another scrap of letter:

“I fear I have forfeited all hope of enjoying that place in your good graces I would most desire. How I contrived in so short a space of time to commit so many offences is even now a mystery. You will, of course, consider me as the worst of men, and in that persuasion I consider myself the most unfortunate, and shall be, in the absence of your forgiveness, the most miserable.

“I owe both Mr [?] and yourself, especially, an apology. On arriving at the station, fiery red with haste, conceive and pity the sinking of heart I experienced on finding myself just in time to be too late. The Fates in serving me so scurvy a trick may have wished to spare the tears I should undoubtedly have shed.”

The following seems to be notes for a speech at the opening of some Scottish Art Exhibition:

“Of its success none of us I presume entertain the slightest doubt, and its nationality is indeed part of ourselves, and can only cease with that of our country. Not only are the best pictures themselves intensely Scotch, but what is perhaps better, the worst ones are even more so.

“Of course, the existence of a Scottish school of art, in the bleak region of the north here, is scarcely understood over the border. In fact we are too far north here, and have not yet come within the range of the Cockney telescope, their notion of art here being somewhat on a par with the very concrete conception of an abstract Scotchman—one who lives savagely in red hair and horrid tartan. . . .

“Many things tend towards this want of stability as a school, we are not true to ourselves and are never concentred; our forces are dispersed, adventurers in other ranks. . . .

“That old alderman of cities that sits by the Thames is in the daily habit of swallowing large doses of Scotchmen, a bitter draught but an excellent tonic, and the salvation of the patient. The old gentleman has a wonderful digestion and assimilates all sorts of food. . . .

“Why should such men confine their ambition to [?] why export their glory to illumine the purlieus of Trafalgar Square for the consolation of the Cockney’s best? There are lots more where they came from, and we can always afford them a supply sufficient to keep the name of [?] respectable. . . .

“And Scottish artists from W. Club inclusive will be claimed for the English school as coolly as if their cradles had swung to the chimes of Bow Bells.”

Tom Graham and John MacWhirter were amongst his great friends; and Charles Gold, now Sir Charles, cousin and partner of the Gilbey’s (wine merchants), not an artist friend, so I take it that they were what might be called “highjinks friends,” for I gather they had lively times together. Sir Charles Gold wrote in April 1910: “Orchardson and I knew the same people and used to meet each other three or four nights a week. We used also to ride, fence and take long walks together when we were both young and active. I can scarcely believe that those days are fifty years ago!”

But John Pettie was his greatest friend and remained so till his death.

About 1859 or 1860 Orchardson went to Holland and Germany; he sailed from Leith in rough weather which he much enjoyed, although a bad sailor in after life. He landed at Rotterdam, if I remember his telling rightly, and from there went to the Hague and Amsterdam. He was much struck by the cleanliness of the streets, and often laughed at the recollection of the quarrels between the housemaids and the police over the washing of the outsides of the houses; he remembered very well being more or less drenched in the early morning by the energetic housemaids.

He told me he considered that the Dutch people had a right to their country such as no other people could claim to any country, in as much as they had won and kept it from the sea by their own industry, and he thought the little dyke boy a type of the stamina of the people. Of their art he could hardly think too highly, he said; Van Dyck very beautiful and fine, Rubens magnificent but coarse, and Rembrandt almost beyond praise, second only to Titian.

From Holland he went to Germany, travelling up the Rhine I think from the way he spoke of the curious view of the country down below one. Of his travels in Germany I can find no records at all; but he must have been to Heidelberg, as in 1860 he exhibited a picture at the Royal Academy called “Under the Vine—Heidelberg” with the note “in collaboration with J. MacWhirter.” I wonder if Mr MacWhirter joined him there?

And the following letter attests that he was in Dresden; beyond this I can find nothing, although it must have been an important time of learning.

67 Great King Street,


[About 1861-62.]

Dear Sir,

In Dresden, when enjoying the pleasure and advantage of your society, I casually volunteered to fill a vacant page in Miss Belcher’s Album.

Miss Belcher probably may not recollect a circumstance so trifling, but those who promise have not the same right to forget. May I therefore hope that, kindly permitting me to redeem my word, you will present the enclosed sketches with my best compliments.

If not presuming too far on our slight acquaintance I would beg you to make my most respectful compliments to Mrs Belcher, and

Believe me, dear sir,

Your most obedient servant,

W. Q. Orchardson.

In response to a letter of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh calling for the formation of volunteer companies, a meeting was held on August 4th, 1859. My Father joined and attended regularly. “With Hugh Cameron he had much to do with the designing of the Artists’ company’s uniform, which was rather different from the others.” He never became an officer, not even a non-com.; “indeed, few of those who took a leading part in the formation of the company became officers.” Orchardson was in the second detachment for gun drill, which was carried on at the Corn Exchange, Grass Market.[1]

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of the Edinburgh National Gallery.

A tale is attached to this gun drill. My Father was very proud of the skill of his old corps, who knocked out the Regulars’ target in five rounds, and was perhaps a little disdainful of the Regulars, but on considering the point, decided that after all the Volunteers had the better chance, being men of education and training; and as most of them were artists, their eyes, of course, were the most highly trained possible. Here is the little tale contained in the remains of a letter I have found from W. Q. O. to I do not know whom; it has neither beginning nor end; crossed letters, by the way, were his pet aversion, he could not read them, and considered it very rude to give your correspondent so much trouble:

“I have just received your letter, and did I ever say anything against the famous invention of crossing? If so it must have been a case of ‘sour grapes,’ for I am so delighted with this specimen I could even find it in my heart to wish it crossed once more; you perceive how greedy I am, but so it is. I could never understand about having ‘too much of a good thing’; some people must be more fortunate than I, however, or the idea could scarcely have originated.

“I am glad John[2] has escaped out of the Duke’s county; I hope he is doing a [illegible] for the neighbouring McCallum More. I shall start for Arran on Tuesday, and if you are as good as your word, which couldn’t be better, we shall greet[3] upon the landing-place (I don’t mean in the Scotch sense) unless you close this. He—John—made friends with the [illegible] and thinks he is clever as nice, yet he is a man with a famous name another made. I have heard of him from McTaggart who is going about here at large again taking up more of the pavement than ever; met him yesterday going to call on Sergeant Tallance.

“Ask John if he has had any military intelligence—let him cock up his back—‘my’ corps has been at ball practice, and Number One has covered itself with glory; five rounds were fired, then the order was given to cease firing for the day—the target had been smashed to ‘smithereens.’ The authorities were rather disconcerted as they had calculated, from what they knew of their own men and officers, the target would have lasted the whole season!

“You call me a ‘bad creature,’ but I am going to be very good, moreover I will call on your Mother and the [illegible] there will be forthcoming, and the coffee will not be forgotten. Nor will I consider either other than a pleasure.

“Your hints about the Highland sermon make me feel rather nervous, and unless you undertake to put me through the catechism beforehand I shall succumb before the first assault. You will be well up yourself by this time and must have derived great benefit therefrom, judging from the expected effect in my case.

“I long to be at Corrie, and am desperately in want of oxygen. I shall enjoy a ramble by the rocks and shore and all those scenes where you have been before.

The rugged [peak] that smiles above the cloud,

The darkened valleys ’neath the watery skies,

The rattling brooks . . .

The wee wee flowers . . .

John pensive sits beneath his parachute

And then the bit where [?] grand and mute.

Orchardson was with his company at the Queen’s Park review in Edinburgh in 1860. He said it was a magnificent sight down below Arthur’s Seat; he was marching at the end of his line and had a good view of “The Queen,” as Queen Victoria was always called. Little “Chattie” asked her “darling Bill” what the Queen looked like, and he answered, “She was just like an old lady adding up her accounts.”

The foregoing letter must have been written about the same time as this, following one from his great friend John MacWhirter, scolding him for not answering a letter of invitation to join him in Arran:

“You have been going it, I believe you have finished your little picture and had a sitting of Mr. Dick. How about Craig House? When you go out to call, talk about me and remember me to all the Consolidateds, to Cameron and his sister, to the great colonel, to the Hay of Hays, the McTaggart of the Taggarts and the Graham of [?] and if you have a clear conscience [about answering letters] take my blessing to yourself.


John MacWhirter.

“P.S.—Highlanders live on midges and mist. I ate a sea-duck the other day. Did you ever get ‘ganz-braten’ in Germany?”

Mr Peter Graham, on my writing to him for early recollections, sent me the following shortly before his death:

“I knew Orchardson by sight like every art student, but my being some years his junior prevented me from knowing him then. I was, I think, about eighteen or nineteen when I first got acquainted with him personally, and at that time he was so far advanced in his profession, and I was so much the other way, that I looked on him not only with admiration but with a certain degree of awe; and I never lost that early impression. He was always willing to please and to be pleased; always kindly and good-tempered; and I never saw him, even under provocation, lose his temper.

“I remember as if it had occurred yesterday waiting with him and MacWhirter in the avenue to a large house in the suburbs of Edinburgh while a sister of MacWhirter who was an artist went to the lodge to get a small picture of hers which she had left there. A lady, young, good-looking and handsomely dressed, came through the gate and was about to go up the avenue, but before doing so she addressed Orchardson. What she said I could not make out and apparently neither could he; but his answer was, ‘Oh yes, yes,’ lifting his hat at the same time. She then pointed to a large painted board prohibiting trespassers, nailed to a tree opposite; but Orchardson, with the utmost graciousness, said, ‘Oh! never mind that.’ She blushed scarlet and walked on. MacWhirter then whispered to us that that was Lady ——, the wife of the proprietor of the house! You can imagine how tickled we were, for Orchardson’s manner was such as would have become the owner of the place kindly encouraging strangers to enter.”

Mr Graham had told me this tale before, and on my asking my Father if he remembered the incident, thought “No, but possibly yes,” and then laughed, and looking shy, added, “But what better defence could I have made.”

Many of the men who are now famous were young then, and drew for Good Words which must have been beautifully illustrated; Orchardson, besides Millais and many others, was amongst them. F. Borders was a wood engraver of the time and did some of W. Q. O.’s things. Of one of the drawings he reported that the “parties” were pleased with the general effect of the drawing but that they fancied it was hurried as it was done in a mixture of ink and pencil, and the next drawing must be entirely in pencil the same as the Cæsare block. Two subjects were offered, “The Wise Men of the East,” or “John Baptizing the Saviour.” He also remarked he did not quite like the woman’s face.


[Probably about 1860.]

Well Borders, Boy, how are you living?

  Dear Sir, how do you do?

I’m writing here and can’t help giving

  My compliments to you.


The blocks come tumbling in apace

  Good Lord how you must suffer!

The same old drawings still to face

  Perhaps from some new duffer.


And Mr. Graves, I hope, is well

  And still can take his coffee,

From any Turk he’d take the bell

  And wear it as a trophy.


How is that small pecker Smith

  Who dotes on dots mysterious?

Round ones or square that prove with pith

  [He feels] they’re rather serious.


But in your ear how is my dear?

  Dear Emily, I mean?

Whene’er I see her far or near

  I wish that I had never been.


Now, my dear boy, do tie up Cupid

  I’m certain else to get entangled . . .

And what of work during all these years? There is no mention of it in his letters—or is there once?—nor any record that I can find. Yet, that he worked, and worked hard, is evident, for from 1848 to 1863 he was well represented at the R.S.A., except in 1850 and 1857. Whether he did not send in those years or whether his work was rejected I am unable to say; 1857 was probably the year he travelled in Germany and Holland, so that he may have forgotten to paint a picture for a definite date, and in 1850 he was still only a boy of nineteen.

I do not intend to offer any criticism of my Father’s work; I love it all as I love the man; neither of them quite perfect, but both very nearly so. I should like, however, to point out that as the boy is father to the man, so is the early tentative work but the forerunner of the later unhesitating work; that, though the style increased in breadth, in force, in beauty, yet that his last work is painted “in the same style” as his first. The illustrations will, I hope, show something of this.

Mr McKay, the landscape painter and for long Secretary and Librarian at the Royal Scottish Academy, kindly sent me a list of the pictures W. Q. O. exhibited at the R.S.A. Curiously enough, the “Portrait of the Misses Callander, Wards of the Duke of Atholl,” is not on the list, but Mr McKay writes:

“His portraits on one canvas of two sisters, wards of some ducal personage, had a success in the R.S.A. at this time. Many years later Sir George Reid scarcely believed in its existence, and one day asked Orchardson about it. ‘Oh, that picture!’ said he, laughing. ‘Well, some little time after the close of the exhibition I had a sharp note from the Secretary asking me to have it removed from the galleries where it had been left derelict in the hope, perhaps, that the ladies or their ducal guardian might claim it. As, however, neither had done so, there was nothing left for the artist to do but to ask his agent to remove the picture. Some little time afterwards my agent wrote informing me that there had been a fire in his premises in which the picture had perished.’ ”

[1] McKay, R.S.A.

[2] Probably MacWhirter.

[3] To greet: Anglicé, to weep.


My Father was usually thought impulsive, yet his quickly painted pictures were the result of long and careful thought. I think his coming to London was the result of the same method. It is usually supposed that the London International Exhibition of 1862 brought him to London on the spur of the moment, with just a handbag for luggage. That is true so far as it goes; but several friends, Pettie particularly, had already migrated to the Metropolis, and it is scarcely to be supposed that Orchardson had not thought about the matter, whether he spoke of it or no. There is a letter too from a Mr John Dick, complaining of “all talent leaving Scotland at one fell swoop,” and inviting him and MacWhirter to “come here till I speak to you.” It is probable, too, that his great love for his father would keep him in Edinburgh.

Arrived in London, however, he would find that he was exactly suited to the life of a great-minded metropolis, that London offered greater scope to ambition than Edinburgh, and that he would be able to help his father just as well or even better; and in the end having thought the matter over “in all its aspects” (a favourite expression of his), he would decide to stay, making a sudden announcement to that effect. His thoughts were careful and sustained, his actions quick but only apparently impulsive; they followed his careful thoughts.

My Father’s early life in London is almost a sealed book to me, but a few letters give some glimpses of his successes and struggles. His first address is next door to his great friends, Pettie and Tom Graham.

60 Stanley Street,


[About 1862.]

My Dear Father,

I am looking out for another studio, as my present one is not large enough for the picture in Gt. King St.[1] I will not write to Smythe then till I can tell him my new address. In the meantime you might be looking out my other materials, a lot of them might be packed in the throne, which with any kind of rough lid nailed on would answer the purpose very well.

Send all my sketches, the clean canvases, the writing desk and frames, all other things you can, perhaps, stow away till I come down.

I have a picture for the little frame that hangs next the window in the drawing-room. I should like it sent up—all the other pictures in the room I hope you will accept of as a present.

I expect to get a studio immediately, but have very little time to look about.

When next you write tell me how you are getting on in business.

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.


A friendly letter from Mr A. Binning Munro, dated Edinburgh, November 1862, throws a small light on W. Q. O.’s Edinburgh work. It would appear that Mr Munro threw a good deal of work, i.e. portraits, in the young painter’s way, and that these portraits were not as successful as some previous ones. It is suggested that perhaps the public became more critical rather than that the painter failed to come up to his previous standard. One of the portraits, that of Mrs Drummond, was said to want character, and W. Q. O. was asked to touch it up when he next came to Edinburgh. As, however, he never went back to Edinburgh, except for a few days, it is to be presumed that the portrait was not altered. Lack of character seems a curious criticism in view of my Father’s frequent remark, “Character I must have.”

[No date or address.]

[About 1863.]

My Dear Father,

I am sorry to have been so long in answering your letter but I mislaid it and could not remember Mr Callander’s address (I enclose the note for him).

I got the portraits finished in time, but it is rather a large canvas for an outsider, and I won’t be surprised if it comes back, nor will I be much affected. As for the Edinburgh critics, it matters little what they say, at present I look in another direction for reputation.

I am very much annoyed about Charlie’s conduct. I wrote him about it and had a letter from him which I have not yet answered. You surprised me about his taking to art. I am afraid he does not comprehend the extent of the undertaking. If a man is a true artist he has many stages to pass through. At first all work is delightful, but when he sees a little further he gets tossed about among conflicting ideas, works by fits, and always with disquiet; if he gets through this he may begin on firm ground. I speak not of Mediocrity—it has a path, smooth, clearly defined and without a shadow, and may be travelled by hundreds both with safety and profit.

My love to Liza, and believe me,

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

P.S.—I will write again as I am in a great hurry just now.

“Charlie” was W. Q. O.’s younger brother. After going round the world twice he finally emigrated to the United States. He settled for a time in Chicago and became artist, author, lecturer, Socialist, and even stood for the Mayoralty of Chicago once—a Jack of all trades, and master of none, I fancy. I believe he wandered West afterwards. In 1866, W. Q. O. reported to a mutual friend who made enquiries, “Oh, he’s doing well; he combines agriculture with the Fine Arts.”

The following letter is evidently the one referred to above, it is unsigned, but it is in my Father’s own handwriting. My Father had very strong views on the duties of children to parents, and held that children should, if necessary, support parents in old age without question.

10 Sutherland Street,

Pimlico, S.W.

[About 1863.]

My Dear Charlie,

I have only just received your letter through its having been misdirected, and am very sorry to perceive that all is not right between you and Father. Are you quite sure the fault is not with yourself? You have always been his favourite son, and I cannot believe he would lightly quarrel or let any matter of personal interest stand between you. If he has a fault it is in giving way too much, and you should be the last to take advantage of it. Try and look at the question from his point of view. He is getting old now after a hard-working life, full of trouble and care, through all of which he has never ceased to be the best and kindest of Fathers. His favourite scheme for years past has been this entering into business with yourself as a partner and principally, I believe, that he might establish a thriving concern to which you should succeed. If there is to be a breach, think of his disappointment. You are young and may turn in any direction, with him it is different. If this long-cherished scheme falls to the ground, and the son who was to him more than all things else, if he fails, what is then left? Why, he believed in you so undoubtingly that [it] is scarcely possible he should ever believe in another. Dear Charlie, do not be rash. What is any paltry affair of worldly interest in comparison with the constant regret that is sure to follow. This would, indeed, be to “stand in your own light.”

It is difficult to come out of a false position, but do not let pride interfere with your making concessions. Make them and then be proud.

10 Sutherland Street,



My Dear Father,

I went to the R.A. to touch up. My large portrait picture has the best place in the second room; it is a centre and on the portrait line. I knew no one in the rooms at first, but before I came away I had made the acquaintance of most of the great men present.

Old Linnel was the first who introduced himself, he said the most flattering things with the remark that it was pleasant to be able to do so conscientiously. He was really very kind, and has invited me to Redhill, his place in the country. Amongst others Landseer came up while I was working; he told me that the size of the picture had been a great difficulty in the hanging but they had done their best.

I do not care to repeat the compliments I received, but they were so many and from such quarters that I can’t help feeling somewhat gratified—besides, as Linnel said, when telling me to have faith in myself, it is the good opinion of the men who are the recognized heads of the profession that make the artist’s reputation.

I can’t help thinking I was right in remaining here, it takes a long time to get into London life and work, and had I been more cautious [?] I should only have lost another year. Besides, “there is a tide in the affairs of men, etc.”

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

P.S.—I have written to Binning Munro, as I know he will be pleased.

Mr Munro wrote back that he rejoiced in this success, and asking for any particularly good critiques to be sent to him. He evidently felt a little anxious owing to the great praise he had given young Orchardson in Edinburgh.

10 Sutherland Street.


My Dear Father,

I have been in the intention of writing you any day this fortnight past and now I have only time for a few words. I am about to start for the country to get some sketches for the background of a picture.

I enclose a P.O. Order for £7 to pay the grocer. Liza will perhaps see about it, and get a receipt so that there may be no paying twice.

If you should see anyone else that I owe money to, you can tell them they will be paid all right, but in the meantime there is no occasion to make a fuss.

There have been several criticisms in the London papers about my picture; they are all favourable. I must get some and send you them. My love to Liza and believe me,

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

P.S.—I will leave directions to have my letters forwarded to me in the country, as I may be a fortnight there unless I have uninterrupted good weather.

By kind permission of the National Gallery, Millbank.

I should think this letter from John MacWhirter must have been addressed to Sutherland Street; he was in Italy with Mr Hutchinson, the sculptor:

“I ought to have written long ago, and I may as well confess at once that my reason for writing now is to ask you a favour. Do you or your cousin[2] know of two rooms; if you do and will take them for me you will for the hundredth time oblige a fellow countryman and brother artist! ! !

If I write from Paris telling you the train, perhaps you will be at the station for Auld Lang Syne and tell me all about everything. I was very glad to hear of the success of your portraits. Of course, we only hear scraps of news here, and I don’t know much, but it must surely be the thing when it was noticed in The Times the first day. I hope Pettie and Graham are strong too—remember me to them. I will crack a quart, yea a pottle pot, and smoke a pipe with you all, if you are not grown too great since I saw you last.”

In March of this year (1863), just before this success, he was evidently hard up and received a letter from two old Edinburgh friends, John and Isabella Burr, now settled in London, and whom he had evidently been visiting, saying: “Why did you not mention you were short of cash? We had two pounds in the house and you should have had one.” The letter goes on to say that he, John, was rather suspicious and that he had at once finished a landscape and taken it to Flatow to sell on purpose to get cash to lend his friend, who had had to sell a picture very cheaply. The consolation at the end is quaint, “Never mind, no one will know.”

Enclosed is an unused stamped envelope addressed by John Burr to himself—real friends these, but happily the “enclosed note” did not need to be posted. This was just before the opening of the Royal Academy, and W. Q. O.’s first success in London, success at the first attempt; he was often hard up temporarily afterwards, but that was chiefly through his inability to remember anything about money affairs, until they were forcibly called to his notice by the lack of cash.

In April Burr wrote that his wife thought Orchardson a remarkably punctual business man, but that Edinburgh was not likely to be of the same opinion, and that “the reason I bother you with a receipt is, business men like them; ’tis not like an affair of our own.”

The following amusing letter, which I cannot date exactly, might be either to John Burr or J. Borders; according to her diary my Mother knew both these old “J.B.’s” (“what a jolly man Mr Burr is!”).

My Dearest J.B.,

How wags the world in your corner of the sofa? Have you checkmated your troubles or have you not yet moved? The lymph of trust is quietly surrendering under the united influence of an easy mind and an unlimited pharmacopœia.

I arose this morning and looked out upon winter; Plato, poor fellow, mourned the loss of a day. How could he have stood the loss of a summer? We Moderns you perceive are much more philosophic!

Pray permit me to apologize for a broken promise. I was unable to call on Sunday, suffering as I then was and now am, from a severe cold and a continuous indisposition about the kidneys.

Oh, ye benignant gods, for which of my sins am I thus afflicted? for what inscrutable purpose is the current of my life thus damn’d, and its hitherto pure waters muddied? According to the general happiness principle, a thing can only be right in so far as it is conducive to the greatest amount of good; now I should admire and reverence the man who could induce me to believe that my uncomfortable sensations were merely the elimination of some great good, or that the success of such an abstraction could justify the material inconvenience I suffer in the process! And then we have another bastard philosopher who swears that nature to her broken laws pins a penalty which she herself inexorably inflicts. Will anyone explain on what possible principle of equity she attacks the kidneys of one whose suction is restricted to the most innocuous of fluids, utterly eschewing malt, alcohol and all their variations? Your case, of course, is somewhat different, being a certain penalty certainly attached to a certain case, though acting uncertainly! But if nature is so anxious for our good that she chastises our little lapses into sin . . .!

In 1863 the late Sir Charles Gold, with whom he had had great times in Edinburgh, sent him an introduction to Alfred Gold, one of the firm of Gilbey and Company, with all of whom W. Q. O. remained friends for the rest of his life.

J. Borders, the Edinburgh engraver, appears to have visited W. Q. O. at 10 Sutherland Street, and the only other “event” I can find is a long and highly complimentary valentine poem addressed to Orchardson, which leads one to suppose that he still enjoyed flirting. The poem was saved by my Mother, and the last verse is as follows:

And though in life it may betide

Our paths are severed far and wide

Yet ne’er shall you forgotten be—

Will you remember Margaret C.?

As in Edinburgh he did not stay long in one studio, so in London. By June 1863 he had changed his address to Berners Street. While there he received an invitation to stay with William Coleman at Rake’s Farm, Abinger; apparently he invited himself “according to promise.” Mr. Coleman wrote to say he would be very pleased to see him:

“Apropos of dinner troubles, have you been to the Scotch Stores in Oxford Street, a little west of Regent Circus? If you go, go upstairs and be tended by a tolerably ‘neat-handed Phyllis’ instead of the greasy old male you so unctuously describe. Grit is no longer the stable condiment in our ménage, though in the change to plain bread we miss a certain interest and stimulus attaching to the surmounting of obstacles—but on the whole it is an improvement.

“If it will add weight to your intention of coming I may tell you that the event is looked forward to with strongly expressed gratification by the ‘cheerful Harriet,’ who ‘never took to any gentleman so quickly.’ ”

While W. Q. O. lived in Berners Street he appears to have rescued two women, his landlady and her daughter, when the house was burnt down. I only once got him to speak of it in answer to my question as to whether he ever saved anybody’s life, and then he spoke so modestly that I got no story at all, merely a general impression of a blazing staircase, up which even the firemen would not go, with a young man, his head well covered, racing up alone and then coming back supporting, half carrying, the two terrified women to safety.

The following unfinished letter evidently refers to this fire; what a pity it leaves out the rescue, of which my Mother also told me; other friends knew of it too:

My Dear Coleman,

As we have had an incident here that may interest you, I overcome my latent objections to pen and ink.

Last night, after reading the Spiritual Magazine, I slept soundly, but was awoke in the middle watches by a very supernatural roll of thunder; this was performed on my bedroom door by someone who shouted lustily but incoherently. Opening the door I discovered Jove in the likeness of Priestly, his head bound in a cloth and his pale face breathing anxiety. “Run, for God’s sake run; the house is on fire. Save yourself.” I proceeded to dress with some despatch, having a lively view of the smoke and sparks outside.

But stay, this position may raise fully as great a tumult in your bosom as it did in mine, I must anticipate—the first front is intact and all its “belongings.” On reaching the staircase I found a strong mixture of women, police officers and firemen. The headquarters of the enemy had not yet been discovered but was believed to be in the back shop, and the confusion of tongues and opinions was astonishing. However, the house was soon cleared. The door at the foot of the stair was driven in and the firemen disappeared on their hands and knees beneath the densest clouds I have seen for some time. I was about blinded but ran upstairs to see after the doors and windows and struggled down again with eyes shut and altogether very much the worse for smoke. The scene outside was picturesque; the firemen rushing to and fro, the fire-escape up against the windows, the smoke issuing and the upturned faces of the multitude praying evidently that flames might follow.

15 Berners Street.

My Dear Father,

You know me too well to be surprised at my shortcomings as a correspondent, but the truth is I have been looking forward to seeing you, as I intended being in Edinburgh before this. I can’t come, however, till I finish the picture I am engaged on at present, which may be by the end of this or the beginning of next month; when down I intend going to Dumfries for some sketches I want for my next year’s picture.

I hope you are keeping well and that business is progressing favourably; write and let me know. Why does Liza never write? Tell her I have never had my photograph yet taken, but I may if I remember before coming down. Give her my love and believe me, dear Father,

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

Having been burnt out of his Berners Street rooms his next move, I think, was to Howland Street, off Tottenham Court Road, and from there he joined his friends Pettie, Tom Graham and C. E. Johnson, in setting up house at 37 Fitzroy Square. Q. O., as he was called by his friends at this time, occupied the front drawing-room as a studio, Pettie the back drawing-room, Tom Graham the dining-room.

It was here he painted “The Challenge” (1864), which won Wallis’s hundred guinea prize at his French Gallery, Piccadilly. A great triumph for a “new man.”

While Orchardson and Pettie lived together, their pictures were often mistaken one for the other by the critics as well as by the general public. “The Challenge” in particular was without hesitation acclaimed as a specially good Pettie. Years after I asked my Father if I was wrong in being unable to see more than a distant resemblance. He said he thought not, and added he had always had very definite ideas of how he intended to paint and invariably practised that particular manner and no other, and he could not imagine himself imitating anyone, either consciously or unconsciously; at the same time, many people saw or thought they saw a resemblance, but Orchardson would always paint like Orchardson, his own way, for the simple reason that he could not possibly paint any other person’s way.

The four friends took it in turn to housekeep, and no one quite knew which was the most remarkable housekeeper of the four.

When it came to my Father’s turn, a present of figs had just been sent to add to the bachelors’ menu. My Father was always a late riser and, as usual, the cook came to his bedroom door for orders; amongst other things she reminded him of the keg of figs.

“Yes,” said he, “but what do you do with figs?”

“A pudding is the usual thing, sir.”

“Very well, then, make a pudding.”

At dinner that night at the sweet course appeared a huge and wonderful affair. The four friends looked and looked again, examined into the strange thing and finally sent for the cook. The housekeeper-of-the-week inquired into the nature of the novel dish. Cook, flustered, replied that it was the pudding he had ordered.

“A pudding?” said my Father, “did I order a pudding?”

“Yes, sir; to be made of the keg of figs.”

The four regarded the pudding with renewed interest, and cook continued: “I just put in a layer of figs, then a layer of suet, and so on till the figs were finished; it is very good, sir.”

“I think perhaps you will appreciate it more than we should; allow me to present it to you,” said my Father, picking up the pudding and presenting it to her in his most courteous and grandest manner.

Cook retired with her pudding, and the following day, being asked what she had done with it, she replied:

“I ate it last night, sir.”

“Not alone, and still alive?”

“Yes, sir, quite alone.”

Years after my Father’s trust in human nature received a rude shock on someone asking him when he had told the tale: “But what about the policeman?”

It is never easy to housekeep for artists, they are untidy and happy-go-lucky, and these four friends were fond of animals besides, my Father particularly. Even as a child he had been able to tame wild mice and wild birds. He told me that once when he was quite small the family was sitting in the drawing-room, when the maid came in to say that a mouse had been caught and would the children like to see it drowned?

Of course, thoughtless children would, and they all trooped down to the kitchen, where the mouse was dropped out of the trap into a pail of water, and the children watched while it swam round and round vainly trying to get out. Suddenly sensitive little “Bill” realized that the mouse was in pain and nearly dead, and he could bear it no longer. He picked up the mouse out of the water, wrapped it in a piece of flannel and put it by the fire to recover, fondling it at intervals, all the children and his father watching him. By and by the mouse recovered, poked its nose and bright eyes out of the flannel, ate a little food, and finally ran away down its hole. Thereafter “Bill” had only to tap three times on the floor for the mouse to come out and be fed and fondled. It would only come for Bill’s three taps, and was quite a show to friends of the house.

He generally had a tame sparrow or a siskin, and these once wild birds would come out of their cages, sit on his shoulder, eat out of his hands, and go for walks with him, flying away for a while, but always coming back to his shoulder and the cage. A canary he once had was not a great favourite with his friends owing to its habit of alighting on any visitor’s head and plucking out hairs for nest-making; this canary lived at large in the studio and also went for walks. Most of these pets seem to have fallen victims to the various cats.

At Fitzroy Square several pets were tried, a monkey and a parrot, I believe, and, of course, a cat; and one day they received a present of three fine white rats.

The rats usually lived in a cage, but in the evening were let out at the end of dinner; the four friends would join hands and the rats would race round and round on their shoulders.

If visitors were present their shoulders were also utilized as a race-course. One of the rats would often sit inside my Father’s sleeve with just its nose and pink eyes showing, which seems to have rather alarmed the fashionable “I’m-frightened-of-a-mouse” ladies of the period.

37 Fitzroy Square.

[1864 or 1865.]

My Dear Father,

I can manage well enough so far as I am concerned myself without proceeding farther with the insurance affair; it was principally for you I wished it done besides making some provision for Liza. I hope you will not feel straitened for a while.

Since I came up I have sold a picture on which I am putting the finishing touches.

I have a letter from Charlie to-day, tell him I will write shortly.

He speaks of having the large frame, as it won’t go into the box. I am sorry if it can’t come up because I have begun a picture for it.

I am anxious for those canvases.

Tell Liza I expect her letter.

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

My letters are sent down from Fitzroy Square.


[1864 or 1865.]

My Dear Father,

I have not been very well and have been working hard to finish my Academy picture. I got through with it but had to work the last day from six in the morning till eleven at night. A great part of the picture is rather slight, as you may suppose, but I determined to send it rather than nothing, though the critics will be down upon it as an evidence of my falling off; moreover, being unfinished and not small, it runs the risk of being skied.

In the interval before the Academy opens I have run down here to pick up my health a bit before resuming work, of which this year I have a lot to do if all my promises are to be kept—everything I can possibly paint is bespoken, even my next year’s Academy picture.

I hope you are keeping well and that business is good, together with your balance at the bankers. I should like to know how you get on though, I rather fear it is a poor affair at the best.

Is Liza well? Give her my love,

And believe me,

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

A Mr F. Brown writes on November 16th, 1863, that he has done some commission requested by W. Q. O., and adds: “I hope your club will be successful and carried on in a friendly spirit; I think it is a capital thing and fraught, if well conducted, with unspeakable advantage to all concerned.” So presumably the following letter is to Mr. Brown and probably W. Q. O. went to Edinburgh to see his father and then on to Dollar for sketches.

37 Fitzroy Square.

[Undated, about 1864.]

Dear Sir,

I have been looking towards you for some time back, and now strangely wonder that I have not yet troubled the postman on your account.

You probably understand what setting up house means, and will readily conceive the picture of our inexperience struggling with chaos, but as signs of order begin to appear and we are all settling to work I can now do more than think of writing to you.

I have been once again in the country attempting to sketch since I left Dollar, and was again unfortunate in the weather; in this case, however, I soon gave it up, fortune not granting any alleviation to my sufferings as she did in Dollar, when the evenings which your kindness, and that of [illegible] made so pleasant, more than counterbalanced the dreariness of the days, but though [bringing] away pleasant recollections, it was at the expense of parting with old friends.

Being much engaged lately I have not yet seen Nicol but shall not forget your message when I do.

We are getting up a club here like the old one in [Edinburgh], the first meeting takes place in my rooms on Monday night; there is a good mixture of Scotch and English elements. Archer, one of the members of the Club is among us, and J. D. Watson and Cooper from the Langham.

I have scarcely space left to impose on you a little piece of business; I forgot to pay for the use of that easel I had, your little boy will remember the place where he saw me return it. Will you be good enough to settle the matter for me? I enclose a P.O. for 10/- and the “lave o’t” you can make over to Lawrence . . . [Unfinished.]

While still in Edinburgh my Father belonged to a quartet in which he played the second violin. He gave up playing so completely that I never heard whether he played well or ill, but the possession of a Cremona violin, which he lost during one of his many house removals, presupposes a pretty good player. There is no mention of his violin playing in London, but only of his playing the piano. About 1863, a Mrs Kate Richardson wrote: “John said you are very great at the piano now,” and a little later in Fitzroy Square he is pictured as spending much time at the piano and extraordinarily little at his easel, especially considering the amount of work he turned out. I myself never heard him, and one day asked him why he had given it up, and he told me it was because painting being a sedentary occupation, his recreation must be active, and as to play either violin or piano well required an immense amount of practice, he decided to give up both and devote all his spare time to active sports.

So about this time he joined the Chiddingfold Hunt, a yeoman pack hunted by four brothers Sadler, one of whom, so my Father told me, broke his neck at a stiff jump, and not merely remained alive but recovered and continued to hunt, with his head resting on his shoulder.

When I was a child my Father used to tell great hunting tales, but it is so long ago that I can remember almost nothing of them, except the sense that he had enjoyed the runs immensely and that he was nearly always in at the finish. In answer to my childish questions about the kill he said he did not see the fun of hunting unless you rode hard, took all the jumps possible, and were in at the death.

“But isn’t hunting cruel?”

Hare hunting is, he told me, because puss is always frightened and consequently loses what poor wits he has; but the fox is cunning and, in my Father’s opinion, has a certain pleasure in pitting his wits against his enemies, and being a fighting animal death by fighting is not cruel but only more or less natural.

On my asking which was his best horse he said that his light weight made him a “treat for any horse,” and he thought a very old white hunter that he rode for one season was the cleverest though not actually the best—“horses are usually stupid, you know, donkeys have far more brains. For instance, donkeys will take shelter from a storm, but horses never do, they merely turn their backs to it.”

Photo Grove & Boulton
By kind permission of Sir Edmund Davis.

But this old horse really seemed to have brains. He was too old for high jumps but was so clever at finding gaps in the hedges that he and his master were always well up. All the Hunt prophesied disaster with so old a horse and one day the two were seen to take a jump and then disappear. “There’s Orchardson down at last” they all exclaimed in triumph, forgetful for the moment of possible death or damage; but presently Orchardson rode up and explained that the old horse had made a mistake and had jumped over the hedge into a lane that proved much deeper than he thought, but had landed on his feet, stumbled and barked his nose.

“Ah! down at last; it’s what you deserve, riding an old horse like that.”

“Down!” said my Father, “we weren’t down—look at his knees!”

And true enough, the old chap’s knees were perfectly clean; there was just a smudge of mud and blood on his nose; his rider had contrived to pull him up in the nick of time with the clever old horse’s understanding help.

During one of these hunting years he bought a horse to train as a hunter himself; it was a great success and W. Q. O. rode it throughout the season without a fall or any kind of mishap. But on the last day of the season he had a whole chapter of accidents. He had ordered a cab to come early to catch a train at Waterloo; the cab did not come, the rain poured in torrents. After a long search the servant found another cab.

“Half a sovereign if you catch the train at Waterloo,” said Orchardson. It was too early for traffic so cabby drove at a great pace and his fare was just in time to see the train go out as he reached the platform. However, he found another train to a different station, telegraphed for a carriage to meet him and arrived in time. His groom was waiting with his horse and away he went.

“Everything was slippery with rain,” said my Father, “so when we came to a hedge with an unsuspected ditch on the other side my horse came down on the edge of it and turned a somersault—so did I. Having always believed that if ever I fell like that I should break my neck, I was glad to find that my preconceptions were quite wrong and that I could fall on my neck with impunity. I had two other similar falls on that day of mishaps, but neither my horse nor I was in the least hurt.”

In 1865 Mr Pettie’s marriage to Miss Lizzie Bossom broke up the Fitzroy Square ménage, a rather remarkable one and quite celebrated at the time in art circles and amongst art dealers. All four men, young as they were, were already well known, and Orchardson and Pettie, greatest of friends and friendly rivals, especially in other people’s eyes, became celebrated. Their supposed rivalry lessened as they grew older and went their different ways, but their friendship remained the greatest possible.

Mr Pettie died comparatively young, when I was a schoolgirl, so naturally I did not see him much, but his personality must have been a strong one, for I remember him as clearly to-day as if I had seen him yesterday—extraordinarily blue eyes, a nondescript nose, fresh complexion, and friendly energetic ways; he simply radiated energy and kindliness.

Mr Tom Graham was a frequent visitor at our house; he was quite evidently devoted to Q. O., but I think he felt his own lack of success very deeply, and his face was always a little sad. In later years I saw Mr Johnson fairly frequently, but somehow always had a little difficulty in recognising him, and always wondered what he was doing in that galère. In fact, I thought he could not have belonged to the Fitzroy Square ménage, but he told me himself that he did.

But of course when they were young and full of hope they must have been as lively and happy as the other two.

A contemporary description of W. Q. O. in the form of an acrostic by one of his many lady-loves may be appropriate here. The first verse makes William and announces anonymity:


Quite a flirt I hear you are,

Universal near and far,

I cannot say I think the same.

Liked by friends, they’re loth to blame,

Loveliest of Adam’s race

Elegant in form and face;

Rove no more I pray.



Oh, be kinder if you can

Remember you are but a man.

Cruel artist to give pain,

Hundreds sigh for thee in vain.

A time will come, you need not fear,

Remember this is still Leap Year!

Do not think you will pass free

Soon your fate will come I see.

Oh! handsome William I must try

Now, to say that word, “Good-bye.”

Mrs Peter Graham writes to me that she often met my Father during the first three years of her married life, both in her own house and at friends—this was before his marriage.

“He was always good-looking, so light-hearted and so clever in conversation. Occurrences that would have worried most people seemed only to amuse him, and the recital of the inconveniences incident to most bachelors with London housekeepers afforded much entertainment to his friends. He was curiously un-Scotch in the way he would not allow himself to become ruffled.”

A list of visitors at Fitzroy Square with a description of each might be amusing, but as I have no means of making a complete list, and to omit some would be to offend, I leave it to the imagination of the reader and will merely say that the company consisted of all the liveliest artists and artists’ friends of that period; not to mention most of the big picture dealers.

[1] Edinburgh studio.

[2] Stephen Orchardson from Spain probably.


After the break-up of the Fitzroy Square ménage my Father moved Campden Hill way.

“Christopher Sly,” exhibited by Wallis—French Gallery—dates the following two letters 1866:

20 Brecknock Cr.,


My Dear Father,

I have just finished “Sly” (Shakespeare). I have been painting till two or three in the morning all this week and only got through it last night at ten. To-day has been the private view. My picture is hung in the post of honour, and one of Ward’s R.A. in the next place. Pettie is also well hung.

The Exhibition is not held in the same place as last year, but has been removed to the Suffolk Street Galleries, which are three times as large. There is another one opened in the old place by a rival of Mr Wallis, but the latter has made great exertions and the consequence is that the Suffolk Street Ex. is only inferior, if at all, to the Royal Academy.

My picture has been fearfully hurried, two of the figures were designed and painted on the bare canvas on Friday morning between half-past twelve and three and never touched again. It was a mistake to attempt so large a canvas in so short a time, but Wallis was so anxious about it, and relied on me so much, that I could scarcely help myself.

However, I don’t suppose the critics will abuse it altogether, and . . . [The end of this letter appears to have been lost.]

[A note in pencil.]

20 Brecknock Crt.,

Camden Town,


Written a week ago but not posted.

My Dear Father,

I have just returned from the country where I have been indulging in a holiday, following the hounds across country in a break-neck fashion for which I feel all the better. The “Winter” exhibition is a great success. There have been critiques in all the papers. I shall try and get some of them to send to you. They speak well of “Sly,” and I understand it has done me some good; it is a sort of picture I have never tried before, having rather a large dose of the comic element.

I have all the “swell” dealers at me for pictures, my next is promised to Flatow, and Wallis says he is “so mortified” at this that I have had to promise him all I do after the R.A. for his next year’s Exhibition which he means to rival the Academy. I suppose I shall begin to make money now as well as the dealers. I intend increasing my prices and enlarging my bank account (small at present).

So you must not worry your health too much with the idea of “running short,” but remember

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

20 Brecknock Cr.

My dear Father,

I enclose a cheque for £30. It will not inconvenience me. Money is a good thing to have, but it will never bring me a greater pleasure than in enabling me to assist you.

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

In a hurry—a lady is waiting to sit.

Nearly all Orchardson’s early works contain an element of comedy, but I think Christopher Sly is the only one that contains “rather a large dose of the comic element.” He painted seven Shakesperean pictures, I think, the last being “Jessica,” in 1877. During the happiest part of his life he painted tragedy and then later comedy, or at least things with a touch of humour in them, such as “Shopping in the Honeymoon,” “Rivalry,” “Reflections,” “The Enigma,” and the “Parting of the Ways.” Three late unfinished works contain tragedy, “The Last Dance,” “The Widow,” and “Solitude”—the last two different versions of the same idea. The most tragic of all, “The Borgia,” was a late work.

Having occupied six studios in the six years he had been in London, it was now time to move again. This time he went to Kensington, to Phillimore Gardens, for a studio, and for lodgings to Bedford Gardens, according to my Mother, who also states in a back-of-a-letter note that he “stayed” with the Archers, “who lived in Phillimore Gardens.” He was probably at all three places.

My Grandfather, C. Moxon, also lived there, with his wife and two children, a few doors from the Archers. In 1867, or perhaps early in 1868, Mr Archer, the artist, introduced his Edinburgh artist friend Orchardson—a rising man—to Charles Moxon, who bought “Prince Henry, Poins and Falstaff” for £400.

From the first the artistic business man and the young artist liked each other so that they became lifelong friends; and little Nellie Moxon, a small, shy, dark-eyed, dark-haired schoolgirl of about thirteen, with a habit of twiddling her innumerable buttons, obtained a hero. Charles Moxon was a shrewd Yorkshireman, humorous, kindly—one of those people to whom others always came for advice and sympathy. Asked by Orchardson to explain the secret, he answered with a twinkle in his eye that he first found out the enquirer’s own opinion and then advised accordingly! He was very artistic, and had wished to be a painter, but being unable to afford the training, became a business man, a decorator, instead, and postponed painting till his old age.

He was successful in a modest way, and amongst other places he decorated Buckingham Palace, over which he lost a good deal of money.

Besides Orchardson, Pettie, MacWhirter and Tom Graham were frequent visitors, billiards and witty talk being the amusements. The house was beautifully decorated, and furnished in classical Renaissance style with antique furniture, which provided artistic eyes with much pleasure and artistic tongues with much to talk and argue about.

At billiards my Grandfather was very brisk and lively when he was winning, but when he was losing he felt quite tired, so he said, with that merry twinkle in his bright blue eyes—blue eyes and black hair, a very handsome man. As he had broken both feet in a fall from a scaffolding when young, no doubt there was a substratum of truth in the little familiar joke.

W. Q. O. played pretty constantly both there and elsewhere, and at one time could make a 100 break with ease, always playing with a hat on to shade his eyes.

He played with Roberts and B [?] one of whom remarked to him, “If you would only take the trouble you would make a billiard player.” But Orchardson always quoted the saying that to play billiards too well is a sign of a misspent youth—he did not approve of professional games, he considered games should be relaxation from work.

As he grew older my Grandfather exchanged billiards for whist, a game at which my Grandmother had certain rules of her own, one being that trumps must always be held and on no account played till the very last except for trumping purposes. If she won, life was a very gay affair, but if she lost she would shake her head sadly as she rose, folding her hands and saying: “Well, well, somebody must be cross.”

My Father would go into fits of laughter at the mere recollection—her humour was so unconscious. He told my Mother that as a boy he used to make himself quite ill with laughing.

Photo T. & R. Annan
THE QUEEN OF THE SWORDS (charcoal study), 1876
By kind permission of the Edinburgh National Gallery.

My Grandparents usually spent their holidays in France and had a good many French friends, Mademoiselle Céleste Léveillé, the Jouanins and the Casellas being the chief of them so far as I remember. Mr. Casella, another business man with a taste for art, lived in London most of his life but always remained French though his daughters were English; he was a man for whose honourable honesty my Father had the greatest admiration and for whose misfortune in losing his money, owing to his unusual sense of honour, he had the greatest sympathy.

My Father particularly liked French people, finding their charming manners and great artistic sense most attractive.

We may now picture Orchardson as well started in his career; not merely a rising man but a risen one. He was made A.R.A. in 1868, the year in which he exhibited “Prince Henry, Poins and Falstaff” and “Mrs. Birket Foster” at the Royal Academy.

To hunting and billiards Orchardson now added a third amusement—tennis, real tennis, which he first saw played at Brighton when there with Mr. Pettie. According to Sir Walter Armstrong, “One day W. Q. O. and Pettie strolled into the court at the back of Bedford Hotel, and taking up a pair of racquets set themselves to solve the mysteries of the game.” Orchardson was elected to the M.C.C. in 1872 and played frequently at Lord’s and sometimes at Prince’s and Queen’s Clubs.

After Kensington, Orchardson tried St. John’s Wood Road, No. 19, where he remained, I think, until his marriage.

Postmark: May 2nd, 1870.


My dear Father,

I am very much annoyed with myself for neglecting to write you. The truth is I am in a very backward state with all my correspondence and have been working and worrying a good deal lately. My large picture which I meant for the R.A. I did not get finished in time and have since cut it to pieces.

I have sent three, but none of them are very big.

I am just preparing to start for Venice where I mean to work for two or three months at the least—it is a glorious place and full of splendid subjects.

The R.A. Exhibition is very good, and the dinner last night was a great success. You will see an account of it in to-morrow’s Times.

“Oscar,” the little dog you sent me, has turned out trumps. He is plucky, funny and intelligent. The MacWhirters are to keep him while I am away as I mean to lock up the house. Let me know how you get on. I hear that you are all right in health.

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson

In answer to this Orchardson’s father wrote a sympathetic letter, of which this is all that remains:

“I received yours this morning dated Arts Club, Hanover Square. I would have written ere this had not Cranstoun several weeks ago informed me that you had gone to Venice in company with Birket Foster. I am glad you are not yet gone as it gives me the opportunity of expressing a hope that you may enjoy to the fullest extent your visit to one of the most celebrated cities of Europe. In my young days my strongest aspiration was to visit Rome and Venice. I never accomplished it, and I am happy, therefore, that you can and are qualified to appreciate it from previous training and also profit by it more than I could have done.”

Postmark: May 2nd, 1870.


My dear Father,

I have got your painful letter and am very much distressed.

I shall start to-morrow night by the Gt. Northern. Meanwhile keep up your spirits.

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

There is no indication of the nature of this “painful” news, but presumably Orchardson postponed his visit to Venice and went to help his father, to whom he was very devoted.

Arrived in Venice, he took rooms in the Casa Benitzki on the Grand Canal. He had intended to work, but found the light too vivid, so he loitered and made sketches. He hired a gondola and gondolier and went on expeditions. He swam every morning, first throwing in his hat and then diving after it and swimming for an hour with the gondola following. He did not consider himself a good swimmer as he could only swim for one hour and the Venetians could swim two; and no wonder he said—he used to pass a family of father and many children all swimming together at the foot of their house-steps, even including a baby of a year old, who was “thrown” into the water with the other children and seemed to take to swimming as naturally as a little frog.

He chased mosquitoes with a candle round his room at night, but in the end got fever, but that must have been before the connection between malaria and mosquitoes was known. A doctor was called who prescribed medicine; as each bottle arrived the patient threw it out of the window, to which act he humorously ascribed his complete recovery. Probably his habit of taking quinine for tic douloureux had a good deal more to do with it.

A thunderstorm is very beautiful, and my Father told me he enjoyed watching the marvellously vivid lightning in Venice, but his eyes were injured one night by the startling and sudden contrast between vivid light and intense darkness, and his eyes were always delicate afterwards, and he sometimes suffered from a very real though unfounded fear of blindness. “And then,” he used to say, “we shall all starve; you children would starve.”

All the world loves a lover, and Antonio, Orchardson’s gondolier, general factotum and invaluable servant, was a very true one. He was engaged to be married and his betrothed fell ill of small-pox. After a long illness she lay dying, drained of all strength, and Antonio was told that the only chance of saving her was the gift of strong young life. Antonio took her in his arms and pressed her to him for a day and a night, willing her to live. She lived, they were married, and Antonio, beaming with pride and delight, presented his terribly scarred bride to his employer.

After a time “Freddy” Walker, artist and fisherman, wrote that he would join W. Q. O. and would come by sea. Orchardson ordered Antonio to engage a second gondolier for the long journey to Malamocco, the steamer’s stopping place. But Antonio knew better than that for the credit of his employer, and appeared with a decorated double gondola and four gondoliers, dressed in their best. So W. Q. O. went in state to meet his friend, who almost tumbled, in his excited state, from the big ship into the little one. Seizing Orchardson by both hands, and shaking them violently, he exclaimed, “Caught a four-pound trout; caught a four-pound trout!”—his only greeting.

The return journey was accomplished at racing speed, and the gondola was pulled up sharp at the steps of the Casa Benitzki to the great enjoyment of the child-like artists.

“The Harbour of Refuge” grew out of this visit. In one of the little churches of a neighbouring district Orchardson had seen some people sleeping below the pulpit itself during the service. “Here’s a subject for ‘Freddy,’ ” he thought and took him out to see the place, and there were the same people still sleeping in the same place as if they had never wakened. Walker was enthusiastically delighted and thought about the matter for some time, but could not get a setting, though he tried St Mark’s and many other churches; finally he relegated the sleepers to the background and so evolved his most celebrated picture.

Late in the summer the Franco-Prussian war broke out; the English newspapers in Venice were delayed and as he could speak no Italian, he read the Italian papers aloud (thanks to his early training in Scottish Latin) to English speaking, but illiterate, Antonio, who translated, and W. Q. O. was fired with the desire to see something of the war. Then news came that Paris was to be invested and he hastened north to try and get in before the city was entirely closed in; but having reached Strasbourg he found the railways blocked with prisoners’ trains from Sédan. My Father described the spectacle as utterly pitiful; it was pouring with rain and the prisoners were herded together in open cattle trucks, so crowded that there was no room even to sit, much less lie down; without overcoats, some few munching hunks of black bread. And their piteous plight was only equalled by the despairing misery of their exhausted faces. “Not a human expression among them,” he said. He found it impossible to go further north so turned south and finally after much difficulty and delay he got through to Dieppe and so home.

By this time he was very intimate with the Moxons, whose anxieties he shared about their French friends in Paris. When Paris fell, it was known that the people had very literally starved. Our friends had shared the elephants and other animals from the Zoo and were finally reduced to eating rats. At one time they had one skinny chicken left; but the cat ate it, so a family council decided to eat the cat as the only means left of eating the chicken; unfortunately the cat proved even more skinny than the fowl.

The war made a great impression on my Father, for I remember when I was a child that he still spoke of it as being just “the other day,” and was still full of indignation against the Germans, of whom he spoke as the “brutal Saxons.” Indeed, he always inveighed against Saxons as such whether German or English.

Though W. Q. O. did no real work in Venice, yet he produced six pictures of Venetian subjects—until 1875—of these I cannot speak for I have never seen them.

While at St. John’s Wood he had two dogs—“Reveller,” a prize bloodhound he bought at the Crystal Palace Dog Show, and “Oscar,” the Aberdeen terrier given him by his father.

He painted several pictures from these two dogs of which “Reveller” is painted in a much larger brushwork than is usual in his pictures; it seems to suit the dog’s rough hair exactly. The background was Buckingham Gate, which I believe has since been pulled down; it took him a long time to find this background.

Orchardson’s little friend “Chattie” Clow was staying with friends in London in 1870 and spent several afternoons with her old friend Bill.

She writes to me:

“I had had great games in Edinburgh with Oscar and he knew me at once, and was full of joy and affection. I said, ‘I do think Waspy, his old name, is better-looking than he used to be.’ Your Father replied: ‘Yes, no doubt, he has been staying with good-looking people! If you wish to be good-looking you must live with good-looking people!’

“Another afternoon I was at St. John’s Wood Road and Mr. Pettie came in for tea. I had a large bundle of songs with me and after tea was singing them one after the other until it was time to go. I was putting on my hat when your Father said: ‘Just look at those chairs and the piano; isn’t that a picture? My chair near enough for me to turn over the music, yet the proper degree of respect!’ And really, he made quite a picture-story of two chairs and a piano.

“My last evening at St. John’s Wood Road we were walking up and down the little garden where there was a border of ‘London Pride.’ I was telling him he should write oftener to his sister; she had told me to tell him he had surely forgotten them. He replied: ‘No, no; I don’t know how the days pass away and I don’t get any letter-writing done.’

“He stooped and picked a piece of ‘London Pride.’

“Give Liza that and tell her it is not that.”

Mrs. Ford reminds me of another little tale of this time that my Father used to tell with much enjoyment. One morning, he and Pettie were walking into town, when they saw a man with a cartload of very nice plants. Mr. Pettie bought one or two and told the man to deliver them, giving the address. On their return they found the hall full of plants. Mr Pettie was much surprised and asked his wife why she had been so extravagant.

“Didn’t you send them?” said Mrs Pettie. “The man said I was to take in all the plants and pay for them, and I did.”

Next day all the plants were dead, and on examination they proved to be rootless!

St. John’s Wood Road,

January 1st, 1871.

My dear Father,

A happy New Year to you and to the girls.

I have just come up from the country where I have been spending Christmas and got your handsome present.

It is a sight to see shortbread again, and the marmalade is a treat.

The weather here is beastly cold and we are half-snowed up, but I suppose you are pretty well off for winter yourself.

I have got an engraving and a photograph which I wish to send you if I can find the chance; if I don’t, I may take charge of it myself in the spring, as I should like to run down and see you again.

Hoping that you are in good health and wishing you all the good wishes of the season,

I am,

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

19, St. John’s Wood Road.

[Postmark: London, April 3rd, 1871.]

My dear Father,

I have just finished and sent off my work for the R.A.—three pictures—one of them eight feet long. The last three weeks have been pretty hard, especially towards the end, when I got a bad touch of influenza from which I have not yet recovered.

As soon as I get sufficiently recovered I mean to go down to Brighton for two or three days to “recuperate.” Then I shall start for auld Reekie and pay you a visit when I hope to find you well.

I shall write you the day before and let you know by what train.

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. Orchardson.

Work, hunting, tennis, billiards and visiting at the Moxons, and then his engagement early in November 1872 to Nelly Moxon, who, I gathered from herself (my Mother), patiently waited till he had finished flirting with other girls. I asked her once if she was never jealous and she answered: “No, why should I be? I got him.” But legend states that the other girls—I mean “young ladies,” this was before the days of girls—with whom he had been flirting constantly, were very vexed. “Little Nellie,” sincere, enthusiastic hero-worshipper, never flirted with anyone, and Orchardson paid her the compliment of never flirting with her. They were simply great friends, a middle-aged man and a young girl, almost a child, so that their engagement caused much surprise, except to my Mother’s two bosom friends, Anna Moxon and Céleste Léveillé.

29, Phillimore Gardens,

Kensington, W.

My dear Father,

I have just presented the parcel to Nelly. She will tell you how much she likes it . . .

You will see, dear Father, that Quiller has given me your beautiful present. I cannot express to you how much I admire it and how kind I think it is of you to send me so handsome a gift.

With our united love and thanking you very much,

Believe me, dearest Father,

Your very and truly affectionate

Little Nonnie.

“Nonnie is her pet name.—W. Q. O.”

This present was a big, patterned gold brooch with pearls round and a cairngorm centre, with a pair of earrings to match; I believe they were copied from the Bruce’s plaid-brooch when the Douglas caught the plaid but missed the man. The brooch seems to represent a castle with a central keep and towers all round and a battlemented wall.

Photo T. & R. Annan
THE QUEEN OF THE SWORDS (head study), 1876
By kind permission of James Caw, Esq.

The Hill, Witley,



My dearest Nellie,

It is Sunday and I have resolutely stayed from church chiefly that I might send you a “How do you do.” I did not get up till it was too late to go, but that is a detail and has nothing to do with the afore-said resolution.

Hours run rather late here so it isn’t much of a place to recruit in, but we are all alive, more or less.

Theatricals commence next week. I send you the programme for Monday which is given up to the bucolics, “orders” having been issued to all the neighbourhood, including the Mole-catcher.

Tuesday is devoted to the “county people,” so is fated to be slow.

I find myself regarded with a good deal of melancholy interest and have to put up with no end of congratulations.

Were you “awfully jolly” at Putney? I hope so but you must reserve a little for me when I come up on Wednesday.

I send you only one kiss as I want to give you all the rest myself when we meet. You see how greedy I am and jealous even of the paper.

Yours and yours only,

Love to Mama and Papa. Quiller.

[Neither date nor address.]

Weenie Nonne Chérie,

I am going to-night to St. John’s Wood to hunt up the parson. He is not in the blue book. Missed it this morning I suppose.

To-morrow I shall report progress.

Yours “so” much,



April 8th, 1873—their wedding day—a landmark in these two lives from now on scarcely ever separated! It was a true-love match and they remained true lovers until the end of their lives and beyond, they hoped.

When my Mother spoke of meeting in a future world, my Father only answered, rather sadly I fancy, “It may be.” But my Mother believed so fervently in a future life and meeting that at times she almost believed her beloved dead could hear her living thoughts.

In this mood she wrote some Reminiscences addressed: “Quiller, do you remember?” This little written talk seems to me so simple and sincere an account of the vivid happiness of these early days that I quote some of it with the addition of some punctuation, but otherwise with little alteration, although it was not intended for publication, but only for the biographer’s and her other children’s information.

My Mother was not a clever, brilliant woman, but she possessed the beautiful qualities of sincerity, simplicity, enthusiasm and sympathy; she had, besides, a natural artistic taste which became so highly cultivated by constant association with art that she became a very competent critic, whose judgment was much valued by her husband—although she never learnt art-jargon.


“Do you remember” our short but sweet engagement? We were so occupied with ourselves that we neither thought of the past or the future. The 8th of April was to us an eventful day, the old-fashioned and friendly wedding breakfast, about fifty wedding guests, a few speeches, in which dear old “papa” broke down, and Anna Moxon returned thanks for the bridesmaids—a most unusual proceeding for a woman to speak at that time.

“Do you remember” the wedding cake, low and covered with violets, as you had many times expressed your objection to the elaborate sugared article?

“Do you remember” the old coachman Fred’s delight at driving us to the station where old Joe Wall met us and saw us off? He must have been a quaint man. I think it must have been 1872 when we were all at Hastings, Joe Wall being with you in your rooms, you were painting “Toilers by the Sea,” etc., and as all your life, you did not notice what you ate, had preserved New Zealand mutton, at that date a novelty. Joe thought it was good enough for you, but would not touch it himself. Papa, Mama and I lived in apartments on the front, you came every day to us and “do you remember” one fine evening, there was a wonderful haul of mackerel; we all hurried up, rushed to the beach, got into a little boat and were pulled out to the fishing boats which were hauling in the “miraculous draught of fishes.” The nets broke, the sight was marvellous, the excitement was splendid; the immense shovels, the wonderful agile, strong fisherman! We were most excited, and the colour of the fish and the sunset marvellous. You had a picture at once in your mind; it was unfortunately burned before it was finished in your studio at St. John’s Wood; your pet Oscar upset a lamp. Talking of Oscar, “do you remember” how you always took him everywhere with you in the restaurants, always to our house, 25, and later, 29 Phillimore Gardens? How you and he enjoyed the chase after cats in and out of the little front gardens; on one of these adventures he lost one of his eyes. How devoted that dog was to you, waiting on you with your slippers, having found out that your old housekeeper brought them to you when you came in at night, he thought he would undertake the pleasure himself and did. Speaking of this reminds me: While you were at Hastings some of your sketches were stolen, you were telegraphed for and saw the poor thing in prison; the case was clear but you would not prosecute and got her off. How like your kindness! You lost your sketches—never mind, I have all these little traits of kindness and generosity to remember.

To continue from our wedding day: We went to Dover, not having told anyone where we were staying, a little old-fashioned hotel (Dover Hotel) where we were most comfortable; people fancied we had gone to the Lord Warden, but that was much too public for us, we might have met friends! We had to wait three days at Dover the weather was so stormy; we spent them wandering about, and in the old curio shops, and we bought a large blue and white bowl which I still have. Of course, the storm grew worse on the third day, but we started, and on the boat who should we meet but dear old Pettie and Tom Graham; imagine the surprise, but they did not let on for some time that they had seen us. We had little “misfortunes” all our lives; on leaving the Paris hotel, “The Grand,” “do you remember” you could not find your purse in which you had £5, a beautiful Indian jewel given to you by one of the Inglis, and a very nice miniature of me, all gone, though we made all enquiries in the hotel?

“Do you remember” we got to Cologne one evening and found the people with “swelled heads,” they had not got over their successes in the war, 1870-71, so somehow a row occurred in the hotel and you said if I wished to see the Cathedral we must go out there and then in the moonlight, which we did; and found the people in the street impolite, too, so we left early next morning as you were afraid you would be locked up and I, a young English girl, be left stranded. We fared no better in the Rhine boat, as the ticket man thought you wished to cheat owing to your little habit of not knowing in which pocket you had put your tickets, purse, etc. I can’t remember which places we went to first (you would) and the many laughs we had over the Macon adventure, getting out there at midnight and finding ourselves on the platform and looking for our luggage which did not seem to be there, and alas! was not. It then dawned on you that you had not registered it in Paris, so, of course, it had not been sent on. We were rather concerned having absolutely nothing with us, not even a handbag, and to go to an hotel with a tale of having lost the luggage at that time of night was serious. But we did it and were well received, and next morning went on to Marseilles, where we hoped to find the luggage, none again. We stayed at “The Hotel Noailles,” capital, and nice people, how we enjoyed ourselves, didn’t we? with no luggage! Next morning, however, as it did not turn up, and we were beginning to look somewhat dirty and travel-worn, we went shopping in Marseilles. We could get nothing. I particularly wanted a nightdress, but they had never heard of such a thing. We stayed three days in beautiful Marseilles and the third morning the boxes arrived and you saw me on my knees in front of them exclaiming: “Oh! my beautiful boxes. Oh! my beautiful boxes.” You said that you should never forget that scene, and that to a woman her boxes were evidently very important; how we enjoyed that joke all our lives! As most of my dresses had been spoiled during the rough sea voyage, I got a dress made at Marseilles which was never a success, but while there “do you remember” having our photographs done? We were never taken for English, and the photographer thought we were South Americans, we were both so dark, you with sunburn and I wore a striped foreign-looking scarf. We were well recognized as bride and bridegroom and most politely treated. Happy days only yesterday!

“Do you remember” from Marseilles the beautiful drive we had along the Cornice Road with the excitable coachman and the cracking of whips? The weather, the place, everything wonderful? We went to Nice, Monaco and Genoa, then by train to Verona, and on wishing to leave there you found that you had no more money! You explained the circumstances to the hotel proprietor, and that there were circular notes for you at Venice; you did it all in your wonderful way, and looked so genuine and polite over the whole thing that the proprietor allowed us to leave without paying the bill and even lent us money to take us to Venice; he gave me a beautiful bouquet and wished us bon voyage! You often had little adventures over little money matters. I remember you telling me you went to some booking-office in Scotland in your youth and found you had no money, but they gave you a ticket all the same. And on all these occasions you were careful to send the loan back at once.

“Do you remember” how wretchedly cold it was in Venice for the time of the year? How we enjoyed looking at the little curio shops in the little streets, and saw so much “vecchio, vecchio” in which sometimes one found a good thing; and the gondolas and gondoliers, all wonderful. You made sketches, but nothing serious. The smells though were too awful. You called the side canals “picolo canale,” so the gondolier always enquired whether to the grand canal or the picolo canale. It was at Venice you first told me of your meeting with “Freddy” Walker; how you went to meet him in grand style and the scene was magnificent, but Walker’s first words were, “Caught a four-pound trout, caught a four-pound trout!” and nothing else. While you were there in that year you took ague fever and did not seem to shake it off for several years. I remember you telling me your doctor asked you how you were getting on and how about the medicine he had given you; you were sitting at your window facing the grand canal and explained to him in your polite way that each bottle of medicine as it came was chucked into the canal. Poor medico, I wonder how he liked it!

After Venice, I have got rather mixed up, but I must remind you of one of our night “adventures.” Having been out all the evening, and going to bed at midnight or past, it struck us we were hungry, so you rang the bell for something to eat. Imagine the poor hotel people! they were aghast at these “peculiar English,” who wanted supper in bed in the middle of the night; but we got it, sat up in bed, and were waited on by the garçon. Wasn’t it a lark! and how we did laugh! In France many times we had to cope with damp sheets, you insisted on their being wet, always to the excited distress of the chambermaids or men; and these adventures usually occurred in the middle of the night as at that time you and I were very late birds. Whenever we left the hotels they wished us farewell very sincerely, though we had given them trouble, and they always gave me a beautiful bouquet. And the complimentary speeches! They may have been too flowery or even false—never mind, they were very pleasant.

We spent ten days in Venice, then on to Chiavenna through Vicenza and Verona, Como and Bellaggio, staying three days in Chiavenna, the snow being so deep we could not get on. The hotel-keeper said it was impossible to cross the Splügen in such weather.

“Do you remember” your anxiety over me as I was not well and you were so afraid lest the awful ugly people of the village might affect me—I have never forgotten their goitred necks—so you told the innkeeper we must cross? We started in sleighs, you and I in one with the driver standing at the back, and the luggage sleigh behind us, but without a driver, the horses knowing to follow us. The roads were not cut except in a few places, and the snow walls were then 40 feet deep. We drove along merrily enough, though it was snowing all the time, till the horse in our sleigh boggled at a hole; we were then driving alongside a precipice on the top of deep snow, the edge of the sledge on our side went over, the driver jumped off to save his own life, and you with your usual presence of mind (though with great difficulty as you were so wrapped up) got your arms out, took the right rein, and pulled it up with a jerk, thus saving our lives. The driver calmly got on again, and never a word said on either side; he acknowledged afterwards that he had lost his way and his head. Luckily the luggage did not go over. You tried to make light of it, and remarked “what fun it would be to read in the newspapers about two young people on their honeymoon being lost on the Splügen,” but I am afraid that I did not see the joke as I remarked if we were killed we should not have the pleasure of reading about it. We got to the other side, where we found a carriage had been waiting for us three days in the storm. Wasn’t it in a state! We could neither of us sit up straight in it, and it was damp and cold (we women did not wear tweeds in those days). Next day we started from Choire or Chur, driving along the Wallen See, a wonderful route, but with the accident on the Splügen my memory had gone and I have never remembered some parts of that expedition. How anxious you were, and what a time you must have had!

We went to Zürich, Strassburg and Paris, and arrived in London, June 1st, 1873, at our house in Kensington.

My Father told me he sought to cheer his young wife by making fun of the adventure for he saw that she had been badly frightened, but at the end of three days he found that, although she had spoken, she remembered nothing at all from the time of the averted accident. When I asked him what a precipice looked like when one was falling down it he said that the vast depth was a most wonderful and awe-inspiring sight and that he had enjoyed the adventure until he found that my Mother was ill. She recovered quickly, but I think she really always felt the effects of it, and for long years my Father felt the horror of his bride’s three days of lost memory.

They settled down at Hyndford House, 239 Brompton Road, a quaint old house now pulled down. My Mother described it as having a picturesque hall with a pillar in the middle of it; and a room on the left where there was a wonderful old oak dresser which they gradually covered with beautiful blue china; they had to leave the dresser behind them when they moved, but the “old blue” went with them in all their movings. A little garden in the front with a covered alley leading to the front door, and a mulberry tree and a fountain in the back garden completed my Mother’s description, but we may suppose there were other rooms. There was no studio, unfortunately, so W. Q. O. had one at the Kineston Street Studios (now 6 William Street), and every day husband and wife walked there together.

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of Mrs. R. W. Paterson (owner) and the Fine Art Society.

“Happy, happy days, do you remember?” exclaims my Mother. In the evenings when not dining with friends or giving a dinner-party they dined, often two or three times a week, at a restaurant usually in the South Kensington Museum where after dinner they studied antique furniture, old china and treasures of all sorts whereby they both became experts.

Sept. 28th, 1874.

Dear Sir,

The work you are carrying on at Kineston Studios has rendered the staircase impracticable and the doorway nearly impossible, while the dust and noise are enough to blind and deafen a saint. Under these conditions you must be aware that no studio is habitable, and if you render my studio uninhabitable you practically eject me.

When you commenced this work I was in the middle of a picture which I had promised to finish this month but which still remains in the same state and must so remain till you are done or I get another place to work in.

Now the advice I have received is to take away my effects, throw up my lease and sue for damages. This course I should feel quite justified in taking after the many remonstrances I have made and fortified as I am with your letter. (“The walls pulled down and the windows taken out are in connection with the staircase.”) This I have ascertained.

Before, however, proceeding further in the matter I prefer writing you that there may be no surprise or lest you should have in contemplation any proposal to make.

Knowing the whole case, as you do, from the beginning I have no doubt that any solution that recommends itself to your sense of justice would suit the requirements of equity, and therefore I trust satisfy both parties.

I am,


W. Q. Orchardson.

Henry Shaw, Esq.

Dear Sir,

You must be aware that the possible minimum of annoyance which you propose I shall enjoy in the future cannot in the nature of things make my room practicable as a studio for months, much less can it remove the annoyance and losses of the past. I shall, however, be very happy to see you as you propose and will be at home to-morrow from 10 o’clock till 2 . . . [Unsigned.]

The Kineston Street Studio having been rendered useless, Orchardson built one for himself over the Hyndford House stables—of this I have no description whatsoever—and he worked here for about three years. He painted and exhibited three or four pictures and portraits every year, but nothing of great importance. Indeed, they seem to me rather in the nature of practice studies while he was learning a new phase of life and laying in a store of knowledge amongst the art treasures in the neighbouring museum.

The portrait of his wife (in black), for instance: he told me he had been having an argument with someone about the painting of life-sized heads; he maintained that it was as easy as, anyway, no more difficult than, small heads, and the other man said it was much more difficult. So, on reaching home my Father asked his wife to get on the throne, and there and then he began her portrait; “and it was no more difficult than small heads—simply a matter of seeing.”

In spite of this feeling of an interregnum the portrait of my Grandfather, C. Moxon, is one of his very finest. “Oscar and Brin,” “Reveller” and several other pictures of this time record W. Q. O.’s love for dogs. Of all the dogs he ever had Oscar was chief favourite, alike for his wisdom, his courage and his canine beauty—an Aberdeen terrier without even a pedigree. As an instance of dog courage and long memory, my Father used to tell how Oscar as a tiny puppy was nearly shaken to death by a spotted coach-dog; ever after Oscar attacked all spotted coach-dogs, no doubt in hopes of ultimately killing the right one.

Reveller was a young bloodhound, a prize winner at the Crystal Palace Dog Show, where my Father bought him. He took the dog home and on the road they had a difference of opinion; my Father broke his cane over the dog’s back and thereafter was master. On reaching home he handed Reveller over to the care of Tuke, a model who did many odd jobs about the studio and house, to be taken to the stables. Tuke, a great hulking fellow once a sailor, eyed the savage-looking bloodhound very doubtfully as he took hold of the chain, so the dog growled and refused to move until my Father said “Go.” Some time later there arose a fearful noise of dog fighting, and my Father and Mother rushed out to see what was the matter. They arrived just in time to rescue Oscar from the jaws of death—Reveller’s jaws. My Father choked off Reveller and my Mother got hold of Oscar, but he wriggled so violently that she had to let go, when Oscar immediately attacked Reveller again with the utmost fury. The fight was at last stopped and the dogs chained up. My Father then turned for explanations to Tuke and the groom who had been looking on. Oscar, it seemed, tried to walk off with Reveller’s bone, Reveller objected, and the little dog had flown at the big dog’s throat, pandemonium ensued, and the two men had been too much afraid to interfere. Reveller gave up his bones to Oscar ever after and they became great friends—always on the understanding that Oscar was master.

About this time there were two dog stealers, father and son. They were ostensibly dog fanciers, and though well known and greatly suspected, nothing had so far been brought home to them. Their premises were always open to inspection by the police or any one else who chose to go round. I say round advisedly, for their kennels were built in a circle, so that when you went in searching for your dog you were taken round the circle as many times as you liked. The dog you were looking for was also taken round the circle on the other side; but this was not known till later.

One day Reveller disappeared, and my Father went at once to their premises and was taken round the kennels, shown everything most openly, but of course he never suspected the ruse employed any more than the police did.

After a week or so my Father chanced to meet Mr. Briton Rivière, who asked immediately:

“You don’t happen to have lost your dog, do you?”

“Well, as it happens, I do,” answered my Father.

“In that case,” said Mr. Rivière, “I can put you on to him,” and proceeded to explain that being in need of a bloodhound for a model, he had sent to X.’s. Young X. had at once brought a beautiful young dog, and in drawing it Mr Rivière discovered that he was quite familiar with the lines of it, then suddenly remembered Orchardson’s bloodhound; hence the enquiry on meeting. The next day my Father went to Mr Rivière’s house to catch “Young” X. on leaving; unfortunately, he was just too late, and saw Young X. and the dog disappearing round a corner. The coachman—my Father had borrowed his father-in-law’s brougham for the occasion—whipped up the horse and they dashed off in pursuit. X. dodged round every corner in true dog-stealer fashion, the brougham dodged after him corner after corner, till at last my Father, judging he was near enough, jumped out, ran down a short cut, and confronted X. at his next corner. Said my Father, as the dog stood on its hind legs and put its paws on his shoulders, whining: “That is my dog, kindly hand him over.”

Young X. was truculent. “Your dog, indeed, he’s mine—I bought him.”

“A case of disputed property,” said a policeman, coming up at that moment.

“Nonsense,” said my Father, “he’s mine; lead us to the police station.”

Young X. demurred, but had to agree; the brougham followed with my Mother.

“Give the gentleman his dog,” said the police superintendent on hearing the events.

Young X. still objected, so my Father said: “The dog is mine and Young X. knows that very well. I can easily prove it if you will allow me. You will agree that a dog will go to his master when called?” The Superintendent nodded. “In that case let X. call, and I will call, and whoever the dog follows shall be deemed his master.”

The Superintendent agreed. The dog’s chain was loosed. X. called violently, “Come ’ere, you brute!” My Father walked to the door saying quietly, “Come, Reveller.” With a bound the dog was past him, into the brougham, crouching and quivering with delight at my Mother’s feet.

X. sent W. Q. O. an account for Reveller’s keep for six weeks, quite forgetting that he had denied having the dog at all; the bill was sent in to disguise the theft of course, and equally of course was not paid.

Reveller’s end was poison; he was found lying dead beside some poisoned meat in the garden just at the dividing wall. What brutes some people are!

The first child—Charlie—was born prematurely on Christmas Eve 1873 to the danger of both mother and son. “What an event! do you remember?” exclaims my Mother, and goes on:

“Do you remember? You had for years spent Christmas with the Birket Fosters’ at Witley; they asked you again although you were married and I unable to go. You did go for a week some time after Christmas, which distressed me; as I was alone.”

The baby managed to survive in spite of spartan father and anxious mother. My Father always maintained that he had saved the lives and stomachs of all his children by refusing to allow them to have any medicine whatever. He was inclined to be prejudiced against doctors, and asserted that their prescriptions were mostly experimental; some few doctors entirely agreed with him. For surgeons he had the greatest admiration, but, like most other people, thought they were inclined to operate unnecessarily at times. When speaking of doctors he often laughingly used to quote his mother-in-law: “The doctors may think what they like but I know better.” My “Grannie” was a devoted wife but never could understand her husband’s jokes nor why he was so fond of making them. And now here was her son-in-law doing the same thing; indeed it was very trying, but then Quiller was a Scotchman, so what else could you expect? “Nasty mean things, Scotchmen.” And she never could understand why her son-in-law, whom she really loved and admired, often greeted her remarks with roars of laughter.

My Father was fond of telling a droll little tale against his wife and mother-in-law. Before his marriage he kept his costumes on the studio floor, and when in need of one of them, merely turned over the heap with a stick until he chanced upon the right thing. Now, with a wife determined to belie her title of “baby-wife,” he must needs hunt in many drawers. But he had the laugh against her one day when her mother came to see them shortly after their return from their honeymoon. The mother-in-law was taken to the bedroom to be shown some alterations, and there upon the bed was her daughter’s jacket, on a chair her hat, one shoe here, its fellow far away. My tidy Grandmother was speechless; then, shaking her head and wringing her hands, she turned to her laughing son-in-law with the utmost sympathy and commiseration: “Quiller! . . . dear me! dear me! how very vexed I am! . . . and to think it was my upbringing!”

My father gained a reputation for open-hearted and open-handed hospitality, to relations in particular—a very just reputation; he was most generous, but it led to imposition.

One evening at Hyndford House a stranger presented himself and said he was a long-lost cousin newly arrived from Australia; my Father, whose family was given to wandering, received him with open arms, invited him to dinner which he “unfortunately could not accept,” and made much of him in the pleasant way he had.

On leaving, the stranger asked the loan of half a crown, having forgotten his purse; it was readily given him with an invitation to return, and he went off, Orchardson remarking as he did so, “How like his walk is to my Father’s.”

The following day my Father happening to meet Pettie in the street, told him of his new relation. Said Pettie, “How strange! a long-lost cousin came to me only the night before.”

Meeting with Tom Graham a little further along, they told him the curious coincidence.

“Indeed,” said he, “long-lost cousins must be plentiful for I had one, too.”

A third long-lost relation seemed suspicious, so the three friends compared notes and found it was the same man! He must have been a skilful rogue, for in each case he gave a plausible story; he had obtained ten shillings from Mr Graham, a whole pound from Mr Pettie, but only the half-crown from my Father—possibly the extreme kindness of his reception made him a little ashamed to ask for more.

For many years my Father was constantly worried by begging letter-writers and dinner-time beggars, and always gave something on the principle of giving “the poor beggar the benefit of the doubt.” But at last he was persuaded that he was being imposed upon and refused to give; almost immediately the beggars ceased coming.

Both my Father’s and my Mother’s charity and generosity were deep and wide almost beyond their means; but the world knew nothing of it.

My Father continued to hunt and once my Mother went riding over the Downs with him, but the steepness of the hills renewed her Splügen fright and she never rode again except once at Westgate, where she finally decided to give it up altogether, and persuaded my Father that hunting was an unsuitable pastime for a married man with a family. She had once seen his horse come down with him at a ha-ha; he told me that before getting out of the way of his horse’s kicking heels, he had an excellent opportunity to observe the remarkable size of a horse’s head—much bigger than he had supposed. He also said that he thought his neck was saved on that occasion by the concertina behaviour of his top hat, which he thereafter considered the most suitable type of hat for riding.

Albion Hotel, Hastings,


[Postmark: October 29th, —73.]

My Weenie Chérie Nonnie,

I am a little worse to-day but am going to be better to-morrow, when I shall be able to get through my sketch!

The weather is fine, the sun is strong and the east wind is, oh, dear! oh dear! oh dear!

But I must have my sketch and I must get better (if not well) and I must be “up” to-morrow.

I hope that you have been very well, very busy, and that you have missed me very much.

I drink your very good health and the etcetera, hoping that you will be anything but happy till I return.



[About December 1874.]

My dear Father,

We are very sorry to hear of your illness.

Your letter arrived just as I was writing to you about coming up, as we wanted you to be here in time for the boy’s birthday.

Nonnie is putting up a bed for you in the little drawing-room—your old room is a nursery now.

Write and let me know exactly how you are and I shall come down and fetch you, but I shall come down at any rate, so try and get well enough to travel by the beginning of next week. When we have you here we shall be able to nurse you better and get you well again.

I have at last got a snug little place in the country, which is being got ready and is within easy distance for running up and down. We were all going down together after Christmas, but we will see; meantime, if we could once get you here it would be all right, as we shall take care that you don’t go back into the cold north again.

I was going to send a big overcoat to travel in but I shall bring it with me now.

Get in any little bills you may be owing, so that we may square things before saying good-bye to Auld Reekie.

Your affectionate son,

W. Q. O.

My Mother evidently took to writing to her father-in-law, whom she never saw; here are some extracts that give a little glimpse of Orchardson’s domestic life:

Photo T. & R. Annan
CONDITIONAL NEUTRALITY (Charles M. Q. Orchardson), 1878
By kind permission of T. R. Cowie, Esq.

239 Brompton Road,

December 21st, 1874.

My dear Father,

Quiller has had a very bad cold and cough lately and is not well yet, but as soon as ever he is well enough he will go down to see you, and bring you back I hope.

Dec. 22nd. With such weather as this it was quite impossible for you to come up for The Boy’s birthday, but we hope to see you before the New Year. The streets have been quite quiet lately, as they have been too slippery for things to get along. Quiller begins to be rid of his cold. The Baby is very well and has dinner with us every day.

Dec. 27th. The Baby sat up with us to dinner in the evening on his birthday and behaved beautifully and looked very pretty. We had a pudding on fire to please him, and we all drank your very good health—little Charlie joined in.

[And thereafter, as Orchardson was fond of telling, drank his Father’s and Mother’s healths every day, clinking glasses with them and saying “Your very good health”; after which he would go to the foot of the stairs and call, “Nursie, come and fetch Master Charlie.”]

29 Phillimore Gardens,


Dec. 31st, 1874.

As you see we are still here with Papa and Mama. Quiller goes home to work every day and so got your letter yesterday. We are sorry, indeed, to hear that you have been worse again, but trust you are better. It is a good thing that you are comfortable and well looked after. I must wish you health and happiness for the New Year; when we drink healths we always mention you, so although you are a long way off you are not forgotten.

239 Brompton Road,

Jan. 2nd, 1875.

Thank you very much indeed for your kind letter. We were at Papa’s to spend Xmas and New Year, and Quiller did First-footing on New Year’s Eve, and we all drank your health and all the rest of the family’s in whiskey-punch; there was a Scotch young lady there too, and she joined in the chorus. So though we are not originally Scotch we adopt Scotch ways.

Jan. 8th, 1875. There has been a great change in the weather, and I daresay you will have had it warmer too, so will soon be better. The little house[1] in the country is quite ready; we have sent furniture down, and the housekeeper is there. So I hope you will soon be able to come and enjoy it with us in the Spring; I am sure you will like it, especially as Quiller says, you like a country life. Quiller is now a visitor at the R.A., and it is rather awkward because his studio is dry and he wanted to begin work in real earnest.

A. Orchardson & Son,

61 Queen St.,


10 Gardner’s Crest,

Jan. 10th/75.

Dear Quiller and Nonnie, not Forgetting the Hope of the Family—The Boy,

If I am unable to write to-morrow I will send you a telegram. I am exceedingly weak, just having been four days without food, there is nothing I attempt to take will stay on my stomach.

God bless and prosper [you] is the earnest hope of your affectionate Father,

A. Orchardson.

Dictated to Geo. Stephen:

P.S.—I was preparing a book of flies for the boy, you can give it to him when he has learnt a little of the gentle craft.

The Edinburgh Hotel,


My Weenie Nonnie,

Amidst all my troubles in life I never had sorrow till now.

I saw and touched my Father last night, he looked quiet and grand. I hope the boy will be as good-hearted a man.

Old Mr Cameron has been very kind and busy helping me in the business arrangements. He has just dropped me here that I may write this note and is waiting at Gardner’s Crescent for me.

The funeral will take place on Thursday at 2 o’clock at Warriston Cemetery, where I have found his Father’s grave.

Love to Mama and Dad. Kiss the boy for me and think of me as




Cameron’s Studio,

Picardy Place.

My Chérie Nonnie,

When I got your letter this morning I wanted to hug you awfully and I won’t be happy till I do.

The other letters were all little bills.

My friends here have all been very kind, and old Mr Cameron has been my right hand in all business matters.

I have just been brought here from the Cemetery, and have only ten minutes to write before post . . .

We buried my Father at 3 o’clock, all his old friends were there.

I am going back to Gardner’s Crescent presently and to-morrow I shall have to see his lawyer so you may expect [me] on Saturday night.

Meantime keep up your spirits, and keep well, and don’t forget that you are now all the world to


Thursday, 5 o’clock.

The Edinburgh Hotel,



My dear Weenie Pet,

I fear lest you should be fretting too much and getting into low health. I would start to-night but I cannot get quite through with what is to do. To-morrow I shall reach King’s X at 7.30 p.m. Try and keep bright, you know that you are the light of my life, and I must not have it dimmed.

I shall try to see Stephen to-day and give him your message.

I found poor Dad’s boxes all packed and corded ready to start. I have given away his clothes and things, but shall have the books, engravings, etc., sent up.

I could not go to John’s[2] last night but I went on Wednesday, and shall call and say good-bye to-night.

And now my Nonnie Weenie I have to go out, so kiss me: there! I am very well but you must try to keep the same.

Good-bye till I hold you in my arms to-morrow.



Mrs Ford (“Chattie”) writes to me: “My Mother had asked Mr Orchardson, sen., to come and stay with us for a few days; as we did not hear from him my Mother and I went to see him, and were much shocked to find he had died the day before. Your Father was there in great distress, and I recollect him saying: ‘I have had worries, but never before a great grief.’ He was very much attached to his father and his father was proud of and devoted to him.”

[1] At Witley.

[2] Moxon.


In 1875, the present humble biographer was born with a minimum of the pomp necessary to the circumstance—the second baby and only a girl. Then a happy party went to Brighton in September to recruit, the Father and Mother, Grandfather and Grandmother, two babies and two nurses. Apparently they all sat on the beach throwing pebbles into the sea, the more expert making ducks and drakes. Strange to relate I remember nothing of this, but I have a funny old “beach” photograph of them, us all sitting on the sands in a row and, to modern eyes, looking extraordinarily old; yet my Mother was only twenty-two.

Very likely Orchardson played tennis in the intervals of stone-throwing.

On Christmas Eve 1876, another child, a daughter, was born at Hyndford House, and by March 1877 it was time to have a change. So Orchardson, no longer, as he said, “in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility,” moved with his wife and family to E. M. Ward’s old house with two studios, No. 1 Landsdown Road, opposite the Peter Graham’s with whom we had much friendly intercourse.

My Mother never liked this house; it was dark and gloomy, a mouse ran over her pillow one night, and a picture fell down in the studio another night, causing my Mother to arm her smiling husband with a sword, herself with a poker, to go in chase of imaginary burglars. So she had a superstitious feeling that the house was unlucky; my Father smiled indulgently at his young wife’s fancies, and they neither of them thought of the simple remedies of white paint, a mousetrap and some new picture wire.

There was a beautiful pear tree in the garden specially pointed out to me by my Father for its fine shape, and a semicircular drive in front, round which my Father used to give his small son rides on Birdlime, a favourite mare. He used to drive her to Witley from Hyndford House, a distance of thirty miles, the last two uphill, and she never turned a hair in spite of the great pace she travelled at.

In 1876 they spent a holiday at Westgate-on-Sea, in Adrian Square, where they finally decided that it was unwise to take small children to lodgings. My Grandfather decided at the same time that he had acquired sufficient property for his unambitious needs and might now retire and spend the evening of his days (he was only sixty years old) at his favourite occupation of painting. He thereupon built twin houses on the sea-front of that rising resort, which afterwards ceased to rise owing to an outbreak of diphtheria caused by a penny wise and pound foolish policy of drainage; one house for himself, wife and son, the other for his daughter, his son being the architect.

Both the houses were altered afterwards, and as I remember them they were not at all alike, for one thing ours had to be suited to the needs of a growing family. Then the gardens were very different; ours contained the studio—a trellis-covered corrugated iron building—and the open tennis court, modelled on “Lord’s,” was built—the only one in England, I believe. I was a very small girl at the time, but to this day I remember a little incident of my Father’s understanding sympathy. Between the studio and the tennis court, the pent-house covered a brick-paved way leading to the garden gate, which opened on to our favourite daisy-chain field. I have no doubt it was quite an ordinary path or passageway, but going through one windy day, a horrid clanging, a sound of gongs beaten by ghosts terrified me, and thereafter I could only go through that passage at full speed and with my heart in my mouth. One afternoon my Father invited me to go with him to the studio—a sacred spot full of wonderful treasures. With my hand in my Father’s I felt safe, and we were nearly through the dreadful passage when the clanging started. I would not tell my fear, but my Father felt my quivering hand, and in his gentle sympathetic way asked what was troubling me. I whispered, “It’s a ghost banging.” He did not laugh or scold, but carefully explained the cause of the noise: a bit of loose iron left hanging on a pole, which I could see quite well when he pointed it out; so my fears were soothed until I was alone, when the ghosts returned. My Father found this out and had the piece of iron removed.

Later on the daisy field was taken into the garden, and the studio removed to the end of it. Trellis-work covered the iron, and that in turn was soon covered with roses, so that with the white-pillared doorway and red roof it was quite picturesque. Inside it was lined with brown wood; one corner—it was square—was partitioned off to serve as a lumber room, and a dressing-room for models; the big recess made by this oblong was the billiard room, with a raised platform round three sides with seats for the onlookers. With his usual friendliness my Father early taught us to mark. One visitor rather fussed at being marked up by a child, and my Father earned my adoration more than ever by saying that it was “all right,” and I should make no mistake.

The only decoration I remember was a wonderful green Chinese Dragon, that lived on the top of the lumber-room; the studio end is shrouded in mist, except for the great north window, and two events which occupied my Father and Mother and many helpers for days—a Christmas tree and a dance. My Father was the leading spirit in the revels as well as in the preparations, and he had an able second in his less lively but equally cheerful and hospitable wife. There were several “grown-up” dances held in the studio, I believe, but I only remember one other big mixed grown-up and children’s party; the entertainment consisted of dancing and of an extremely clever young conjurer of nineteen years, just beginning his career, a painter’s son since known to fame as David Devant of Maskelyne and Devant.

Dinner parties were frequent, for which, of course, I was ineligible, but my brother Charlie and I used to creep out of bed to the head of the stairs for the express purpose of listening to our Father’s laughter ringing out above everyone else’s. Once, when Mr Pettie was a guest, we decided he was a good second, but no one else even approached our Father’s for gaiety and spontaneity—it made one laugh merely to hear him.

After the garden was enlarged there was sufficient space for occasional archery, the fashionable amusement at that time, but my Mother never cared for games and my Father preferred tennis, which he played nearly every day. Our tennis visitors were many and included amongst others, the late Lord Forester—then Mr Forester, and his sons, Mr (afterwards Sir Norman) Lockyer, the astronomer; Mr Linley Sambourne of Punch; the amateur tennis champion, Mr Heathcote; Mr (afterwards Sir Walter) Armstrong, and Mr Julian Marshall, who wrote a history of tennis. My Father was determined to play well and had Lambert, the professional champion, down to stay. Of course, Mr Pettie (a tennis player) came often with his wife, besides the MacWhirters and many other old friends who did not play.

Mrs Forester was in the habit of coming to tea and then walking home with her husband after the game was finished. One day she came as usual, and after chatting to my Mother for a while, sent a message to her husband that she was rather in a hurry and would he be long? He sent a reply that he was coming directly. After a while she sent another message and received the same reply. She waited patiently and by and by sent again, and again received the same answer. But at the end of two hours, having sent the same message and received the same answer several times, she went home alone. By and by, Mr Forester leisurely appeared and slowly inquired of my Mother where his wife was. On hearing that she had waited for two hours and had been gone for nearly an hour, he exclaimed in his slow kind voice: “Indeed! I am very sorry, very sorry; but then, my wife is always so precipitate.”

My Father admired Sambourne’s drawings and delighted in his appearance as “got up” for tennis—a white flannel suit edged with sky blue and a French tam o’shanter to match; as he was very short and very fat, the effect, as my Father said, was “killing.” He lived near Ramsgate and usually rode over on his horse “Punch,” very often along the sea-shore; he had what my Father called a “wash ball” seat. One day he arrived draggled and dripping from head to foot; having been provided with dry clothing, he explained that he was in the habit of riding Punch in the sea, but that Punch objected to going beyond a certain depth and always turned shorewards very suddenly at his own time, invariably turning to the right.

“Now,” said Mr Sambourne, “if only he would turn to the left it wouldn’t matter as I don’t fall off that side.” Turning to my Father he added: “Tell me, Orchardson, which side do you fall off?”

I can almost hear my Nimrod Father laughing even now.

Another Punch man my Father knew was Charles Keene, besides du Maurier, Tenniel and others, and it was he who supplied Keene with the original of his famous “Bang went saxpence,” story. My Father did not approve of Keene’s rendering and said a Scotchman would not express himself that way and that the original “Yince change a saxpence and it gangs like stour,”[1] was in character and to be preferred.

“Keene spoilt that story trying to make it suitable to the Southron unintelligent sense of humour,” said my Father.

Mr Weigall, the amateur painter, also came over frequently from near Ramsgate; besides playing tennis he painted Orchardson’s portrait sometime or other, which was very like, but had no great merit as a work of art; I fancy the portrait was a wedding present.

Julian Marshall became a tennis friend in very simple fashion; he heard of the tennis court at Ivyside and wrote for permission to come and see it and, if possible, play on it in order to incorporate a description of it and its rooflessness in his forthcoming book.

Of course, he was invited, and after that he came often, bringing a friend, Mr Spencer Gore and his banjo with him. The day was spent in the tennis court, and the evenings were devoted to billiards and comic songs from Mr Gore. Dinner was at 7, to allow “the children” (Charlie and me) to come in as always—such kindly parents we had—and we were also allowed to come and hear the banjo.

How we all laughed at those silly songs, “Emma and the buns,” and I don’t know what else; my Father laughed till the tears ran down his face, and laughed and laughed. But those were laughing days, starting at breakfast, visitors or no visitors. “Happy days! happy days!” exclaims my Mother in her memories of them.

Mr. Marshall must have been a clumsy person, for he was always breaking things; windows with wild tennis balls, bedroom crockery, vases, anything breakable in fact. His letters of apology are funny. I subjoin one.

13, Belsize Avenue, N.W.

Feb. 19th, 1886.

My dear Orchardson,

Do you remember a violent iconoclastic kind of person, a sort of Martin Marprelate, Charles Martel, or Gothic Attila, who used to harry your eastern littoral,[2] leaving nought but ruins where his fell footsteps had fallen? I fancy you cannot have forgotten his devastations; they are too recent to have been obliterated by the waters of oblivion. Now, it was your best hat; again, it was an old Dutch bottle that he reduced to powder: another time, he dismissed [tried to] with a cricket ball the majority of your teeth down your reluctant throat!

That unhappy man still lives. You do not believe it? It is natural that you should suppose that he has succumbed to remorse and gone to the place of punishment long ago. But he still lives—a miserable wreck, it is true, and wracked with rigorous regrets and late repentance.

Now, atonement is the object of his desires. But how? He is unfortunately neither a hatter nor a dentist. He has, however, succeeded in unearthing a Dutch bottle—not so good, of course, as that which he smiling smashed to smithereens—but still a bottle, and of Holland, hollow in five various channels. This he sends to you, begging you to forgive, if you cannot forget, his other depredations and destructions—with humblest duty and expressions of remorse and wishes for amendment.

I will not name him.

Yours ever,

Julian Marshall.

Kindest regards to La Signora and the Bambini.

Mr Lockyer (now Sir Norman) lived almost next door and was a frequent visitor and tennis player, but though he was a celebrated man, I remember nothing of him except that he teased little girls and wore a perfectly disgraceful straw hat; when I grew up, however, I found he was a very witty talker.

The Edinburgh Moxons visited their uncle, my Grandfather, but as the houses were next door and communication constant, visitors were almost interchangeable. One of the cousins was an amateur painter; another an amateur gourmet—perhaps gourmand would be more correct. He was a great connoisseur of claret, boasted of his palate, and, “of course,” would not look at “Gilbey’s.” So one day, when he was lunching with us, my Father, in a spirit of mischief, drew him out on the subject of the wine he was drinking with much gusto. He mouthed it, held it up to the light, showing every sign of the greatest appreciation, descanting at the same time on the impossibility of drinking bad claret, especially Gilbey’s. My Father laughed heartily whenever he told the tale and wound up by saying: “But I never told him it was Gilbey’s one-and-sixpenny that he was enjoying so much—that would have been too cruel.”

The Spanish cousins who visited us at Westgate, were Orchardsons who had settled in Spain, on the recommendation, I suppose, of the Spanish Quiller. One of them came over to England and was a great hunting companion of my Father’s; he was called Cousin by all and sundry, strangers adding a polite Mr to the word, supposing it to be his name.

I remember two other foreign visitors, one my Mother’s greatest friend, Mlle Céleste Léveillé, and the other, an American artist who came for the express purpose of painting Orchardson’s portrait. My Father, always an unwilling sitter, consented, chiefly, I think, in compliment to another nation. When it was nearly finished, Mr. X went away and the portrait, half an inch thick or more with paint, was sent to the toolshed to dry. There my brother and I came across it one day when we were playing; we looked, gave one shriek of terror and fled, sobbing. Some time later my Father was wondering what to do with the thing—it could not be called a portrait—and I begged him to burn it that no one else might be so frightened again; he acceded to my request and the dreadful nightmare thing was burnt in the garden bonfire. We heard afterwards that Mr. X had been shut up in a madhouse.

Perhaps the most frequent of our tennis visitors was a near-by neighbour, Lieutenant-Colonel Jones, a Crimean veteran of twenty-seven wounds. His daughter, Katie, was my constant playmate, and as the sweetness of her disposition equalled the charming prettiness of her face, she was always a great favourite with my Father. Indeed, had he not been really nice he might have been jealous for his own daughter, whom he nicknamed the Seal when he saw her swimming, from her seal-like hair and eyes. Fortunately for my amour propre he did not address me as my brother did, by the name of a chimpanzee in the Margate Zoo, remarkable chiefly for big brown eyes and a most violent temper, though he could not help laughing and agreeing when Charlie called his attention to the resemblance. He said of this eldest and liveliest son that “his internal spirits were always cutting capers!”

My Father took as much interest in the decoration of the house as of the studio and garden. He designed the dining-room chairs himself. They were very simple, even severe, but most comfortable, were made of walnut wood and upholstered in dull green Utrecht velvet; the walls were hung with cloth in panels to match, except the fireplace recess which was lined with Dutch tiles, blue figures on a white ground. Of course, there were pictures and portraits in the panels.

The drawing-room was long and narrow, white and gold and green. One end was entirely furnished with Louis Quatorze furniture, all used, or to be used, in pictures; the other end was more varied in period and, I think, contained “Madame Récamier’s” sofa, but it was not until later that W. Q. O. bought much Empire furniture.

The rest of the house was chiefly my Mother’s concern, except the Loggia, the mosaic floor of which was laid by Italian workmen, whose industry caused my Father to make very severe comparisons between them and the ordinary British workman; besides, the Italians pleased his artistic eye. He always inveighed against the lack of artistic appearance, feeling and imagination in the average English man and woman; he was lively and quick-witted himself, so thought English people dull and slow “i’ the uptak.” But he had an unbounded admiration for Scotland and her people; they might be dour, but at least they would never muddle and fumble towards their ends in the English fashion; they might be careful, but they were never mean—on the contrary, they were the most generous people in the world; their sense of humour was deep, not frivolous like the English; finally, even the peasantry had been highly educated for centuries, and their kindly language had both verve and élan. On being asked why, if Scotchmen were so superior, they always came to England, he would answer: “To show their superiority.”

“And why do they marry English wives?”

“To prove their wisdom,” he would answer with a courtly bow to his English wife.

I once pressed for a more serious answer and he said he thought Scotchwomen were harder than English and less gentle in their manners, that they had very fine and beautiful qualities, but kept them too deep—buried under a rather rough exterior.

In May 1877 the “Queen of the Swords” was exhibited and the cleverest Associate could no longer be ignored.

Royal Academy of Arts,

Dec. 14th, 1877.

Dear Sir,

I have the pleasure to inform you that at the general assembly of Academicians and Associates held on Thursday, Dec. 12th, you were duly elected a Royal Academician.

I am, dear Sir,

Yours faithfully,

Fred. A. Eaton, Sec.

W. Q. Orchardson, Esq.,


Judging from the many letters of congratulation he received, the general consensus of opinion was that the honour had been far too long delayed—or as Punch put it [about someone else, I think], it was time he was R.A.’d in the full panoply of the R.A.—and that in honouring Orchardson the Royal Academy had honoured itself.

By kind permission of the Aberdeen Art Gallery.

The Lothians.

My dear Orchardson,

We are delighted to see this morning that the R.A. have at last done the right thing. They deserve all the more credit that they have done it all alone (I WASN’T THERE!). I haven’t been able to get out yet much. Yesterday was the first day I ventured a little walk, but the air was cold. Hope you are all well.

Kindest regards, yours,

John Pettie.

Marlborough Road.

My dear Orchardson,

We have just heard of your election and I cannot tell you how much pleasure it has given me.

It is not often that the very man one wants does come first, but in the present case I am sure you will believe me when I say that there is no one that I would sooner have seen in the place.

Believe me,

Yours well pleased and very truly,

Briton Rivière.

There must be more judges of good work than I thought there were!

The Reform Club.

My dear Orchardson,

Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! All hands on deck—you may add “on board of the R.A. thusa” if you want to be funny—and give one cheer more!

Yours always,

William Black.

2, Stanhope Studios.

My dear Orchardson,

I beg to offer my congratulations to the Royal Academy on their election—we sketch at Pettie’s next Thursday, try and come.

Yours ever,

F. R. Stock.

Orchardson seldom worked long hours, but the sureness and concentrated intentness with which he painted made him a very quick worker. The only time he varied the short hours was when he would discover that he was late for the R.A. and had some picture on hand that he specially wished to send; then he would breakfast at sunrise and work till sunset with scarcely a pause. On very rare occasions he would work far into the night, but he did not like artificial light. He once, when he was a student, painted an arm by lamplight, and next day found he had painted it yellow. “Madame Récamier,” for instance, was finished at 11 p.m., while the collecting van was waiting; the well-tipped driver cleverly managed to nip in at the Academy gates just as they were closing; strange to relate, the wet paint was not smudged, though the banisters were broken getting the picture down the stairs.

At Westgate my Father went to the studio after breakfast, for which he was always late, and worked till luncheon time; the rest of the day he played tennis and dawdled up and down the garden thinking deeply—“seeing visions.” Often he would take his eldest son and daughter for a walk in the evening along the unfrequented cliffs towards Epple Bay, to watch the sunsets, successors of Turner’s magic unbelievable skies.[3]

Every evening a shimmering path of golden glory led across the sea to heaven’s own gate it seemed; my heart stood still for the wonder of it and my Father would murmur some reverent word of love for the Creator.

Orchardson was a deeply religious man with an intense appreciation for the wonders of creation, but he only went to church twice that I can remember, and that was to please other people; he said he preferred God’s own church not built with hands. Also, he did not like being preached at by a young and probably ignorant man, and not be able to argue and show him where he was wrong! My Father was very Scotch in his enjoyment of and capacity for argument, as my Grannie said indignantly: “He always makes his case good.”

His love of and interest in Nature were very great, and often during our walks he would pluck a flower or pick up a shell, and point out the wonder of the form and colour. Or, again, some beauty of sea or sky or chalk cliff would cause him to grow eloquent in praise of God’s creation.

According to his critical but friendly mother-in-law, “Quiller” was completely spoilt by his wife. It is a fact that she always gave in to him apparently, and when she took her own way, I doubt if he was aware that it had not been originally his, so quiet was her method. And on the rare occasions that he consciously gave in, it was with the manner of a sultan conferring favours. She managed her household in such a manner that she could read to him at almost any time he wished, and practically always while he was working. In the early part of the evening she, my eldest brother and I, took it in turn at this time to read aloud some book we could all enjoy—Scott or Stevenson, for instance; my Father, especially, did not appreciate my reading—I got so excited that I sometimes unconsciously subsided into silence and read to myself until suddenly roused with, “Well, what’s the matter?” from my Father; an indignant “Get on,” from my brother, and my Mother’s quiet laugh. Later in the evening my parents returned to their own books, usually something to do with the period of the picture in hand.

While my Mother was reading, my Father generally held a newspaper in his hand as a screen for his eyes against the fire. One day, chancing to look up, she observed him reading to himself; enquiry led to the admission that this was by no means the first time he had been guilty. His wife was very indignant; what was the use of her reading aloud to save his eyes if he read to himself at the same time? And besides, he could not possibly follow the two trains of thought. The artist admitted he was foolish not to save his eyes, but protested he knew the whole of the two readings and proved it by giving a complete summary of both. The story went a friendly round and Tom Graham explained it:

“Well, you see, Orchardson always had two heads on his shoulders.”

My father loved the country, but I think he found London better for work; at any rate he seldom finished a picture at Westgate, but about a month before sending-in day at the Royal Academy he and my Mother would go to No. 1 Spenser Street, which they took after leaving Landsdown Road, with whatever pictures the artist might intend to finish. Sometimes they took a child with them, more often not, and we were left in charge of an excellent nurse (with our grandparents next door) who petted us, played with us, and kept us in very good order. She remained with us for fifteen years and then became a hospital nurse, my Father paying for her training besides giving her a small pension; it was she who helped my Mother to nurse my Father during his many illnesses at the end of his life, and she was with him at the last.

On first going to Westgate my parents had the unhappiness to lose a baby daughter very suddenly. W. Q. O. wrote to several intimate friends announcing the child’s death, my Mother being too unhappy to write, but I cannot trace his letters after all these years. My Mother’s grief was so intense that it overshadowed her life, and consequently her husband’s, for a very long time. I associate her with a black dress for many early years and remember quite well her first coloured one, a kind of bronze, shot brown and green, and see her now as she came in at the drawing-room door at Ivyside rather shyly, I think, to be greeted by, “Oh, Mumsie, why haven’t you got on your black dress?” How cruel children are! I was about six at the time, so my Father must have exercised much patience and tenderness before his wife recovered from the shock even partially.

This sorrow made her dislike Westgate, and she was always glad to get back to dear, dirty, smoky, smelly London.

She maintained, quite seriously, and my Father laughingly agreed, that every town she had ever been in had its own particular smell: Venice, for instance, Edinburgh, Paris, but the smell of London was unique and to be reckoned as a perfume. Which perhaps was the reason she helped her husband to choose Spenser Street, for there the concentrated essence of London perfume dwelt in perfection.

It was a one-house street, No. 1 and no other, a turning off Victoria Street; and it was a topsy-turvy house, the bedrooms being on the ground floor, the dining-room and drawing-room (separated by pillars only) on the first floor, kitchen and studio on the top floor.

Here the artist and his wife tasted the best fruits of fame. They were utterly happy in their married life, and loved nothing so much as being together; at the same time, it was natural they should enjoy being made much of. They were young, and their happiness was infectious; my Father was handsome, charming, debonair, witty; my Mother simple, sympathetic and sincere—what wonder they were much sought after?

Babies and a very few children’s illnesses were the only interruptions to this happy life of work and pleasure.


[To E.O. at Ivyside P.M. Nov. 15th, 1882. W. Q. O. at the Petties.]

The Lothians,

Fitzjohn’s Avenue.

My Weenie Nonnie,

I write in a small hurry, I dined with Robertson last night, he was not well but got more like himself as the night wore on. Laughed till I ached.

Had your notes to breakfast this morning—very nice—also fried fish and egg. Went to Spenser St., did first painting of Old Person, lunched at the Club, called on Graham and Stock, have just got here, and there’s my itinerary.

Pettie, Winn, Mrs P. and Allie are all talking, and Winn is trying to tell me about Roberts and the Hard Hit business—he met him in the Highlands.

Tell Hilda and Charlie I will write them to-morrow if possible.



Ivyside, Westgate-on-Sea.

[p.m. Dec. 20th, 1882.]

No Ink.

Dearest of Old Ladies,

I have just sent Hilda and Quentin to their teas—not merely upstairs, they have been “loving” me muchly, and are both great fun and very well. Charlie has just come in and joined them upstairs, also well.

I found them all, including Old Folks, at the train last night and we had high tea together.

I have found all the things you want and a lot that I want myself, so am having it all put in the foreign portmanteau with Charlie’s things.

Got up this morning at 9.30, foggy, but has been cloudless sunshine ever since!

How is the old Lady keeping? No Telegrams!

If I don’t get off by the Granville I shall start by the 12 o’clock.

Your loving


In 1883 Charlie had scarlet fever and the family was divided up, my Mother at Ivyside with Charlie and his nurses, my Father in London, the rest of the children went to our grandparents.

My Father and Mother wrote to each other twice daily—at least she wrote twice; here are a few of my Father’s letters, none dated, but all about November 1883; they are not thought-out literature, but just hurried scrawls straight from a most loving heart. To me the endings are almost worth all the rest; but those who do not understand letters are advised to skip them, both letters and endings.

Athenæum Club.

My dearest Nonnie,

What a misfortune. Poor little Charlie, I am glad you sent for a nurse at once, and remember when you think of what is your duty to the poor little fellow, do not forget what is your duty to the other three—that is to say run no risks by which they might afterwards suffer.

Superintend and direct everything that can be done, but leave the personal attendance to the trained nurse or nurses—if more are necessary, get them—they can do it best whatever your motherly instincts may say. And keep yourself bright and strong that your superintendence may continue effective till you have him safe through.

I have been to the R.A. and have come here to write to you, also to Mrs Quilter, to put off a visit.

I shall go home now as I expect a letter from you in the course of the evening.



Friday Morning.

My dear Nonnie,

I hope you have telegraphed for Eliza[4] and another nurse. You must have one to attend during the day and the other at night.

You know what I want you to do because it is not enough to keep aloof from the children. You owe it to them not to expose yourself or run any danger that it is possible to avoid. You must know, too, that it is useless to tell me “not to fidget” about you as long as I know that you are in the sick room. Remember how sensible and right Mrs Steward acted in a similar case, and how happily it all ended, and if she had not acted as she did how very different might have been the result.

Write at once and let me know that you are doing what I desire—you know it is the right thing.

Your anxious


If you don’t reassure me I shall have to come down.

Athenæum Club.

My dear old Lady,

Your letter this morning has made me a little more cheerful. I fancy Charlie’s attack is going to be a mild one, and you are evidently getting things into good working order; but I didn’t go to Hintlesham this afternoon, though they have been telegraphing me to come alone.

Moreover, I have got Tic—just come on—it is difficult to write—it won’t be much, and another letter telling me that you are taking care of yourself will prevent any return.

Yours as much or more than ever you can think.


[At “moreover” the handwriting suddenly becomes jerky.]

My dearest Nonnie,

I wrote to Charlie before coming out and it has just struck me that I had better leave it open in case you would like to read it and so save your going into his room to hear it.

It is a comfort to think his attack is a light one, all you have to do now, I think, is to take care and not let him out too soon, also not to let it spread farther.

I am awfully sorry for you, you dear little prisoner, but your own good sense will tell you that what I have asked you to do is only what is right and that it would have been wrong of me not to press on you.

I think you ought to go out twice a day at least, and be sure that you buy plenty of books. By the way, I must send you down a cheque to-morrow. Try and do everything to make yourself as comfortable as the circumstances permit—get yourself some nice little dinners, Flying Angells, you know—anything to tempt you to eat—lobster, etc. etc.

I have been very busy at the R.A. and at home, and I dine out at night, getting home about ten. Last night I dined with the Petties; they send you their warmest sympathies, in fact all our friends do. The Broughtons called yesterday and asked me, and on Sunday last I took my steak with [Colin] Hunter, he is at present a bachelor like myself, his wife being away while the alterations to the house are going on. I am going to the Barbers to-morrow. I have got the loan of a lamp for my picture, they are to send and put it up in my studio.

Yours with a long kiss and a longing sigh,


Of course, I will do with the children if their Grandmother is tired of them. Make whatever arrangements you think best. I wish I could do more than that in this trouble.

My dearest Nonnie,

Your letters always come together in the morning. Are you sure the servant posts one of them in time?

One of mine seems to have miscarried, perhaps only delayed.

I have a tremendous correspondence going on—never wrote so many letters in my life, all letters addressed to you—chiefly invitations I have opened and answered, not to speak of my own, which have come in a flood. Should you like yours sent on now? Though I suppose I had better open and answer them first.

How fortunate it is that Charlie gets on so well, I feel quite cheerful about him, but on the other hand there is poor you—a prisoner, it is too bad. And by jove I don’t like the prospect.

Last night I dined at the Athenæum alone and solemnly, to-night I go to the Barbers.

I hope Charlie has got the musical-box I sent and likes it. Sarah has packed up what you asked for, so I suppose you will get them to-morrow. Be sure and let me know of anything I can do.

Is there a photo up here? I want to kiss it.

With great love,


Enclosed a cheque £10. Sign it on the back.

P.S. to the one I wrote at the Club, forgot the cheque. Just home in time for post.

Don’t identify yourself with all you read, you “ain’t everybody,” as the gutter blood said.

I am Yours,


Athenæum Club,


My dear Nonnie,

I find that I sent you the wrong cheque, I would enclose your one which was made out in your name but I have left it at Spenser Street. The one I sent was for myself, if you have not cashed it you had better let me have it back.

This affair, as you say, will be expensive, but it’s all right as long as I keep well. You are right, too, about the will as there is danger about. I will do it at once, but you must send me the key of the drawer.

I am so bothered with the Academy[5] and other things that I don’t get on so fast with my work as I should like. I finish, however, with the Academy this week and shall be able to settle to it with more steadiness.

I started the “Mariage de Convenance” on a new canvas, it will, I think, be much better. I have been at work all day and have just got here, 4.15 p.m.

Deschamps lunched with me, he is to send for Jessica to-morrow, and is thinking of trying to sell the Voltaire sketch to the Melbourne National Gallery. The Barbers send you their kindest sympathies—their house is just the sort of thing you would like. Now for a cup of tea, then to the R.A.

I am awfully tired of living without you, but am delighted that you are so well and going into the open air.

Your loving


My dear Nonnie,

Forester called at tea-time and has stayed so long that I am now too late for the post. I will post this, however, and you will get it in the afternoon. Forester’s little girl is nearly well—a very light attack.

They—Mr and Mrs—came away as soon as the fever declared itself—her “time” will be about the New Year.

I am glad Charlie is going on so well. You ask about the skin and the kidneys—well, the skin relieves the body by the pores of a great deal of the waste in the form of moisture in which it is aided by the kidneys. When, therefore, the skin loses its action the whole work is thrown upon the kidneys.

Perugini had sent me a very good model for the “Mariage” picture, but I have no dress yet, I must get one made. Has Mrs Mannering[6] likely stuffs? And what is her address?

Yours with much love,



My very dear Nonnie,

No letters to-day, of course, and to-morrow I suppose you will have none, though I write this on the chance of your getting it in the evening. Your letters come all right now, morning and evening.

Forester called one afternoon to get me with him to the theatre. I was out, so he wrote a note telling me about his little girl. I understood him to say she was well again and that Mrs Forester had come up to town. What is his address?

I have now finished with the Academy and feel a little free. The students’ sketches we hung up in the water-colour gallery; and the students from the other classes, as well as those I visited, were there so that I had a considerable audience to address—male and female. I don’t know whether they understood what I said, but the applause sounded as if they did—all this sounds egotistical, but telling it to you is only telling it to my better self—and a pleasure I don’t share with you is not worth much.

But how is Charlie? You see how easy my mind is about him now. How long will it be before he has a clean bill of health? Ask Treves[7], and think of your loving


Photo Watt & Son
By kind permission of the James Orchar Art Gallery.

Athenæum Club,


My dear old Lady,

I finished up yesterday by asking you to think of me! But don’t—that is to say don’t do it enough to worry though I am getting tired of this and in a hurry to have you back again.

Your letter this morning was better for breakfast than the daily paper, which it quite cut out. Your ideas about the blue room are evidently taking a distinct form. Did you, by the way, treat the dining-room and our bedroom in the same judicious manner as you have done the drawing-room? When the time comes perhaps you had better write to the fever hospital in Margate and offer them the contents of Charlie’s room.

I was invited to Sir W. Sumen’s [?] funeral, the service was in Westminster Abbey, took place this forenoon. Poor old boy, I am really sorry.

How is our little patient? And when will he be completely peeled? I shall be awfully glad to see him again.

Ask Mama to let me have her photo of you, she can have another by and by. I have meant writing to Papa for a long time, but it never fits in. I’ll just manage to squeeze in this with an extra stamp.

My next letter will, if possible, talk as you wish about my work.

Your patient,


Arts Club,

Hanover Sq.

My dear Weenie,

I am delighted that everything is going straight at last and that my darling boy is with you again. Give him my love, and tell him how pleased I shall be on Saturday, when I will give you both a good hug.

I took Miss Taylor to the theatre last night. The two seats in front of us were occupied by Mr and Mrs Wallis—Mrs Merten’s sister [of Westgate]—great joke—they don’t know Ada—no doubt they talked the matter over on their way home.

I am here on my way up to Graham—had another reminder from him.

Have finished the little picture, it goes home to-morrow, and perhaps I may be down to you by the morning train [on Saturday].

Let me know if there is anything you want me to bring you. I am awfully sorry you don’t feel strong—wait till I come down!

Meantime with much love and many kisses,

I am yours impatiently,



My dear old Lady,

What a wicked letter I got this morning! However, I have got your other one, which balances things a little.

I have been at the Academy and working late, Uncle is here and says I have little time for the post. Saw Lockyer last night, he sends his very best sympathies—so does everybody. When I left the Academy last night I had quite an ovation, I could hear the row all the way through the building.

I will get a book for Charlie to-night if I can.

Good night, you dear, small little thing, besides, I’ve changed my mind as to the pleasure of kicking free!

Yours, with many kisses,


Athenæum Club.

My jo[8] Nonnie,

Got your letter this morning, you are busy. Don’t throw away a chance so throw away the mattress you doubt about.

I have just been at the tailors to try on again and just as well. The coat was too tight across the chest—much—they have to make a new front.

I have just popped in here to write to you to Barber and to Maclean—rather hard that about the price! Never mind, I am for all that

Still your Sweetheart,



My dear old anxious Pet,

Don’t worry, it is all right, and I shall be down to-morrow by the morning’s train, when we will talk matters over and comfort one another.

I have just been at the stores [A and N] in the interest of Quentin and Ian, I will have now to look after Charlie’s.

Till to-morrow with a kiss on account,

Yours very,



My dear old Lady,

When I read your letter this morning my internal spirit cut a caper. I am so glad you’re coming up, you must be so dull, so tired and so lonely, besides you are in the meantime not required in the character of nurse.

You say I am to expect you on Saturday by the Granville, if I don’t hear to the contrary! Don’t let me hear to the contrary.

I was going to give you a full account of my doings in the way of housekeeping, etc., but of course that will keep till to-morrow, when we, most likely, will have a small talk! Yet to-morrow seems a longish time, doesn’t it!

Here is Cameron.

Uncle has been for some time.

Good-bye till to-morrow,

Yours so much,


[1] Dust.

[2] My Grandfather’s windows next door.

[3] The Southampton Arms, where Turner stayed to paint these wonderful sunsets (caused by London smoke sixty miles distant it is supposed), was pulled down in 1878-1879.

[4] Favourite old Scotch servant who came and went at intervals.

[5] He was “visitor” at the R.A. Schools at the time.

[6] Dressmaker.

[7] The doctor from Margate.

[8] Scots=sweetheart.


My parents now resumed their happy life together, to their great content, sometimes at Westgate, most often at Spenser Street. My Father worked in the morning and frequently played tennis in the afternoon, at Lord’s, at Prince’s, and sometimes Queen’s Club; my Mother read aloud while he was working and at any other time when they had nothing else to do in particular. She read tirelessly and well, though in a curiously expressionless way, which my Father liked very much, he said it allowed him to put in the expression for himself, and to be his own interpreter of the author’s meaning.

My Mother had been taught elocution by Mrs Dallas—Miss Glynn, the actress—with whom she remained friends after the lessons were finished with.

In August 1883 Mrs Dallas wrote to W. Q. O. telling him that she was opening a new school of dramatic teaching, and hoped to make it quite a National School of Dramatic Art and highest literature—clerical too. “My programme already represents the Church, the Stage, Literature and Art—so your name, you see, I wish too.”

W. Q. O. wrote in answer [unsigned draft of letter]:

Dear Miss Glynn,

I am more than vexed, I am exasperated, to find that by some uncanny fatality I have neglected your note. As no excuse could be equal to the occasion, I must trust to your generosity for a free pardon and a good-natured forgetfulness.

As to the subject of your note I need not say how pleased I should be to have my name associated in however slight a degree with yours in the good work you propose.

I do not know if you are aware that there has been an addition to the family here, but I take this opportunity while sending you my wife’s love to let you know that both she and the new boy are doing better than can be expected.

When there were no babies in the way they often went to the theatre, of which both were very fond, dining first at a restaurant and then going to the chosen theatre on the chance of getting a couple of returned stalls, in which they were generally successful, and winding up with a lobster supper. They usually went à deux but occasionally à quatre, amongst their favourite companions for this form of amusement being Mr and Mrs Winchester Clowes; beautiful Mrs Clowes, as lovely in character as in face, being as much loved by my Mother as admired by my Father.

One evening, returning from such an expedition, they were met by an agitated cook-housekeeper—Mr and Mrs MacWhirter had arrived at dinner time. My Father and my Mother looked at each other—no need to continue the tale; they had completely forgotten the engagement till this reminder. They were so entirely sorry and ashamed of their delinquency that such good old friends as the MacWhirters found no difficulty in forgiving them.

Another evening they arrived very late for dinner at the Percy Macquoids. My Father apologized in his usual charming and disarming manner saying that somehow they had accepted two invitations for the same night, “of course, that was my wife’s fault. I take no responsibility for such things—and we had to call round at the other house to explain matters and say we preferred coming here.”

The Macquoids were much flattered, but I wonder what W. Q. O. really said to the other people?

An undated letter from Sir Norman Lockyer illustrates the same little habit:

My dear Orchardson,

Oh, shall I ever get over it??? I have eaten your dinner as well as my own, the demons! I waited for you for three-quarters of an hour and then sent a message to the Athenæum people. Now, for the love of everything that is beautiful, don’t forget Willis’ Rooms on Friday next at 6.

Ever yours,

N. Lockyer.

The absent-minded pair often went out to dinner on the wrong night; but my Father would take no blame—he considered that such domestic matters as dates were entirely his wife’s concern. On the rare occasions that he expressed an opinion on a date, matters were made worse, because then there were two wrong notions instead of one! Later in life they became, after a hard struggle, slightly more methodical, but once absent-minded, always absent-minded.

Another form of absent-mindedness which caused them a good deal of trouble at different times was their habit of forgetting all about money affairs until a polite note from the bank informed W. Q. O. that his account was overdrawn. But once the Westgate bank wrote to him after many years that he still had money there from the time he left Westgate. The needs of a growing family taught my Mother a certain amount of economy; not so my Father, who never knew he was not a rich man. He always felt that if ever he wanted money, he had merely to paint a picture; it did not occur to him that some day he might be old and unable to work hard or even at all.

His only notion of saving is illustrated by the following letter to his wife, undated but probably about 1882 or 1883.

Arts Club.

I am sorry the weenie lassie was down a peg yesterday. I hope, however, it is a peg up to-day. I shall most probably find myself in the train suddenly some day soon. I was at work to-day but the colours went dry it was so cold.

I got the length of the “Grove” this afternoon and found the fair at home, saw her work—improved—and her brother young.

Bought a chair, Louis 14th, same as the one we have (£4), also another sort, very good (£1), so you see I have been making economy.

I want to kiss you and only wish I could.

All yours,


When he grew old and ill my Mother managed all the business affairs, and to her lasting honour be it told, never allowed her husband to suspect even that she would be very poor at his death; so great was her desire that his last days should be full of peace and happiness.

They were great diners-out until W. Q. O. grew delicate—if only a phonograph had been available in those days to record the witty talk!

They often dined at the Seymour Trowers; Mr Trower was a tennis player and so rabid a Socialist that political talk was barred at his table; but he was afterwards secretary to the Navy League, I believe. One night when W. S. Gilbert and his wife were present, conversation took a domestic turn and butchers were discussed. Mrs Gilbert mentioned a memorable joint and said, “I had it cut off myself.” Mr Gilbert, being in a lively witty mood, immediately remarked, “No wonder it was so tender!” amidst the laughter of all the table. Mrs Gilbert apparently did not at once see the joke—she was very pretty, by the way.

But Gilbert was not always amiable. At a dinner at Hyndford House, he and William Black started an argument as to whether Thackeray or Dickens were the greater man, Gilbert being, I believe, in favour of Thackeray and Black voting for Dickens. The argument went on and on, my Father trying to keep the peace; the ladies left, and still the argument went on; it came upstairs to the drawing-room, and finally the two men quarrelled outright and left the house unreconciled. They quite spoilt the evening, and my Father was very angry at this breach of good manners. Black, by the way, appears to have been rather a dull conversationalist, and my Father humorously explained it by saying that, of course, authors always kept their “good things” for their books.

Show Sunday—the Sunday before sending-in day at the R.A.—is quite an institution amongst artists. On it they entertain their friends and the pictures are on view. Some artists admit strangers, but my people never did; some, too, remain to act as hosts but my Father fled. On rare occasions he would remain half an hour or so to see some special person, but as a rule he disappeared after luncheon. The following letter seems to indicate (politely) that on one occasion at least he fled as far as Westgate to his father-in-law.

Beach Cliff,


[About Spring 1889.]

My dear old Lady,

You must have been tired. Wish I had been at hand to give you a lift with your visitors.

Shall be up if possible on Monday. Meantime have caught another chill.

Papa has just gone down to breakfast and has had a particularly long rest and is particularly well. Walked with him and his old lady yesterday, sat in the shelter [a covered seat on the cliff], and chatted with her who used to be Doris M., also her sister and young Gascoigne—the former one—so you see I have been sociable during your absence. Moreover, I am under notice of being “carried” to a big tea-party this afternoon—all the Westgate Young Ladies, including the Foresters. Shall strike. Like you, I have to put up with a lot of things I don’t like, chief of which is your absence! And not the least the recurrent cold.

Kiss them all for me—they are all pets and so are you.

Your affectionate,


Beach Cliff,


[Jan. 1890.]

I never criticize your letters to me. I like them, as they come straight without a thought of revision . . . Papa is really very well, not, of course, strong, but lively, and comes down to all meals (except breakfast). Travers [the doctor] has been I suppose, and the children, of course, are all well. The detachment here are flourishing and more. The weather has been trying to clear up, but has not succeeded yet, so that squeegees, not rackets, have been on the courts, but to-morrow we hope it will be the turn of the rackets.

I have not forgotten the old port, but the keys! the keys!! Happily there is some very good here, and Mama is going to decant a couple of bottles, so I will not return empty-handed.

I am not going to spend Wednesday evening with Leighton, but with You. Meanwhile till then—and then—and after,

I am,



[Undated, probably 13 p.p.]

Dear old One,

Things are going like a pendulum.

Up this morning before being called! found Hilda superintending breakfast like an angel!!

Got your letter before finishing. They all enjoyed it and are quite well, thank you.

Did you take away the electric lighting account? I can’t find it.

Waiting for that telegram,



Refused two invitations to dinner last night, so kept faith and high-tea’d with the children.

13 Portland Place.


My dear Pet,

I have just got your letter—and what a letter! Poor X, I am sorry. He was one to miss among one’s friends. The Colonel [Jones] did not call so your news came on one like a pistol shot.

Ian is a rum chap to go for neuralgia so early—I hope he will grow out of it.

Like you, I can’t think of anything now but poor X, so good night.[1]

I have not got accustomed to be without you yet.

Yours as you know,


W. Q. O. went to many public and semi-public banquets which he enjoyed very much except when he had to make a set speech. My Mother’s diary for 1883 gives a little account of one banquet:

HARD HIT, 1879
By kind permission of Messrs. Scott & Fowles, New York.

February 15th. A showery day. Dear old Q. goes off to Scotland with Pettie, MacWhirter, Cameron, Archer, etc., to be at Sir W. F. Douglas’ first banquet at the R.S.A. I was to have gone too, but “Victor” [Ian] came so I could not, which was a sad disappointment.

Telegram: Edinburgh, 7 p.m. Feb. 15th, 1883.

to Mrs W. Q. Orchardson,

Spenser Street.

W. Q. Orchardson,


Arrived all right Hay Lockhart Mac and others at station. Shall write to-morrow. Weather wet.

February 16th. My thoughts run wild all the afternoon about my darling little Céleste. Having my dear old Quiller away gives me too much time to think.

February 17th. No letter from Q, but one from Mrs Robertson [with whom he was staying], but that is not the same thing at all. I dreamt I could not find him.

February 18th. A pouring wet morning. Quiller arrives from Scotland; we are awfully rejoiced to get to one another again, and he tells me all that happened. He went with Pettie, MacWhirter, Archer, Faed and Calder Marshall, they were met at Edinburgh by Hay (Sec. R.S.A.) and other members of the R.S.A. Quiller went straight to the J. P. B. Robertsons (the Lord Advocate) where he was to dine. It was a dinner of 18, a pleasant evening and they sat up talking till 1 a.m. Friday was the banquet at the R.S.A., where they were all very happy and the new President very successful.

After the banquet a number of them adjourned to Robertson Smith’s house, R. S. showed them some wonderful things from Arabia; he gave Quiller one of his treasures, a little bronze idol 2000 years old. But the next night seems to have been—at any rate for us—the eventful night. The President gave a private dinner to the R.S.A.’s in the library of the Academy; there Quiller, Pettie, Faed and Calder Marshall all sat together near the President, who proposed the toast of the London members. Q. was called upon to respond, which was very unexpected, but he seems to have got through it very well. He wound up by saying he would shake hands with the President for them all as he had to leave at once to catch the train home. At that, they gave him “Highland Honours,” i.e. standing on their chairs with one foot on the table, waving their glasses and cheering. As Quiller left the room he could hear the noise all the way down to the entrance. He brought me the flower which was placed at the table for him. How nice it is to think he loves me, and how delighted I was to receive him this morning—though I am not demonstrative, but we were both so delighted to meet again. I feel so happy to think other people appreciate his genius.

My Mother kept that flower till she died, then left it to me; I have it now, faded and falling to pieces, but its faint fragrance still tells of their most beautiful love.

In her diary my Mother writes in her simple way: “I am neither beautiful nor clever, and lots of people think Quiller married me for my money—luckily I hadn’t any. . . . How he loves me!”

Of all the banquets Orchardson attended I think the Academy banquet was the one he enjoyed most, partly, perhaps, from a sense of being a host. Some extracts from my Mother’s diary of 1883 or 1884 (she has muddled them) may be of interest:

May 4th. A fine cold day. The Private View to which we go at 1 o’clock. The picture looks splendid and I am so happy, we get many congratulations; it is very trying to one’s feelings, but very nice. Though the picture is so awfully praised I am not quite happy, because Quiller told me yesterday that Faed got a letter warning him not to go to the Banquet because they were all to be blown up with dynamite. I do wish Quiller wouldn’t go; the whole building has been searched by the council and police and there are to be two detectives day and night. Q. is gone to Macdonald’s to dinner and I have to stay at home and think of dynamite.

May 5th. A fine cold day. Good little Quiller promises not to go to the Banquet, but I think it is too bad of me and selfish not to let him go, so change my mind and send him. Of course, I spend an evening of anxiety and listen for explosions, but he comes home all safe and sound. The place had been well searched and there were plenty of detectives and soldiers. Q. sat between the Rt. Hon. — Foster and Mr. Swabe.

May 9th. Q. and I come back to London from Westgate by the Granville. Have lunch and then go and look at some things for sale. During our journey up Q. again tells me the story of his quarrel with A. S., who once abused Pettie’s pictures very much and Quiller (naturally on Pettie’s side) objected to it. Then, at a dinner some time after, Q. saw that he was placed next to A. S. and begged his host to put him next someone else. The host said, of course, he would be delighted to change their positions if there was anything between them. A. S. happened to overhear this conversation and was very indignant and said Quiller had publicly insulted him.

Of course, it was not good policy on Quiller’s part and now A. S. always gives it to him pretty hot. MacWhirter heard him say at the R.A. the other day that Q.’s was by far the best picture, but he didn’t like it for all that.

[A. S. must have said something very unfair about Pettie to make the peaceable Orchardson so very angry.]

May 11th. We dine at the Jacksons; quite a large dinner party.

May 12th. We go down to Aldenham Abbey and find it a very nice place.

May 13th. A beautiful day. We go for a walk about the grounds with Mr Macgregor, etc. After lunch, Q. and I go and sit under a tree and I read to him and we are both very happy.

May 14th. A wet day. We stay in, but spend a pleasant day in the billiard-room. Then we go to see “Tiny” act in some private theatricals of which we don’t think much.

May 15th. We come back from Aldenham Abbey where we had a very pleasant time. It is quite summer to-day. We go to see Papa and Mama in their apartments.

May 17th. We take a penny boat to Westminster.

“Penny Boating” seems to have been rather a favourite amusement at this time.

My grandparents started an old servant of thirty years’ service in a boarding house in London and always stayed there, where, of course, they were very well and even affectionately cared for.

After sending in the pictures to the Academy my parents usually went to France, Paris only as a rule, but occasionally further afield. They took me with them two or three times later on, but it is rather boring being number three of a honeymoon party; I found my Father and Mother more entertaining when they were separate than when they were together. Not that they were in anyway neglectful or careless, au contraire they were attentive and charming, but I could feel in every sensitive quivering nerve, could “sense,” that I was de trop, and that they would be happier alone.

My Mother’s diary gives a little account of a tour they made in 1886:

May 5th. My birthday. We start for the Continent. Hilda saw us off. Met David Murray with a large party on the boat. Arrive at Paris after a delightful crossing.

May 6. We go to the Salon which is very poor. Meet the Gilbeys in the evening.

May 7th. We start for Loudenne (the Walter Gilbey’s Wine Estate), arrive at Libourne about 7.30 a.m. where there is a little steamer to take the party down the Dordogne to the Château. We have a most enjoyable time with a beautiful day, arriving at Loudenne a little before one.

May 8th. A beautiful day. Eighteen to dinner.

May 11th. A better day, but still cold. We drive to Langeac seeing vines all the way, interesting, but the country flat and vines for ever. Monsieur and Mme Aubert leave.

May 14th. We drive to Château Lafitte, the Rothschilds’ place; also to Montrose, belonging to Monsieur Dollfus. Then to Monsieur Marman’s [?], a pretty place. We have had fires for several days. Quiller still very poorly through eating pâté de fois gras.

May 15th. We leave Château Loudenne for Bordeaux, having spent a very pleasant time, but still we are delighted to get away and be alone again. Worse luck young Lacoste travels with us to Bordeaux. He is very nice, but, of course, it prevents Quiller and me making love to one another. Mrs Gilbey laughs and says we are on our 13th honeymoon. So we are. We arrive at Bordeaux at about 6 o’clock, dine at the table d’hôte and stroll about after dinner. It is a fine town, but poor old Q. still does not feel well.

May 22nd. On Saturday evening we dined with poor old Monsieur Meller who had hurt his leg. We met young Gradis—belonging to people we met at Mrs. Phillips’—and he asks us to dine at his mother’s house.

May 23rd. Sunday. We go by boat though it is a wet, cold day. Château Laurier, Lormont, is a beautiful place overlooking the river. The Gradis gave us a very warm welcome. We drove back in the evening. Before going to the Gradis we were at a fencing-match.

May 24th. Quiller played tennis several times at Bordeaux. [Both were much struck by the many traces still remaining of the English occupation hundreds of years ago, my Father told me.] We went to Toulouse and found most interesting old houses and churches.

May 25th. We go to Nîmes to see my dear old Céleste. We arrive late.

[Mlle Céleste Léveillé was headmistress of the Ecole Normal at Nîmes at this time.]

May 26th. Céleste calls in the morning looking about the same. She takes us round to see the curiosities of Nîmes, it is the most interesting place we have yet seen. A very fine amphitheatre wonderfully well preserved; also a beautiful Roman bath, the finest real old thing one can imagine, but it is not all unearthed and also they keep water in the wrong places. There are so many fine things one cannot enumerate them.

May 26th to 30th. We spent one day at Aigues-Mortes with Céleste and her pupils. Aigues-Mortes is an old battlemented town of the eleventh century, and Saint Louis embarked there for the Holy Land. We went on to Gros (?) du Rois, a wretched little place by the sea which has left Aigues-Mortes fifteen miles behind.

There is now a canal and we come back to Aigues-Mortes in a barge. The sun was setting and the girls sang a French hymn to the Infinite; and as the sun set they stood up in their excitement and it made a wonderfully fine picture.

[W. Q. O. was much impressed by the deep feeling shown by these French girls and by the beautiful scene; for a long time he meditated a picture founded on this, but it never “came off,” as my Mother would say.]

May 26th to June 1st. We lunched with Céleste and her Governesses and went to a performance in the “Arena” which we all enjoyed very much. Céleste, of course, was with us every day. We said good-bye to her and she has promised to come and stay with us next year, then we left for Lyons. A fine large town. We went to the new church “Notre Dame de Fouvières,” built in fulfilment of some priest’s vow when he prayed for the Prussians not to come to Lyons during the war of 1870-71. The church was begun in 1872, the little chapel next to it is most painful to see, full of superstitious emblems, one gets quite sad thinking about the poor deluded people.

June 2nd. We left Lyons for Paris and go to the Hotel Binda, very dear.

June 3rd. We lunch and dine in the Champs Elysée and hear a good Hungarian Band. I call on Madame Nicolas and poor Madame Jouanin whom I was distressed to see a shadow of her former self.

While we were dining Quiller had a sudden attack of tic, so we were obliged to go home and not see the Hippodrome.

June 4th. We start for London. Quiller has had tic all night and it goes on all day. A very rough crossing.

June 5th. We are delighted to be back again. Charlie comes from school to see us. He is looking thin. We take him to the Colindies and strangely enough, meet the Petties. We all dine together.

June 6th. Quiller starts his work, draws the cartoon; it will be an excellent picture, I am quite anxious to see it begun.

[1] This refers to a friend who committed suicide on being ruined; for obvious reasons I cannot find the date.


By 1887 my people were tired of Spenser Street and removed to 13 Portland Place, where the artist built himself a studio to his own design, a really beautiful room, hung with wonderful old tapestries and filled with fine old furniture; at one end were the curtains and red and brown Italian marble columns that he used in many of his pictures; at the other end was the great north window, with the ingenious, curved sky-light top which he invented himself, to obviate the narrowness of Devonshire Street. Here “lived” the two picture pianos (which he afterwards presented to the South Kensington Museum), black Spanish furniture, gilded Empire furniture and a motley collection of artist treasures—an inlaid marble shrine, a gilded Buddha (the perfection of peace, how I loved that!), Japanese bronze vases, ancient weapons, and a wonderful old bishop’s sofa; though why one bishop should require a sofa big enough for a dozen bishops and an archbishop to boot we could never discover.

In the middle of the floor near the north window stood the big easel, the brown wood “throne” close by; palette, brushes and colours in an old brown oak English desk with a lift-up table top. For all the beauty of the rest of the room, these simple things always seemed to me the centre of it and the user of them, the heart and brain; no other room or studio he ever had was so entirely his own, none ever matched his fine head and wonderful mind as this one did. It was his favourite—it was there he painted his last picture and there he told his wife: “I am finished.”

The drawing-rooms were papered with a patterned gold paper over which was superimposed a matte-white painted pattern of Orchardson’s own design—a sort of fleur-de-lis, I think—through which the gold shone; a beautiful paper that caused my Mother, and later tenants, considerable trouble because nothing would induce my Father to have it changed.

“Her Mother’s Voice,” and “The Rivals,” are almost exact portraits of the drawing-room—indeed, the whole of the house was a “property” house, full of sometimes dilapidated, but always beautiful things; it was difficult to get suitable stuffs to re-upholster the chairs, and they remained torn until a happy accident of a shop-window discovered the right material.

My brother Charlie was by this time at Linton House School, kept by a brother-in-law of Mr. Pettie’s, my parents having decided against a public school for any of their sons, a decision they very much regretted in after years.

I was sent to a celebrated girls’ school near by where French was taught in such a manner that my Mother used to re-correct my French exercises after they had been “corrected” at school. For history and geography we were made to learn a couple of pages off by heart more or less and no explanations were ever given. So after two wasted terms I was sent to a cousin of Mr. Pettie’s, a Miss Palmer, where I remained till I left school for good (oh, joyous day!) and came home—to learn.

My Father was my teacher, often in “long language” that would have made a dictionary a comfort. At meal times, at any time he would discourse on art, politics, history; and from him I learned a deep reverence for the Creator, and respect for every Faith of whatsoever sort—he was angered if anyone spoke of Mahommedans and Buddhists as heathens, or in fact anyone of any religion.

In all the thirty years before my marriage we only quarrelled twice, and each time the cause was the same—I very foolishly thought that he believed that I was not telling the truth, and that I would take from no one. Both quarrels ended in the same way, by his putting his arm round my shoulders and kissing me, saying that he would never disbelieve me and that he was very sorry for any misunderstanding. To this day I remember his quivering arm and his strong face pale with distress.

He would brook no contradiction, however, and I usually, to avoid being “sat on,” put my contradictory remarks in question form. When he “sat on” people he did it very thoroughly, though, my Mother assured me, unconsciously.

As an example of his caustic wit, here is the tale of a young man who suffered severely from side, and said to my Father, “Haw—you don’t smoke—haw?”

“No,” replied my Father, “I don’t even bite my nails.”

We were all rather inclined to use our “little Mother” as a buffer; one felt one’s brains quite sufficiently worm-like without having the fact rubbed in even unconsciously. But if one went to him for advice and sympathy one got them full measure and running over; no one was ever kinder.

He soon found out that school bored me and that I was homesick, and offered a Saturday expedition in his kind understanding way.

Westgate. [About Oct. 1889.]

My dearest Pet,

We—your Mother and I—were delighted to have your nice little letter and are very pleased with two things, first, that you are sorry to leave home, and second that you are nevertheless happy at school.

I miss you very much, and am no more to be found on the cliffs or seen on the road to Epple Bay. So you see I, too, make a sacrifice in letting you go to school.

We go to Portland Place next Saturday evening, but I don’t know if I shall be able to come and see you on the Sunday as I shall have too much to do, but I shall be with you on the following Saturday immediately after lunch. Meantime give kindest and most respectful regards to the Imperial Shah,[1] and think of me as your very loving

Father, also Titumy.

On his asking “what form the expedition was to take,” I shyly said the National Gallery, much to his surprise; he had not supposed that any of his children were interested in art, he said. A hansom took us there, and doubtless we saw many pictures, but of them all I remember only one, and that is as clear as though this jaunt were yesterday—Gainsborough’s “Mrs Siddons.” My Father pointed out its various beauties, in particular the wonderful hand. Then he called my attention to Reynolds and then to the Turner and Claude hanging close together, for comparison, he said; but we went back to the “Mrs Siddons” several times.

My Father, by the way, once said he had never had any text-books on art; his father had given him Reynolds’ book when he was a boy, but he never read farther than the first chapter.

One morning coming home from school for the holidays I went to the studio to greet my Father during working hours and found him gazing at a new canvas, spotless and exciting.

“What is it to be?” I asked.

“That,” he answered, turning to me with a quizzical smile, “that is the very finest picture I ever painted. I always see the most wonderful pictures on the bare white canvas, but the trouble is to seize them and fix them; one is always disappointed.”

Taking up his sketching portfolio—a stiff cover filled with ordinary kitchen paper—he showed me the sketch of the new picture that shone so vividly before him; just a wilderness of pencil smudges indicating light and shadow—nothing else. Even with the aid of his vigorous directing thumb it was almost impossible to see anything; so I begged him to let me see him begin a picture, a very rare privilege. He took up a piece of charcoal and with a few careful but quick and unhesitating strokes, he made the bare canvas live.

Some days later I saw the picture again; each figure was well indicated and each head had the eyes, nose and mouth carefully drawn in pencil, and some bits were half finished.

Photo The French Gallery
By kind permission of the Liverpool Art Gallery.

About four years later I was again present at the beginning of a picture; this time there was a pair of eyes on the canvas, live, recognizable eyes, finished, but nothing else whatever.

“But where is the rest of the face?” I asked, “and who is it?”

“Oh, there.” An energetic thumb “drew” an imaginary nose and mouth on the canvas. “It is Lord Kelvin; he has the most wonderful introspective eyes; they seem to be seeing inwardly all the time.”

“Then these painted eyes must be exactly like. But where is the pencil drawing? I can see none.”

“There is none,” he answered; “I used to draw things in very carefully, but that was before I was sure of myself. Now I am sure, and pencil drawing is unnecessary. I just go straight ahead.”

“I should like to see your magic brushes,” said I.

With a smile he held out two miserable specimens of worn-out hog’s hair brushes, one with three hairs left, the other with four—literally.

“Then the magic is the painter, I think,” and my dear modest Father blushed like a schoolboy.

To relieve our embarrassment I asked: “I bet Leighton doesn’t use worn-out rubbish of the sort?”

“No, indeed, he has a proper collection of brushes, hog’s hair, camel’s hair, badger’s hair and all the rest of it.”

“Other people admire Leighton; I don’t. Why? Am I so very wrong?”

“No, you are quite right; he can’t draw, he can’t paint, and he is no colourist.”

“You are severe. And Millais?”

My Father’s face lighted up with enthusiasm. “Ah! that is a different matter altogether; he can draw, he is a colourist, and, moreover, he can paint.”

“What do you mean exactly by the expression ‘he can paint’?”

“I mean he understands the technique of painting, that he uses his medium, the actual paints, in a proper manner.”

“Then you admire Millais?”


“And Sargent?”

“Magnificent, if he would only finish things, but he can’t. Some people never learn to finish; they see so far and no further.”

“Who do you consider the greatest of all artists?”

“Titian,” he answered. “Most people put Raphael first, but he died young and I don’t think he attained his full strength. Painters are never precocious like musicians, which shows that painting is an intellectual art and music merely emotional—a child can feel but cannot think, the brain is not developed.”

He was unable to tell me which was the greater, Reynolds or Gainsborough, they were too different; Reynolds, perhaps, was the more forceful, Gainsborough the more refined.

On my saying that his own and Gainsborough’s work was not really alike, yet had certain qualities of refinement, I thought, in common, he blushed with pleasure and fell to pondering the matter; finally he agreed shyly, and remarked that “art was not fine art unless it was refined.”

Our conversation was ended by Lord Kelvin coming in to sit: I should have recognized him anywhere merely by the painted eyes.

On another occasion I watched my Father painting an Aubusson carpet—just straight ahead—no pencil marks, no charcoal, not a sign of any perspective mysteries.

“How on earth do you do it?” I ejaculated as the magic carpet grew under my eyes—never a hesitation, never an alteration. He could offer no explanation except, “I just see it.”

As I put his brushes in turpentine and cleaned his palette I remarked that the latter looked almost as though it had not been used. He laughed as he said: “Yes, some fellahs like to paint their palettes, but I prefer to paint my picture!”

“But you do paint very thin, don’t you?”

“Not really. I remember Pettie complained of my paint being too thin one day when he was looking at a carpet I had just been working on. So I asked him how many carpets he supposed were there, and he answered, “One, of course, I can see the canvas.” “Well,” I answered, “there are two carpets underneath that one.”

“Could you always draw in perspective as easily as you can now?” I asked.

“No, not quite, but it was never any real trouble to me—a pin and a bit of thread were all I required. Did I ever tell you about the deck of the Bellerophon in ‘Napoleon’? Pettie thought the boards would be an awful business and said he would send me a man who made a job of doing difficult perspective drawings for painters. The man came and I left him at it. When I came back late that night the man was gone and the drawing finished—quite correct, but all wrong! The deck was standing on end. So I sent for the housemaid’s scrubbing brush and scrubbed out the poor man’s work-of-hours. Then before going to bed I drew it in again, without any trouble, not as a lined, flat thing really is, which is perspective, but as the eye sees it, which is incorrectly. It is no use drawing what the eye does not see.”

One day returning from the Tate Gallery where I had been looking at “The First Cloud,” I remarked: “What a rage the woman is in—her eyes must be simply flashing fire.”

“Eyes flashing fire,” my Father exclaimed, “that is absolute nonsense; eyes can’t flash fire—except, perhaps, a dog’s, which refract light. But a human eye is only a mirror and has no expression whatsoever in itself—the expression is entirely in the lids.”

After discussing Millais’ “Chill October” and other landscapes, I remarked: “I wish you would paint a landscape.”

“That’s one of the things I am always going to do,” he answered, “a landscape painter’s life is the most delightful there is. Most landscapes, you know, are merely copies of nature, not really pictures at all. What is all right in nature is always wrong on the flat surface of a picture; you must select.”

“Which is your best picture?” I asked.

“I haven’t painted it yet—it is always the next one, the one I see on the bare canvas.”

Orchardson was a severe but very kind and most interesting critic. It was quite exciting when he was on the Council and Hanging Committee of the Royal Academy; who was in and who was out, and were there any new men? All told under promise of complete secrecy, of course. He sometimes even telegraphed from Piccadilly to my Mother at Portland Place as: “Montagu South Johnstone first room Lyric left centre second Charlie only portrait Orchardson.”

On my asking if it were not very hard work, he replied that hanging was, but merely being on the Council[2] was quite easy; all you had to do was to sit still and wave your hand to the carpenters to pass on the pictures as fast as they could bring them up. Pictures of genius or of outstanding merit were accepted without hesitation or discussion.[3] It was the doubtful ones that caused all the trouble. When several pictures were all more or less bad it was very difficult to choose the least bad; it was then that the personal equation—the favouritism and unfairness the Academy was accused of—might possibly come into play.

If there was nothing to choose between the pictures, one of the members would say, “I know the man that painted that, let’s give him a chance.” It was only natural that that picture should be marked D. But it rarely happened, and in no case was a bad picture given preference over a good one. No doubt the Academy made mistakes occasionally, all human institutions do, but after all it was the R.A.’s interest to choose the best pictures possible for their exhibition. As to the gossip of the general public that the Academy refused to elect the best men, it was ridiculous; to start with, the general public had no right whatsoever to criticize the Royal Academy, which was and is a private institution; to go on with, it was utterly absurd to suppose that a body constituted for the express purpose of encouraging art would refuse admittance to the best artists.

Orchardson was extraordinarily loyal to the R.A. and would not admit that any artist worthy of election was an “outsider” except by his own choice.

There was an example of the rubbish sent in to the R.A. that my Father always remembered. The carpenter brought a picture and stood it up before the Council. “That’s topsy-turvy,” said the Council. The picture was turned. “No, no, the other way.” Again the picture was turned. Again “no.” “Well, there’s only one more way; let’s try that,” said the Council. The picture was turned once more, but still no subject was discoverable; and just for fun it was turned again several times, but the learned Council never found either the subject or even which side up it was intended to go. So it was marked with an X, and no doubt the artist thought the R.A. most unfair and prejudiced.

The income of the R.A. is spent chiefly on its free art schools, to which admission is obtained by examination. There is a permanent curator, but the real teaching is done by the Academicians themselves, who voluntarily undertake to visit for a year, in an honorary capacity. Orchardson was visitor several times; in 1883 or 4, when my Mother wrote in her diary, “Quiller has to go to the life class as well as the other, I am so sorry as it will be too hot for him, and besides he is sure to want to paint a nude figure,” which remark perhaps explains why he never painted a nude figure; people often wondered. And again in ’90 something.

I heard from my brother, who was a student at the ’90 time, that his criticisms were amongst the most helpful of all—severe, lucid and entirely kind and charming; he was a great favourite, and there were seldom absentees on his days.

Among the students at the time were Charles Sims (now R.A.), Speed, Byam-Shaw, Baumer, besides my brother Charlie.

Coming home from the R.A. one day, my Father told us of a new painter a student still. “He can paint and he is a real colourist, and colour, you know, is born in you and can’t be taught. But he can’t draw, and I’ve just been slating him and telling him he must learn, for drawing can be learnt.”

On my writing to ask Mr. Sims if he remembered this compliment—the greatest I think I ever heard my Father pay a young painter, he sent me the following letter:

1 St. Paul’s Studios,

Barn’s Court, W.14.

March 3rd, 1918.

Dear Mrs Gray,

We are very interested, Nan and I, to know you are writing a life of your Father. He was one of our heroes, and I owe him more than I can convey for his advice and example in painting.

The words you quote in your letter are quite right; I remember them well, as I do almost everything he said, but he added, “Drawing’s devilish easy when you know how to do it.” Can you not hear him saying it?

His lessons at the Academy were always profitable to the students, chiefly, I think, because he avoided general corrections and insisted for the time on getting one particular thing right or understood. He illustrated, for example, how I was overmatching the colour in a leg and wasting time, when what was necessary was to look carefully after the outline, fill in the substance almost carelessly, and then look for the high light most exactly, which would lead to a true understanding of the form.

His own practice of keeping free of encumbering detail made him severe on our school compositions; all his advice and corrections were in the direction of “taking out” figures, and he would suggest how one thing after another might be done without, till a whole row of diverse sketches began to have a look of Orchardson.

In my student days he easily held first place among us as the pattern of painting; all of us for a time tried to paint in his manner, I did myself for years after I left the schools.

I suppose many of his pictures will be leaving here for America and Japan, such a lot of good things are going just now. In the Council Room of the Academy we have the cartoon for Mme Récamier, a picture I have always longed to see. I wonder where it is. Till now the “Napoleon on the Bellerophon” is my favourite and I know most of his pictures. They are like himself, exquisite in manner and taste, with a finish that makes their neighbours look overdone.

My wife joins in all good wishes to you (I think she is writing, too).

Sincerely yours,

Charles Sims.

Orchardson was in great demand, not only amongst young painters, but even amongst those who might be supposed to have “arrived.” As early as the Spenser Street days he received the following letter from Sant, R.A., a man much older than himself.

Lancaster Gate,

March 6th.

Dear Orchardson,

Pray where do you live? Spenser St. won’t find you, for I have paraded the vicinity of Victoria St. and inquired smartly of the Police, the itinerant Errand Boy, the Milk Man and any Stranger who had a home look of that locality, but I could get no nearer to you than Spenser Place, and Spenser Terrace, both, I thought, highly objectionable; and the directory is not kind, and so I am driven to put that question which heads this epistle. I want to see your new studio, and I want to tell you also there is a forlorn meandering damsel with a sunshade and a [illegible] habited in grey and trimmings, but not of that character appertaining to the boiled leg of mutton! She is not exactly pleased with her surroundings and she does not come out well against her Mother earth or the heavens above her, and she rather wants you to get her out of her difficulty. Perhaps you will take her case into consideration, even at the expense of paying her a visit. And so I leave you to think this well over and am,

Yours faithfully,

Jas. Sant.

To be serious! I was certainly last Tuesday a full hour in endeavouring to find your whereabouts. Why didn’t you come out and take me in?

Another artist he visited at intervals was a certain woman-painter, who had a loud and lively manner, somewhat flirtatious I fancy, though I was rather young at the time to notice more than that she was my pet aversion and my brother’s—why do children sometimes dislike people in an apparently unreasonable way? She sat for one of the secondary figures in “Her first Dance,” which, of course, entailed her coming to Spenser Street several times, and, of course, staying to lunch or dinner.

My Mother records in her diary, “After Dinner I had to go upstairs by myself and have a little cry—some people are so tiring, and it is so nice to sit in the dark and think a little.”

All the same my Mother kept this especially for this biography. “The time approaches and the ‘trembles’ cometh on! Oh wherefore tarry the wheels of thy chariot??? Really and truly I am all at sea, waiting for you in desperation maist despairing. Could you manage the most hurried look round?”

Now my Mother’s diary again:

March 26th. Q. worked and I read to him. After tea he went to see Miss X’s work, and arranged to meet me at the South Kensington Museum or railway station; the museum was shut so I went to the station, where he kept me waiting three quarters of an hour—all for that old X, of course we were late for the Camerons’ Dinner.”

Miss X stayed with us at Westgate, but after that I only remember her on Show Sundays, with a train of equally loud brothers and sisters and friends.

My sweet-tempered Mother seldom disliked people, but when she did she did it very whole-heartedly.

Many years afterwards my people gave a dinner party; amongst others whom I forget, there were an R.A.’s good-looking but dull wife, and an exceedingly pretty woman, not an actress, but a sort of “Scotch connection” of the theatre. My Father was to “take in” the R.A.’s wife, but suddenly and without warning he offered his arm to the pretty woman and went off with her to the dining-room in his jaunty fashion, leaving my Mother to rearrange her table as best she could. Which she did with considerable success.

Photo The Art Reproduction Co.
By kind permission of the Berlin Photographic Society and the Art Reproduction Co.

The naughty man flirted the whole of dinner time with his pretty partner; after dinner he came to her side again in the studio; at departing time he offered her his arm and escorted her to her carriage.

When we were alone, I asked my Mother:

“Does he often do that?”

“Oh, yes,” she replied quite casually, “he likes pretty women.”

“And don’t you mind?”

“No, why should I—he is mine.”

“And were you never jealous of all the girls he flirted with before you were married?”

“No,” she said again, “why should I be? I got him.”

This same pretty woman asked W. Q. O.’s permission at a dinner party at Mr [?] for a friend of hers to paint a copy of “Napoleon on board the Bellerophon.” He, unable to resist a pretty pleader, gave permission, totally against his own rules, for the single figure of Napoleon; but afterwards he got his wife to write rescinding the permission. Evidently he needed his wife’s help to resist a pretty woman; but he did not like saying “No” to anyone, however undeserving.

To return to the “visitings”:

It was not unusual for people, both men and women, to write to our artist’s wife when asking for critical visits, “he is so much more likely to grant my request if it comes through you.”

Tom Graham, that great and old friend, sometimes wrote:

Dear Orchardson,

Will you kindly come up and see me.


T. Graham.

But at other times even he applied to my Mother when “The Master,” as he called him, was very busy and difficult to persuade.

Dear Mrs Orchardson,

I really think I must send you a receipted acknowledgment for the visit yesterday—with my best thanks!!

Yours sincerely,

T. Graham.

A few friends criticized W. Q. O., as:

98 Fellows Rd.

Friday Night.

Dear Orchardson,

I well know you will excuse anything I say, being, as you were years ago, an enthusiast. When I dined with you and saw the picture, the table being less well made out, the figures were, as it were, all sucked up into the background.

Now the table is very realized, I crave more than ever that flooding of the background into the figures.

Pray forgive your disciple, and

Believe me always,

Yours sincerely,

T. Graham.

Another great friend, MacWhirter, liked advice pretty frequently, and wrote on one occasion: “Come up instantly before I begin so that you can’t blow me up afterwards!”

Tom Graham was never even an R.A., and it was years after Orchardson and Pettie were R.A.’s before MacWhirter received the same honour, yet neither the disappointment nor the long delay ever interfered with the great friendship of these four, which says a good deal for the niceness of all of them.

1 Abbey Road.

My dear Orchardson,

There is a private view of a lot of my drawings at the Fine Arts Society on Saturday. If you are in town I would like very much if you could look in for a minute or two—it would give éclat!!!

Hoping all well,


J. MacW.

I would have told you about this before, but it was hurried up at the last!

Abbey, Macbeth, Herkomer, Briton Rivière, Parsons, Hacker, S. J. Solomon, Fildes, and a host of others all asked for and appreciated W. Q. O.’s advice and criticisms.

On “touching-up” days at the R.A. he was so much in demand for last-minute criticisms that he had little time to examine his own work; and any praise from him was valued immensely.

My dear Orchardson,

Very many thanks for your extremely kind note, I am more delighted and flattered at having your good opinion than at the fact that they are well hung. I hope to see you at the R.A. on Monday, when I should like you to point out my weaknesses . . .

The British Public is a very difficult thing to cater for in the way of art, and the dealer does a good deal in spoiling their stomachs by pandering to them and following the fashion of the day.

Very truly yours,

Robert Macbeth.



Dec. 24th, ’94.

My dear Orchardson,

Can you oblige me by coming down to see a picture I painted in Germany? I want your advice as to the advisability of sending it to the Academy. Rivière was in doubts and advised me to ask you. It is 24 feet long and represents the Bürgermeister with Town Council in my native place, Landsburg. I presented the town with the picture, and am painting them a second subject.

It was exhibited in Munich and Berlin last year, where it had an extraordinary success. But the English are so different that I don’t care to risk a “flat” appearance, which is so likely to happen with anything unexpected or a little out of the way, as this picture happens to be.

Pray let me know what day would suit you. A late train does not give us any daylight.

Believe me,

Yours truly,

Hubert Herkomer.

Orchardson went, admired “The Bürgermeister,” and strongly advised sending it to the R.A., which advice proved wise, for the picture had a great success.

In 1895, W. Q. O. was on the Hanging Committee, and of course received many “I hope you will remember me” notes; the following from Herkomer, however, is interesting:

Ebury St.

April 6th, 1895

I have delayed until I can delay no longer in saying something that is on my mind. It must out, like murder, and chance it. It is this: I have for long been honoured with one portrait in the large No. 3 Room, may I beg that this year the portrait will be that of “Rhodes”? I have taken great pains with it, and he is the most remarkable young man of the day.

I trust this gives no offence, and I know the sacredness of your office.

Yours ever,

Hubert Herkomer.

When “Lululand” was first finished Herkomer gave a house-warming ball, to which my Father, Mother and I went.

Mr (now Sir Hubert) Herkomer himself showed us over the house, which was built in imitation of an old German castle, complete even to the justice room, very wonderful, but decidedly draughty and uncomfortable to live in we thought. Mr Herkomer, however, was very proud of it, especially of the wood-carving, which had all been done by his father and uncles from Landsburg.

The bedrooms upstairs must have been in modern style I think, for I remember two, one “papered” with gold canvas and the other with silver—most unrestful.

We danced in the studio and Mr Herkomer wore a sort of modified Court dress, why, we did not discover. He had also shaved off his beard, and on his asking my Mother if she did not think his appearance improved, she replied “No” in her sincere fashion.

“Why not?” asked Mr Herkomer.

“Well, I think your mouth looks better hidden,” answered my Mother, half smiling.

“Ah! but that is just it—my mouth should not be hidden, it is so strong, and I like to show the strength; it is an advantage to me, especially with my students.”

The Abbeys were very nice Anglicized Americans; my people went to stay with them in Gloucestershire, and they came to us at Hawley. I remember hearing of a particular dinner-party at the Abbeys in Tite Street, where Orchardson sat on one side of Mrs Abbey and Whistler on the other. Mrs Abbey was a good hostess and contrived to set these two witty men talking against each other, with such success that all other talk was silenced and the whole table listened to such an exchange of wit as they had never heard before. I asked my Father to tell me some of the things that had been said, but he said it was just a series of “sparks, ephemeral nothings, that one remark led on to another; and you know when I thought of it afterwards I was really ashamed of having interrupted the whole table and monopolized the conversation like that. But we could cap one another and . . . but how we laughed.”

And he laughed again at the mere recollection.

About the same time W. Q. O. accepted Mr Abbey’s invitation “to wander in the-direction of 33 Tite Street to see the Sargent portraits that have just come from America, one is simply exquisite, and all beyond anything he has done.”

When my Father came home, I asked his opinion of them, and he said, as nearly as I can remember the words:

“Yes, they are magnificent, but they lack finish—he can’t finish. The tip of a finger, for instance, is not a streak of pink paint though that streak may be effective in the distance.”

Years before, on April 2nd, 1886, my Mother notes in her diary: “A good many callers, amongst them Sargent, who came yesterday and Q. was out, and again to-day, to thank Q. for the letter he had written to him telling him how good his twilight picture was.”

Sargent never quite came up to the expectations that Orchardson had formed of him.

Orchardson never painted from memory that I know of; indeed, I remember very well his surprise on being told that a finished sketch by “Freddy” Walker, that he had been admiring, was painted entirely from memory in little more than a couple of hours. He himself required a model that at least suggested the subject.

Millais, on the other hand, required an absolute model for everything. Orchardson several times mentioned in illustration of this, that on going to Millais’ studio one day he found that in order to paint a small portion of a fountain or pond Millais had been obliged to have a whole fountain built up in his studio in order to get the correct shape of the part-circle he wished to draw in the corner of his picture.

As a rule Orchardson admired Millais’ work immensely, but I heard him criticize some of his later work very severely, adding, “but he can always paint.”

Both Leighton and Tadema wanted critical admiration rather than advice, I fancy. I have heard my Father speak well of some of Tadema’s work, but however hard I search my mind I can remember no word of praise for Leighton’s work, though for the man as President he had the greatest admiration. When Lord Leighton died Monsieur Gauchez (who, as Paul Leroi, was a great French critic, it must be remembered) wrote to my Father hoping he would accept the Presidentship of the R.A., and gave a description of Leighton.[4]

From the sublime to the ridiculous, from the perfect President to the interesting but eccentric Bohemian who wrote Celebrities and I and other books, and who frequently wanted advice from my Father about her pastels and oil-portraits. Miss Corkran, an Irish woman brought up in Paris, was undoubtedly clever, humorous, superstitious, entertaining and full of artistic feeling and emotion; but she lacked something, and I think her personal appearance explained the want. One day coming home, I saw a very disreputable person at the door, an old-fashioned bonnet on one side of her head, a crooked fringe on the other, a narrow veil imperfectly joining the two; a long-tailed skirt with the tail on one side and a rusty-black “mantle” with one shoulder nearing the middle of her back.

I walked on, and when I came back the rather alarming person had disappeared, and on going into luncheon I found Miss Corkran! To complete the picture the top buttons and bottom buttonholes of her old-fashioned black, beaded bodice were not doing their work at all.

She was exceedingly nice and could not have dressed like that, though I never saw her quite so careless again, had she not been muddle-headed. Her conversation was clever, but muddled too, as when she told the story of the drunken butler to prove the existence of ghosts.

The butler was buttling in a haunted but hilarious house, and coming upstairs one night at the haunted hour, he saw the ghost. With great presence of mind he gravely sat down, took off his boots and threw them at the ghost, through whom they passed, while the butler, suddenly frightened, scuttled off to bed.

Miss Corkran almost frightened herself in telling the tale and was as nearly offended as so friendly an old soul could be, at my Father’s hearty laughter, in which my Mother and I joined.

Amongst many other letters from her this occurs:

“What you told me about your saving an old woman and her favourite picture from fire would make a charming story, because such an action is real and noble chivalry, and will, I am sure, be a passport to Heaven—if one is required.”

When the Perfect President if imperfect painter died, Millais was his natural successor; he had been connected with the R.A. since his boyhood, and with the possible exception of Orchardson was certainly the greatest painter of his day.

Even so there seems to have been some talk of Orchardson as President for I find the following note:

Feb. 4th, 1896.

Dear Orchardson,

I have reason to believe that Millais would not refuse the Presidency.

In haste,


Briton Riviere.

I write this apropos of our conversation last night.

There was some doubt as to whether Millais would stand, for he was known to be mortally ill. He was elected, but died soon after.

To be or not to be President was the question that now presented itself to the one painter whose supremacy was undisputed, Sargent being still something of a new man with a new method.

Orchardson gave the matter his deepest thought; to be President of the Royal Academy was an honour not to be lightly foregone, especially for his wife’s sake. But was he strong enough to perform the duties of the office? His sense of duty was very high, his health had been failing for some time, a great unhappiness had come into his life, so that he no longer cared for social life in the way he had hitherto done. He discussed the matter in all its aspects with his wife and finally told her to decide for him.

Ambition, or love and long life to the loved one?

Love prevailed and my Father stood aside and voted for Briton Rivière; Poynter was elected.

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of W. D. Booth, Esq., owner, and Messrs. Reid & Lefevre.

Afterwards my Mother received her reward in being told by a Doctor—Sir Lauder Brunton, I fancy—that she had added, by her unselfish decision, at least ten years to her delicate husband’s life.

Of all the many letters W. Q. O. received, begging him most earnestly to accept the Presidency, only those of Monsieur Gauchez reflect Orchardson’s own views:[5]

In another letter Gauchez wrote that W. Q. O. was quite right to prefer liberty to any honorific position, but before being a situation for a deep courtier, the Presidency should be the coronation of a noble career of art, exclusively of art, as was Orchardson’s.

Two extracts from my Mother’s diary may fitly finish this account of the R.A. Presidentship, 1896 and 1897:

Nov. 5th. The night of the election is past and unfortunately Poynter is elected and not Briton Rivière: it was a close shave. Poynter didn’t begin well; all the R.A.’s naturally shake hands with the new President and congratulate him—Poynter never said one word of thanks or acknowledgment. Now when Leighton was made President he made a very elegant little speech. Millais did the same and Quiller says it was delightful. Quiller had one vote and we were both so sorry, as it appeared as if he were a candidate, whereas he was not, and we thought everyone knew it; it must have been one of the members up from the country.

Nov. 9th. We meant to go to Hawley on Lord Mayor’s day, but forgot all about it and arrived at Charing X too late for the train. So we waited to see the procession and had splendid places on the top of a railway bus. What amused me was thinking of Quiller and me on the top of that bus with a lot of queer folks, when we might have been the President and his wife, Sir William and Lady Orchardson. I mentioned it to Quiller who enjoyed the joke. Art and Liberty think.

But though unable to accept the Presidency Orchardson was not averse from honours.

In 1890, Oxford conferred the D.C.L. on him.



To the Provost Oriel.

Dear Mr. Munro,

I cannot but feel gratified by the tenor and the substance of your kind note and I trust you will convey to Dr. Liddell my hearty appreciation of the high honour intended me by the University.

My wife joins me in best thanks for your kind offer to domicile us on the occasion and I assure you the opportunity of again meeting your Father and Mother, to whom I owe so many kindnesses in early life, will form no slight addition to the pleasure of my visit.

Yours very truly,

W. Q. Orchardson.

They duly went to Oxford and much enjoyed the beautiful old-world place and the antique ceremonies. If I remember rightly my Father walked in the procession with Stanley, who had just returned from “Darkest Africa,” was the hero of the hour, and was received with vociferous cheers.

On my Father showing himself at home in cap and gown, at my request, I could only exclaim: “Hallo! Van Dyck!” so great was the resemblance; on which he smilingly told me that that had been his nickname in the Academy Schools in Edinburgh.

A good many years later I was in the picture gallery at The Hague, and on entering one of the galleries, was startled to see, as I thought, a portrait of my Father as a young man—I had not known of its existence. But on going nearer, it proved to be a portrait of Van Dyck, by himself. Even close to, the likeness was striking, and no doubt the Elizabethan and D.C.L. cap added to it as on the previous occasion.

On February 18th, 1895, the French Ambassador wrote to my Father, announcing that he had been made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and inviting him to come to the Embassy in London to receive les insignes et le brevet de la distinction.

W. Q. O. went, and I tried to get an account of what happened, but could only gather from the modest man that it was a very pleasant little ceremony of many bows and pretty speeches. “The greatest artist in England,” said the Ambassador, and “France the leader of the world’s art,” said the other; and so on, and so on.

In 189(?) W. Q. O. was elected “Correspondent de L’Institut de France” unanimously.

Monsieur Gauchez wrote congratulations and the news that Bouguereau was unexpectedly one of his warmest supporters and that W. Q. O. was made first candidate. He also sent a list of the people who must, “according to custom,” be personally thanked for the election and a specimen French letter.

In 1900, Orchardson was awarded the Grand Prix, by “unanimous vote,” according to Monsieur Gauchez, who says he has been inquiring amongst influential friends for a higher rank in the Legion of Honour and had now received a letter saying it would be officially published next month. It was a great joy to his old age to be the first to inform his great friend of the new greatly merited success.[6]

In 1901, Orchardson was made “Membre d’honneur de l’Académie des Beaux Arts,” and wrote:

Monsieur le Secrétaire perpetuelle,

I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of the 26th inst.

The high distinction which the Académie des Beaux Arts has conferred on me is one of which I am most proud and I beg of you, Monsieur le Conte, to convey to the Académie my warmest thanks and the assurance of my most grateful esteem.

Permit me, Monsieur le Conte, to offer you my highest respect and to subscribe myself

Your most obedient servant,

[Draft letter unsigned.]

[1] Shah being my special school friend, now my sister-in-law.

[2] Council of ten members who choose the pictures; “Hanging Committee” is five of them who do the hanging. The R.A.’s do this work in rotation.

[3] Mark “A” for accepted; “X” for rejected; “D” for doubtful, i.e. left to the discretion of the Hanging Committee.

[4] Most interesting letter on art omitted owing to copyright laws and the failure to find Monsieur Gauchez’s heirs.

[5] Most interesting letter on art omitted owing to copyright laws and the failure to find Monsieur Gauchez’s heirs.

[6] I believe Monsieur Gauchez was mistaken.


In 1890 my Grandfather died at Westgate, and my Father lost a great friend and my Mother her confidant.


Athenæum Club.

Dear Swan,

I have just come across your little note stirring me up about that little call I promised myself. I got it at a time of great trouble. My dear old Father-in-law was in extremis. He had been ill all the summer and we had latterly to see to him night and day. When the end comes, however long expected, the shock is still the same—the unbridgable difference between is and is not.

I happened to put on an old coat the other day and found your note where I must have put it at the time. You are a painter so I know it’s all right. Anyway, I shall take my chance of finding you in to-morrow afternoon between 4 and 5. Meantime believe me,

Yours very truly,

W. Q. Orchardson.

Finding the place too sad without their “old darling,” my people left Westgate and for some time had no country house.

To go back a little. My Father had caught whooping cough from his children at Westgate, which had very considerably weakened his health—although he did not realise it at the time—and he no longer cared for violent games such as tennis; so that leaving his tennis court was not such a loss as it might have been.

He took to fishing instead, introduced to it by Pettie, and it remained his chief amusement to the end of his life. “Dry-Fly” was his favourite form of it, though he used wet-fly in Scotland, and also salmon-fished sometimes, though he did not care so much for that—he said it was more a matter of luck and physical strength than of skill, whereas dry-fly trout fishing was nearly all skill; you first stalked your trout and then angled for him, placing your fly neatly just a foot above his resting or watching place, so that it should float downsteam directly over “his” nose. Then “strike” at the psychological moment and you were into him, at the end of a hair-like gut, a thread-like line and a slender split-cane rod. On a South of England chalk-stream a two-pounder was a prize—if you got him; he could easily break your line if you were not skilful. And anything less than a pound must be put back.

Besides the actual fishing there was the pleasure of being in the open air in beautiful country, of watching all the living creatures, especially water-flies; from this time on, my Father knew a great deal about flies, real ones as well as artificial. He tried “tying” flies for himself, but found it trying to the eyes as well as rather a tiresome job, so gave it up.

Sunday Eve.

[Spring 1890.]

My dear Q. O.,

I could not get along to see you (slight cold in my throat). About the fishing, I went down on Thursday morning to Salisbury and hired a cab to Amesbury, eight miles, George Inn, where I found Morten and a Mr St. Quentin, and came back again on Saturday last. I go again to-morrow until Wednesday eve, unless you will say that you will come on Wednesday and stay until Thursday eve when I’ll have to come back.

I found a pretty village and four miles of lovely water—plenty fish but difficult to get! The east wind prevented flies coming on the water and the fish were not rising, so that nobody got any until I hooked a 1½ pounder and safely landed him, the first fish of this season. Saw lots of 3 and 4 and 5 pounds—but it is no use in an east wind there.

What say you? I’ll be your ghillie and coach on Thursday if you’ll telegraph me when you start on Wednesday.

George Inn, Amesbury W. Salisbury.

Am off to-morrow morning. Morten comes up on Wednesday, methinks. It is early days and it will be better next month, although you ought to see it.

Yours in haste,

John Pettie.

My Father went down, was fascinated by the sport, the Avon, and the countryside, and joined in as a partner with his old friend Mr Morten (William Black’s brother-in-law) and “a” Mr St. Quentin.

Amesbury was a delightful sleepy old forgotten village in those days; very much waked up, I fancy, since the War Office took possession of Salisbury Plain. He went down frequently, his wife usually with him (they were seldom apart) and they stayed at the inn, spending the whole day at different parts of the four mile reach, according to the weather. They made the acquaintance there of Sir Edmund Antrobus, the owner then of Stonehenge, which they visited, I believe. But with a genuine fisherman on a fishing expedition it is fish, fish, fish, from morning till night, and he can think of nothing else. At any rate, I never remember Stonehenge being mentioned but it led to “Ah yes! I remember there was a big fellow down below the mill,” and many another fishing tale, which I, not being a fisher, am unable to recollect; but not a word about Stonehenge.

South of England chalk-streams look the mildest and safest of rivers as they flow on in their slow sleepy way; but their mudbanks are treacherous. Moor Hatch, the last reach of this fishing, was some three or four miles from Amesbury, and my Mother sometimes amused herself driving her fisherman there, going back to the village and returning for him in the evening.

One day, she left him as usual and he prepared his rod and his fly, pulled up his thigh-boots, which he usually wore à la Cromwell, and stepped into the water on to, as he thought, a bed of shingle clearly seen through a foot or so of water. But as he touched the seeming shingle, down he went into mud, and down, and down. Quick as lightning he dropped his rod, and wrenching himself round, contrived to grasp a small tuft of grass, the only thing within reach. The mud and water reached to his waist already. In the distance he saw his wife driving leisurely away. He shouted, he blew his policeman’s whistle—carried for just such an eventuality—but his wife went serenely on all unsuspicious of his danger; never had he felt so neglected, never before felt that his wife ought to be able to hear him at whatsoever distance. As she disappeared round a bend in the road, he realized that he must save himself or be drowned; the mud and water reached to his shoulders now. So he began to pull gently at his slender tuft of grass and the mud kept sucking him in like quicksand. But the grass held, and by and by he was able to grasp another firmer piece, and finally managed to drag himself out, caked with mud, but safe.

George Inn,


Sunday [Spring 1890.].

Enclose telegram wrote it but find it did not go off. Sorry. But how do you do? Well, I hope. Had plenty of sport yesterday, but no fish among the lot of us. I had one on but it came back on me and I lost it among the reeds. No use, Morten says, while the east wind lasts, won’t rise.

Am looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday, shall wait lunch. Tell Quentin to look out on the road from Salisbury, the wild hedgerows are covered with blossom, especially after you pass Old Sarum.

I hope you and Hilda enjoyed the Chiswick function. Charlie looked after you well, I’ve no doubt. Give him and all the rest my love, and however much you give it will take nothing from what there is for you.

Believe me,


By kind permission of H. S. Brown, Esq.

My Mother and small brother went down and duly admired the wild roses. The river was almost unapproachable for water-meadows, so the hangers-on as well as the fishermen had to be provided with waders. My Mother found a convenient stile whereon to sit and enjoy Three Men in a Boat, but she laughed so much that she fell off, and the fishermen blamed her for a blank day—even her light weight was sufficient to shake the bank and scare the fish. So they said.

My Father was much troubled by cold feet when wading all day, but finally discovered the remedy: two pairs of woollen socks, one pair of indiarubber socks, one pair of woollen socks and then his waterproof-leather boots. Which recipe I insert for the benefit of other fishermen.


[p.m. July 31st, ’90.]

My dear old Pet,

How are you getting on? The “House” getting squared, Quentin and Gordon getting well, Papa no worse, and you, therefore, happy?

When we arrived at Portland Place I found a note from Morten saying he was coming down here, so here we all are—very jolly.

He—Morten—has taken Charlie under his wing, and has been coaching him all day in the gentle art. I have agreed to join in the fishing next year again.

They are waiting for dinner so good-bye. “I’ th’ noo.”

Yours, as you know,


[Amesbury 1890.]

My dear old Pet,

We are very happy here and only wish that you and Charlie were with us.

Enclosed Hilda has given you a full true and particular account of yesterday from her own point of view—it is not bad.

I had a note from Morten, he is off to Norfolk, Dollie [Morten] to Scotland.


Emphatically yours,


We are just about to start—in the rain!!!


[p.m. May 15th, ’91.]

Dear old Pet,

After tea walked down by the river, ducks squattering, buds bursting, and everything, in the language of your beloved daughter, “simply lovely”—only one drawback, your absence, which, to quote another member of the family, was “beastly.” Had no rod with me—for why? You had pocketed the key of my bag, also “beastly.” So divine contemplation was all that was left.

I have had the lock of my bag picked so don’t worry.

Give my love to Granny. Get through your business and come down here to peace and quietude and me.



Got a good room, but things feel dampish after Bournemouth, got fires, however, and they ameliorate.


[p.m. May 19th, ’91.]

My dear Pet,

The weather has been abominable and I have had Tic and all that sort of thing, together with a few fish. To-day is a little better, but I shall be home to-morrow unless you telegraph that you are coming.

Morten and St. Quentin leave here to-morrow. We have all had a bad time. The very fish are sulky. The sun is shining, and there is a promise in the air, but I shall prefer to see you again, so good-bye till to-morrow.

Yours, though at a distance,




June 5th, 1892.

My dear Hilda,

I have got your nice letter, and you see the result. Not that the ultimate fulfilment of my promise depended on my getting it, but that it brought me to book and forbade under nameless penalties that I should longer delay.

Mother sends you all the domestic intelligence, so on that matter you are kept well posted. She has not, however, told you of our last visit to Amesbury. The weather was what Charlie calls “ripping.” The weeds are tall, the nettles ditto and stinging, and the “jungle” impassable.

Moreover, we got some fish, Charlie especially—besides, my boots both leaked! So you may fancy we were happy—and yet there was something wanting. I should have liked to see you striding along in front with all your impedimenta slung around with many cunning strings. However, July’s coming, and with it you and many things we shall all like. I—we, I mean—and you, I hope, are looking forward to Scotland. We are, I think, going to Fearnan, that is between Lawers and Kenmore. Sheila and Gordon are not going with Grannie, so we shall be as we were, the whole “shoot” of us, as Ian says. And they all, I know, send you their love with that of your affectionate



Sir Walter Gilbey was a friend, so were Mr Joseph and Monsieur Gauchez, and there were “many who loved him,” but the friends my Father always loved best were those of old days—Pettie, Tom Graham and MacWhirter, and of these Pettie was the greatest; in Edinburgh student days, in London, when they lived next door to each other or together, and right down to Pettie’s death. Though marriage, of course, separated them a little, it made no difference to the friendship, and the husbands and wives interchanged visits, made theatre parties, dined with each other and so on.

“Q. O.” stood godfather to Pettie’s daughter, and Pettie was godfather to one of “Q. O.’s” sons. At the wedding of Pettie’s daughter to Mr McCunn the composer, “Q. O.” was one of the witnesses; my Mother, of course, and I by special invitation went with him to the vestry to see the signing of the register. What a crowd of old friends were there, and what gaiety and laughter!

The rest I have forgotten, even to the bridal gown. I never could see the difference between one bridal gown and another, but I remember my Mother’s bonnet, a spray of lilac fastened to a bow of lilac-coloured ribbon; as a head-dress it was charming, but as a head-covering or hat it left much to be desired.

Shortly after this the last Orchardson baby arrived, and my Father wrote to me at school:

Nov. 1889. 13 Portland Place, W.

My dear little Pet,

I shall call to see you to-morrow, Sunday, between 4 and 5. It is a long, too long, time since I saw you and since I have written. You don’t know that you have a little sister, perhaps, but I will tell you about her to-morrow.

With love,



The Lothians.

My dear O,

Delighted to hear that your anxiety is over and that both girlie and mother are doing well. Lizzie sends her love.

We have just heard that the Marshalls are in grief about the death of their little boy, sudden. A queer world, as Chalmers used to say, but we are getting through it.

Yours ever,

John Pettie.

July 17th, 1883.

My dear Orchardson,

Got your kind note last night and felt very wild at circumstances. I am on the special jury (New Courts) and am likely to be all this week. Lizzie has been ill and is still in bed. I’m still in hopes that if she can’t I may get down [to Westgate] for two days and a night.

This jury business is intolerable—Street, poor man, wasn’t even given sitting room for a stout fellow; as for ventilation, you get it all at once on the top of your head and the room small. But I’m grumbling.

Will write or telegraf if I have the chance to come down.

Love to you all,

Yours ever,

John Pettie.

My father was on the jury once that I remember, he also complained of the discomfort, and draughts, but found the arguments interesting; he took the matter very seriously and gave the case his closest attention.

[No date—1892 (?)]

My dear O,

Would be very glad to second Seton at the Arts, and would have come for you at once but my bronchial tubes are rusty and I am advised to stay in while this weather lasts. If it is the least urgent should you not get MacW. to do it and I’ll back it the first time I get out. Had a note from Black,[1] who is also a candidate for the Arts—you might give him your signature and support! I will write Mac about Black but leave you to arrange about Seton’s seconder. This is awful weather. I must leave on Tuesday. Allie was very proud of her cross, she is a lucky one.



Pettie’s letters are always a friend’s and usually scrawled, the writing getting bigger and bigger and winding up with a huge J.P. The cross was my Father’s and Mother’s wedding present to Mrs McCunn, an antique pendant of turquoises and pearls.

The Mr Seton mentioned in this letter was a rather clever amateur painter introduced to W. Q. O. by J. D. Watson, whose pupil he was. My Father and Mother and I visited Mr Seton at Heath House (in Shropshire), a lovely old place near the Welsh border; much of the house was oak panelled, the oak black with age and so hard that no nail could be driven into it. The dining-room was Jacobean, and was furnished with chairs made from the pattern of one belonging to my Father that appears as an overturned stool in “The Challenge.”

Mr Seton was also an amateur farmer, and could not understand why he could not make farming pay. My Father went with him to see the farm one day, and before reaching any corner Mr Seton started whistling loudly, at the same time slackening his pace. My Father asked why, and Mr Seton explained that he was afraid his men might not be working, and as he did not like scolding, he always gave notice of his approach. A friendly habit that no doubt explains why farming did not pay.

In 1893 Pettie was very ill and all his friends—the lovable man had many—were very anxious. At last Q. O. received the following letter, well written at the beginning but weak and straggly at the end:

The Lothians,

Fitzjohn’s Avenue.

Bedroom Noon.

My dear Q. O.,

My Drs. (five) have allowed me up on the sofa to-day on condition I do not get excited receiving visitors and talking much, but I have scrawled to my Mother and now to you my old friend. How kind and good of Mrs O. to come and give Lizzie her sympathy and yours. We were in straits tho’ I did not know it . . . any little consciousness was misery. I have gradually, however, cooled down, and all hallucinations—mostly sounds—are now gone. My wise Drs., however, are anxious and keep the balance for a time before I risk excitement, and now I must not write more, love to Mrs O. and yourself (hope young folks are well),

Yours ever (and not wool gathering),

John Pettie.

Shortly afterwards my Father received a letter from C. E. Johnson (No. 4 of the Fitzroy Square days) telling him that Pettie had been obliged to undergo a very sudden and severe operation—ear and brain.

13 Portland Place,

Feb. 1893.

My dear Johnson,

Your letter gave me a terrible shock. Poor old boy, what a time he has had.

The last part of your letter is the one part I care to look at. I am so thankful the operation was successful. The removal of the abscess was the vital thing, and now we shall look forward once more to his return as hearty as ever.

Many thanks for your letter; do, like a good fellow, keep me posted as to his progress. With kind regards,

Yours very truly,

W. Q. Orchardson.


A few days later Pettie succumbed, and I remember my Father inveighing bitterly against Doctors for raising false hopes by saying that an operation had been successful, when, in fact, it was not. Then his sense of justice reasserted itself, and he added, “I suppose they only refer to the operation itself and its local effects and not to the collateral effects on the patient’s constitution”—as nearly as I can remember the exact words.

Orchardson was a member of many clubs in London, twenty or so, I believe. Amongst others, The Arts Club, The M.C.C. 1872, The Athenæum 1880, and latterly The Fly Fishers 1890. At first he frequented The Arts, but after being elected to the Athenæum (under the “Distinguished men” rule which allows of immediate election) he went there almost daily, usually to afternoon tea, just the right distance for a walk, and the toast was more perfect than any home toast could ever be, not to mention the black currant jam.

My Mother’s diary notes:

Nov. 1896. Sheila has scarlet fever so Quiller is staying at the Langham Hotel.

On Thursday he went to the Arts Club, Friday he dined at Colin Hunter’s, and Saturday he dined at the Arts again as it was the last night of the old club in Hanover Square. Nearly all the members were there and there were speeches. Quiller’s was very short as usual, Schultz Wilson made a very good one, and poor old Archer read a bit of his own poetry. Quiller says it was quite nice. I long to be a mouse sometimes to hide and hear.

That the Athenæum was not quite perfect is indicated by a postcard from Horsley, R.A.: “Pray vote for your eminent countryman Sir James Crichton Browne to-morrow at the Athenæum, whose election is threatened (on dit) by sundry stoopid anti-scientists.”

Later on Sir J. Crichton Browne wrote a note to say that he had seconded Henry Arthur Jones at the Athenæum, “but one must walk gingerly as you have, I am told, some very explosive material on the Board.”

Orchardson served as a member of the Committee of the club from 1900 to 1903.

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of the Edinburgh National Gallery.

My Father was evidently chairman at one of the Glasgow University Club Dinners about 1895. For once he wrote out his speech (as a rule he spoke from notes only), but the question is did he make this speech or another extempore, as is quite likely:

“In the presence of so distinguished a company I feel the great honour I have in occupying the chair. I also feel the great responsibility, and it is the latter feeling that renders my position one of not altogether unmitigated pleasure. Happily, I know these gatherings are social rather than formal; the meetings of old friends who like to have their how-d’ye-do’s and talks of lang syne interrupted as little as may be by the more or less dry monologue of a chairman, and whose ideal would be found in that particular Millennium—in which we may place our hope, if not our trust—when the chairman will cease from troubling and also be at rest, emulating, if he has any ambition, the reputation of that well-known parrot of whom it was said that though he could not speak, he was a devil to think.

“Meantime, gentlemen, that good time though coming has, alas! not yet arrived. I beg you to permit me a few moments while I give you the toast of the evening; it is a pleasant duty and I give it most heartily—the Glasgow University Club—in other words, our noble selves. I will not be superfluous and treat you to a history, enough that its main object—which it fulfils so well—is the gathering together of those erratic wandering sparks which the Great University emits in such a well-sustained shower, which fall around to the uttermost parts of the earth; and where they fall I need not say they leave their mark.

“The Club is also one of many signs that we Scots, though like the showman’s leopard we may change our spots with considerable facility or even extend our nationality as we do from North Britons to Great Britainers or even to Greater Britainers—still we never forget the old country and never fail to warm to kith and kin and auld lang syne.

“We have all heard it said that the best road in Scotland is that which leads directly into England and that all who travel there have their faces set towards the south. The amount of truth that gives the little point to this little joke is susceptible perhaps of more than one explanation; as, firstly, the possibility that the Scot may, like other forces in nature, move in the line of least resistance; or, on the other hand, it may be taken as a proof that the Scot knows a good road when he sees it. And a very good road it is; it leads into the finest country in the world, and amongst a people who are of all nations our nearest of kin and who receive us with a generous belief in us that is positively pampering.

“I remember on one occasion when dining with my old friend the late Sir George Campbell, the talk turned on Scottish Home Rule, which was then on the tapis. I turned to Sir George and asked him if he thought it would ever develop into an agitation.

“Agitation! why the thing is sheer nonsense. The fact of the matter is, we have conquered England and we mean to keep it.

“Yes, gentlemen, he was right. For have we not conquered peace—peace, goodwill and friendship? And all by that undying road, that road which was engineered by those wise and prescient men who framed the Act of Union and made us [one].”

Another ending:

Diary 1895. “That road is the road by which this conquest of peace and goodwill and [ ? ] was perfected, and it was made by these wise and prescient men who framed the Act of Union and made us Co-parteners in [ ? ].”

Another Club speech was at the Fly-Fishers’ Club in ’97. A few days’ afterwards the hon. secretary wrote for his dinner subscription (for two years!), and added, “I hope you enjoyed your dinner in spite of the little misunderstanding as to whose health you were to propose!”

William Senior, Editor of the Fishing Gazette, wrote: “I did not see your note till yesterday, and then it was too late. I am afraid the reporter didn’t hear you as the report he sent in was meagre. But I hope, such as it is, there is nothing wrong.”

The following speech I take from the report in the Fly-Fishers’ Gazette:


The Ven. Archdeacon Gibbs having said Grace, the Chairman proposed in loyal terms the toast of—

“The Queen and the Royal Family,” which was duly honoured, Mr Dalgety Henderson singing a verse of ‘God Save the Queen,’ and the whole company joining in chorus.

The Chairman then rose to propose the toast of the evening—“The Fly-Fishers’ Club.” He said:

“Gentlemen.—We are so accustomed to see in this chair some past-master in the fascinating art which we all so much love, that the presence here of a novice—a mere novice—demands at once not only an explanation but an apology. The apology I hasten to proffer, but the explanation, I confess, beats me. As a loyal member of the Club I obeyed your committee, and in their reasons lies the lost explanation. As you know, the reasons of committees are not always easy to find, or, when found, really understood. If, however, I might hazard a guess, I should say that your committee, imbued with the restless spirit of the age, hungered after a change. Finding they could not change for the better they—boldly daring—did the other thing, and you and I, gentlemen, are the victims. (Laughter.) There are some things, perhaps, in which we novices may not yield to the deadliest veteran, and of these are our infatuation with our sport and our love for our club. In our sport we have even some advantages. We have so much to learn, and we learn so little, and we learn so slowly that the subtle pleasure of acquiring knowledge seems assured to us for the natural term of our existence. And then again when we sally forth, armed at all points, offensive and defensive, rod and net, waders and waterproofs, we are still simple enough to believe that the weather might not be altogether wrong, and we are happy. (Hear, hear.) Even when we begin to suspect the fatal truth that the weather is never altogether right it is only a suspicion, and we are not soured. (Laughter.) We take the blank days as they come, and they come often (laughter), and when we begin sooner or later to acquire the “well-known habit of losing ‘whoppers’ we feel like veterans, and with a rueful grin try hard to think that ’tis better to have hooked and lost than never to have hooked at all. (Laughter and cheers.) The toast I have the honour to propose, gentlemen, is ‘The Fly-Fishers’ Club.’ (Cheers.) It is, I need hardly say, undoubtedly the best club in London. This is, of course, well known among the members, and I only mention it for the benefit of strangers, who are perhaps less likely to know. (Laughter.) We anglers never boast more than we can help, but this I will say, that in the essential qualities of a club, that is, singleness of purpose and good fellowship among its members, the Fly-Fishers’ Club is unique. In speaking of the club, our thoughts turn at once to its devoted secretary, our good friend Mr Wilson. His absence for so long in search of health has kept the club in a state of great and sympathetic anxiety, while his return in what we are glad to think an improving condition is a welcome and a joyous event to us all. (Cheers.) Then there is his locum tenens, Mr Brooker, who stepped in so gallantly to fill his place, and who did the work so faithfully, and whose absence to-night through illness we all so much regret. (Hear, hear.) We owe him our warmest thanks (cheers), and I am sure we all join in sending him our sincere condolences and our heartiest wishes for his speedy recovery. (Hear, hear.) With regard to the present position, condition, and prospects of the club I will say nothing, being only too delighted to leave you in the far abler hands of our friend, the honorary treasurer (Mr Marston), who is not only a past-master but a mentor, guide, and historian in the mysteries of our gentle, if somewhat argumentative, craft. He will tell you more in five minutes than I could suggest in half an hour. In now asking you to drink to the Fly-Fishers’ Club, I wish to believe that there are many here to-night as guests who will themselves be part of this toast when it is next proposed from this chair. (Cheers.) Gentlemen, I give you ‘The Fly-Fishers’ Club.’ ” (Renewed cheers.)

Perhaps, however, the secretary refers to some other speech.

I find the following note, possibly for a speech:

Sport.—The inherited instinct of the pot hunter without the necessity which bred it. Most true sportsmen are poachers born in a class in which they can pursue their instinct for [sport] alone.

“The men were not fishing but hunting fish, they are simply predacious as before the invention of sport. They patiently, silent and predacious, prowled along the bank, they hemmed the fish in with men above and below; it was like cormorant fishing, they worked with a ring round their neck, and when they got them——Therein [ ? ] they touched civilization again and instead of eating their prey they drank it [or to it?] without a thought of fair play, none of the chastened delight in casting a long straight line in a difficult place over a fish that won’t rise. No, they want fish and fish they must get.”

In June ’92 Mr Seymour Trower wrote asking Orchardson to join “The Kinsmen,” a little club of English and Americans who meet occasionally to dine; a club with no local habitation, no entrance fee, no subscription, no committee, and no rules to which anyone pays attention.

A list of the members was enclosed. At the last meeting Mr Trower was authorized to write and ask W. Q. O. to join, which Orchardson did, but not till 1894; he probably forgot all about it, but having joined, he enjoyed it immensely, one reason being that he thought British and Americans should be friends as well as “relations”; he was indignant at any quarrels, but also at the “tweaking of the Lion’s tail.”

Another little club is described by Sir David Murray:

Jan. 1902.

Dear Orchardson,

I am so delighted to learn from Mrs Orchardson’s note I am to have the gratification of having you as my guest on the 15th at the St. John’s Wood Arts Club, and so also will its members be.

It is a cheap little club with a great deal of talent and enthusiasm gathered into it, and its pleasant evenings are all that one likes to associate with evenings of earnest enthusiastic painters, young and old. The best known men come, and the most recent aspirant, so I am confident you will enjoy the evening.

My brother Charlie was a member of the Punch Bowl and my Father dined there one night when he—Charlie—was chairman, and had to propose the health of the guest of honour.

On my asking what sort of speech the Chairman had made, my Father replied: “Very good—and he spoke of me as his ‘best friend, his greatest friend,’ no son could pay his father a greater or better compliment.”

And to this day I remember the pride and pleasure in my Father’s voice, the half-smile on his face. He was, indeed, a friend in thought, in word, in deed; utterly reliable; always ready to believe the best of everyone, slow to think badly of anyone; vigorous in his denunciation of evil, but very gentle to the evil-doer. He would not allow his family to criticize people, even in a friendly way; so much so that if my Mother and I wanted a little harmless mother-and-daughterly gossip, we had to indulge ourselves in private!

The Academy banquet is a very sedate affair nowadays, but in old days its sobriety was only comparative. My Father used to laugh heartily over the following tale, which he told me (it may be a chestnut):

One night Turner was coming away from the banquet with a friend, each leaning on the other.

“By Jove,” said the friend, “there are two cabs.”

“Two cabs,” exclaimed Turner, “yesh, there are always two.”

“But which shall I take?”

With drunken wisdom, Turner answered: “I’ll tell you the shecret of it—take the firsht one—I alwaysh do.”

In May 1889 a dinner was given to Whistler at the Criterion by 150 artists, of whom Orchardson was one. Whistler, it appears, made “four or five epigrams by way of a speech and then broke down. Edmund Yates made the best speech of the evening.”

In October 1896 the members of the “Aberdeen Artists’ Society” gave a dinner to celebrate the completion of the preparations for the exhibition; the Marquis of Huntly presided. Orchardson was amongst the guests, and was well known personally to many of them, having lately painted Sir David Stewart, who had been Lord Provost for nine years; there were many old friends there besides.

Sir David proposed The Royal Academy, with which he coupled the name of Orchardson, to whom he gave great praise.

I take my Father’s speech from the Aberdeen Free Press:

“Mr Orchardson, on rising to reply, said he had begun to feel that there was no such thing as unalloyed happiness to be found in Aberdeen. (Laughter). But he had to admit that the pleasure he had of being present at the banquet of the Aberdeen Artists’ Society was cheaply purchased by paying the responsibility that had been placed upon him.

“The toast which his good friend Sir David Stewart had so genially proposed he had, of course, to thank him heartily for, but he had to quarrel with Sir David for what seemed to be an unwarranted attack upon himself. (Applause).

“A great deal had been said and written about the Royal Academy, but a great deal had been said and written by those who had not the opportunity of knowing, or who did not take the trouble to ascertain.

“His friend Sir David Stewart did not seem to be of that category, for it seemed he had been at great trouble—probably he had been at it all day—hunting up all sorts of reliable and unreliable data on the subject. (Laughter). This he might say of the Academy, that it recognized as the chief reason for its existence the promotion of art, and being a practical body it recognized the maintenance, the instruction, and the government of its schools to be its chief object. In these schools nothing was required of the student except that he should show such talent as would justify the training he received there. No fee even was required.

“They would understand, therefore, how much the Academy was in sympathy with all local efforts for the promotion of the common cause. And nowhere were these efforts more marked than in the energetic city of Aberdeen.

“As an instance, they might look around this beautiful exhibition, into which the committee had been able to bring such an amount of quality as would leaven the lump of larger exhibitions. (Applause). He had to congratulate them on this, because he felt he had some colleagues present, and he was only expressing their sentiments when he made these congratulations.

“They were met there, as he understood, for the first time, but he would say that it was not a new development, but simply a development of these energies which had been at work, and of the success of which he felt assured. Indeed, when Aberdeen took anything in hand, and meant it, it was not accustomed to fail.” (Applause).

Amongst my Father’s favourite private dinners were Sir Henry Thompson’s “Octaves”—men only. Sir Henry was a gourmet as well as a celebrated doctor; at one time he was a vegetarian, and on my Father asking him what had made him change his mind, Sir Henry explained that on further reflection he found that the vegetarian cow had five stomachs to digest its vegetation, but man had only one, therefore it was advisable for man to employ the cow’s stomachs to do some digesting for him.

My Father would not eat steak because of its toughness, but one day, when he was not expected to be in, steak was served for luncheon. He remained in, however, said it was tough as usual, and asked his wife why she did not have her steaks cooked à la Sir Henry Thompson, 36 hours at a temperature of 156° or 172° (I forget), “we had some the other night and it melted in the mouth.” My Mother, being an ordinary mortal, did not think a more than ordinary mortal cook would undertake such cooking. My Father very practically suggested the gas fire, but without effect—a cook is a cook and not to be lightly frightened into giving notice.

The Seymour Trowers were favourite social friends and excellent hosts. Of course, conversation turned on tennis sometimes. Some one was lamenting to the Hampton Court marker that X, a well-known player, should have taken to drink. “Yes, sir,” was the reply, “but it’s much worse to think that Mr Heathcote should have taken to golf.”[2]

Orchardson was dining with Sir Moses Montefiore, when Sir Moses remarked that he “wished very much that the head of the Jewish religion could meet the head of the Christian religion.” Quiller said “Why not?—a splendid idea”; so after further discussion an afternoon party and dinner in the evening at Sir Moses’ house in Thanet was arranged. “I [E. O.] unfortunately was ill, and could not go, but Quiller came home and said the meeting of the two heads was splendid.”

Leighton gave good dinners and at least one original invitation.

Dear Orchardson,

Let me hope that the “alimentary canal” will have resumed[3] its normal functions by Thursday next, 27th, and that at 7.45 I shall have the pleasure of seeing you replenish it at my table.

Yours always sincerely,

Fred Leighton.

April 25th.

Reform Club.

My dear Orchardson,

Millais is dining with me here on Sunday, May 8th, 7 o’clock. Can you join us? I may see you to-morrow at the Academy or on Monday at Greenwich, but if you can come this note will serve as a memorandum.

I suppose I shall have an answer a week or two before Christmas next!!!

Yours very faithfully,

William Black.

In 1893 Orchardson met J. M. Barrie, who wrote expressing a wish to meet again and inviting him to a dinner at the Garrick Club. Orchardson “retaliated” by asking Barrie to the Fly-Fishers’ Club dinner, an invitation Barrie accepted, but a few days before the dinner, wrote to say that he had been recalled to Scotland, “so shall not be able to come to your angling dinner. I am very sorry as I had felt as sure of it as the fisher is of the trout that is safe in the creel and then escapes by wabbling thro’ the hole. I do hope, though, that we shall meet again soon.

Yours very truly,

J. M. Barrie.

I trust your cold is none the worse of being at the Garrick, despite Christie Murray’s dark forebodings.

My Father delighted in Barrie’s plays, their insight into character, their refinement, their humour, their fantasy—and a certain gaiety of outlook—all pleased him, sending him home in a contented frame of mind.

In her diary my Mother writes in 1897:

“We finished Barrie’s life of his mother, it was very beautiful, and made both Quiller and me cry awfully. It made me think of you, Papa, and my darling little Céleste. Quiller found out I was crying in bed, sometimes I can’t help it when I want you, Papa, both so badly. Quiller says to console me, to think of those that are alive, but I can’t, and must not, forget you.”

“Problem” plays and works interested him, but I doubt if he actually liked them for he always turned away from anything ugly that he could not remedy. Even a wasp-waist in front of him in the street would cause him to cross the road hurriedly, a black eye gave him what may be called “the creeps,” and black weather “the blues.” But beauty in any form caused him the utmost pleasure.

The ugliest sight I ever saw was a drunken man in evening dress in Cavendish Square, at nine o’clock on a lovely Sunday morning; unfortunately some French friends were with me and remarked in superior tones: “We never see that in France.” I replied miserably that it was not usual to see it in England; and went to my Father for consolation.

He told me that no drunkard was ever reformed except by his own will, that other people could only help. Then he added slowly and reminiscently: “But I once cured a drunkard against his will.”

He would say no more, but told me instead of the beyond-cure, drunken violin mender in Edinburgh.

Until my Father grew delicate he and my Mother went to the theatre very frequently and much enjoyed first-nights especially, when my Father’s highly developed critical faculty enjoyed a special opportunity. Sarah Bernhardt occupied the first rank and everybody else second with him, I fancy. Irving he liked personally, but not as an actor, except in The Bells, and as Shylock; and in Hamlet why did he not obey Hamlet’s own injunctions to the players? was his criticism.

He enjoyed Ellen Terry and Mrs Kendal, but sometimes placed Winifred Emery higher than either. Forbes Robertson he placed above Tree; and Cyril Maude and Toole had little nooks of laughter to themselves.

I cannot remember my Father ever going to either an opera or a concert, but I know that he heard Mario, Jenny Lind, Grisi and Patti; he placed Mario first and Patti a long way behind Jenny Lind.

Shortly after reading Sir Harry Johnston’s book on Africa my people met him at dinner, and my Father gave me a most amusing description of him: “a great Proconsul of the Empire creeping shyly in behind his imposing and important wife—a dinghy humbly in tow behind a yacht under full sail.”

They dined several times with Mr Cardwell, at one time Irish Secretary and then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. One night they had gone out to his house, but surprised their family by coming home again quite soon, my Mother with a bruise and cut on her forehead; she was evidently rather shaken, but my Father was quite cheerful and told us they had had an accident.

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of the Glasgow Art Gallery.

“We were just opposite the Oratory when a cab, coming at right angles, dashed into ours and knocked it right over. I was underneath and the Old Lady fell on me, and the other fellah’s horse fell on the top of our brougham—it was curious and unlucky she should be hurt and not I, she must have bumped herself in falling. I picked myself up and managed to open the door above my head, and pulled the Old Lady up after me. The horse was still on the top of the cab and screaming—I never heard a horse scream like that before. It screamed and screamed, and seemed to be caught tight and nobody could find out why. But at last I looked and saw that one of its legs was caught in the step of the cab. Everybody tried in a footling way to get the leg out and, of course, failed.

“So I saw I must take an active part in the proceedings and called for a pick-axe. In a moment a pick-axe appeared, in just the same remarkable way as the crowd had grown—out of nowhere. The policeman, London policemen always seem to be ‘there,’ climbed on the top of the cab and with three or four blows chopped off the step and released the screaming horse.”

My mother was a perfect Jonah in a cab, something was sure to happen; if she was alone the horse stumbled and she was thrown out over its head; one day she and my Father had just reached home when the horse reared and the cab tipped up backwards—they were left standing on their heads unhurt, but the cabby was more or less stunned; fortunately the harness broke.

Another time, when I was with her, the horse kicked its foot through the floor of the cab, and yet another time we had a bucking horse that bucked all the way from Portland Place to St. John’s Wood, and refused to draw up at Miss Fanny Davis’s, the pianist’s house, where we were due at a party—or perhaps it was going to the Macmillans, the publishing people—I forget—perhaps both times.

Even driving her own pony-chaise at Hawley she got wrecked, but that was her own fault—she dropped the reins and seized the baby when the pony shied; I never felt very safe when she was driving! except that the speed was safe—5 m.p.h.!

Archdeacon Sinclair gave interesting dinners, and Sunday luncheons to which my people sometimes went, and were much interested to meet genuine Highlanders, reminiscent of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s times, who even claimed to be Jacobites; the first Jacobites we met were in Aberdeen, real ones who thought Queen Victoria was not the rightful Queen and wanted some Bavarian in. One would have thought that the Queen’s own personality would have killed such out-of-date ideas and here were some more Jacobites—extraordinary.

After luncheon the St. Paul’s choir sang in the drawing-room, then the guests were expected to attend the afternoon service at St. Paul’s. Was this a subtle way, I wonder, of getting people to church who otherwise would not go? My Father, at any rate, enjoyed the singing and said it was almost perfect, great praise from one so difficult to please. He also remarked on the beauty of the clergymen’s voices, to the Archdeacon, who told him that the Clergy of St. Paul’s were partly chosen for their voices owing to the difficult acoustics.

We noticed the beautiful voices, especially at Leighton’s funeral, when they seemed to fill the vast building and overcome all defects. My Father, by the way, found the English Church funeral service very beautiful and moving. He was brought up a Presbyterian and approved the independence of the ministers, but I think he found, like many of us, that in practice few were worthy of that independence.

One thing he strongly disapproved in the English Church was the congregation having no say in the appointment of their parson and no power to turn him out.

From parsons to millionaires is a far cry, though not necessarily so far as many people, not millionaires, imagine. On June 18th, 1889, Mr. Carnegie invited my people to dine at the Hotel Metropole, to meet Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone and the new American Minister. Mr Carnegie was still very Scotch for he wound up the letter with “Scotland forever.”

I believe this was the only time my Father met Gladstone, and as I was only a child at the time, I did not hear anything about the dinner, but I remember my Mother took a dislike to him because “he looked down on women,” she thought, and “talked down to them.”

My Father grew up a Liberal, but when Gladstone changed, found himself obliged to vote Conservative in order to retain his opinions. He continued Conservative until Chamberlain started the Liberal Unionists, when he voted for that party and continued to do so for the rest of his life. Of the G.O.M. he said: “Gladstone’s wordiness is a cloak for his thoughts as the ink with which the cuttlefish surrounds itself is a means of hiding.”

My Father often spoke of Socialism, which he feared might come; he considered it would be the end of the country—or of any country—for it would turn the country that tried it into a nation of slaves and slave-drivers; it is human nature to work hard for your own, he said, but if the results of your hard work were taken away and the benefits divided amongst lazy people, no one would work unless a policeman were at hand to compel them.

My Father was an enthusiast for the Empire and Preference and strongly disapproved of Cobden’s one-sided, so-called Free Trade—“not free at all, because our goods remained heavily taxed abroad, whereas foreign goods could come into England free and so undersell our own people.” On its being pointed out to him how much our trade had increased since the introduction of (so-called) Free Trade, he would retort by pointing to Protectionist Germany and America and their much greater expansion—enormous.

He would then go on to speak of the wonderful thrift that had enabled France to pay off her enormous debt to Germany, of the great influence of France on Art and Literature, and of her probable decline. Germany had risen to power but the brutal Saxon could never replace artistic France. From there to artistic Japan and the extraordinary way she had in a few years superimposed Western civilization on her own Eastern form, and how wise Salisbury had been to make a treaty with this Eastern menace.

Japan, of course, led to the United States and their habit of “tweaking the Lion’s tail,” a cousinly habit perhaps, but supremely silly; the great English-speaking peoples should join definitely and rule the world with their beneficent sway, and so possibly, though not probably, prevent the Armageddon that would surely come—that indeed was coming, a relentless fate that only the wisest statesmanship could avert.

And who of all our statesmen had that wisdom? None.

Armageddon! Familiar word in my childhood and girlhood! Armageddon! Familiar Fate in my womanhood. War! Rebellion! Disaster! How glad I am my dear prophet died too soon to suffer from it all! He would have suffered horribly, more than most, for he possessed Imagination.

Some odd memories and letters may finish this chapter.

In February 1886, a stranger wrote asking for W. Q. O.’s support in his application for the Slade Professorship at Cambridge, to which W. Q. O. replied:

Dear M——,

Before receiving your letter I had, in order to avoid making invidious distinctions between my friends, resolved—and declared—that I would stand neutral in the matter of the Slade Professorship. You will, therefore, I feel assured, recognize that however high my opinions are of your qualifications and fitness for the post, I am not now at liberty to give them expression in the way you desire.

Trusting and not doubting that this will in no way affect the success of your candidature.

I am, yours very truly,

W. Q. Orchardson.

About 1885 my Father’s American nephew, John Allen, came over from Florida, U.S.A., on a visit to Ivyside; a nice enough boy, but a terrible tease—he boasted that he had made his cousins (us) cry every day for a whole week. His enormous appetite caused his Uncle much amusement, and his swimming was the admiration of all Westgate. I fancy he was meant to remain with us but my parents sent him home. Then his father died and the boy worked his passage back to England before the mast. This piece of energy and the boy’s often declared intention of being a sailor made my Father apprentice him to a ship.

Part of a draft letter to Mr McGregor (I think the rest was white-ant-eaten here in S.A.):

[About 1889.]

Permit me to express my best thanks for your very kind letter respecting my widowed sister, Mrs Allen . . . I wrote . . . to her advising her to keep her son in his present situation if possible. I had the boy over here on a visit, and think that he requires to be kept steadily at one occupation till he acquires steadiness, a view in which your opinion of his character confirms me. If you can therefore kindly allow him to remain I shall feel much indebted.

John voyaged to Australia and returned with a great collection of boomerangs and spears for his Uncle. Charlie and John took the boomerangs to Regent’s Park, where their experiments at throwing them were so successful that a park-keeper stopped the sport.

My Father was staying with some of the Gilbeys once upon a time when boomerangs were brought out. They were thrown but no one could make them return in their flight. W. Q. O. said he felt sure he knew the peculiar twist required, and threw one. It flew straight ahead, then circled and came back—right into a glass-house just behind the thrower. He threw no more, having proved his point!

John voyaged to Australia again, and the rest we heard was from his employers, saying that he and two other apprentices had gone ashore on a spree, had had a big feed, evidently on something poisonous, for all three got very ill and John died. As my Father remarked, the other apprentices were probably saved by having smaller appetites.

In 1891, Mr McGregor wrote thanking W. Q. O. for the very “beautiful, interesting and charming drawing; all I can say is that I appreciate most highly this mark of your regard.”

In 1891, a heavy weight, the bolt from the top of his big easel, fell on my Father’s head, bruising and cutting it rather badly. It seemed to cause a kind of congestion, and he very nearly had apoplexy; partly perhaps because he would not rest, but walked up and down the studio, and up and down. He was always restless when he was ill, and only stayed in bed if he could not get up.

In 1892 or 1893, my Father and Mother stayed a week-end at Lord Rookwood’s, but visitings by now were much less frequent than they used to be.

In May 1893 my Father, Mother and I went to picnic with the George Phillips’s. We went by launch from Walton to beyond Windsor—what a lovely old pile, with its perfect English surroundings. This was one of the views that made my Father say that England would become the playground of the world, would cease to be great and powerful, and would become, as it were, a park, a pleasure-ground for visitors, with its beautiful old palaces and houses as museums.

Luncheon was a grand affair served at tables, which did not quite suit our Bohemian tastes at a picnic. But otherwise the day was perfect. We landed again at Walton at sundown; there were carriages to meet the party, but my Father suggested a walk across the meadows. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity of his fascinating company all to myself, and we went off together after obtaining directions as to the path.

Picture us dawdling happily through the pretty meadows, discussing all we saw with entire sympathy. Then we reached a stile, where the path forked, and we suddenly discovered it was almost dark, we could neither of us remember our hosts’ directions; so we argued the matter, I favoured going to the right, my Father to the left; my Father said his bump of locality had never failed him; I said that I had inherited it and could find my way anywhere, quoting my capacity for finding my way in Savernake Forest, and the dense woods surrounding it, as a good example.

To which he replied that his experience had been longer than mine, which was unanswerable; almost a little breeze!

Of course, we went his way, a long long way, and then met another forked road, where my dear companion smilingly though reluctantly took my advice, and we at last reached our friend’s house, where we found all the guests gone, my Mother and our hosts in some anxiety. Supper had long been finished, and we just had time to assuage some of our pangs of hunger then rushed off to catch the last train back to town.

I enjoyed the long walk, but I was sorry for my Father, who, even then, was showing signs of failing health, though he himself did not know it and always wondered why he should get so tired.

Our host, by the way, was an old friend, son of a yet older one, Captain Phillips, one of the Royal Engineer balloonists at Chatham. He was afterwards transferred to the War Office as a particularly promising young man. He was with Buller in Natal in the Boer War, or rather over, for he occupied one of the two observation balloons. After the relief of Ladysmith, he took his balloon to British East Africa, where he was killed. He himself was English, but his Father was French, as also his wife, and he was exempt from fighting against France. His father died young, and W. Q. O. said of the son that he was “one of the rare specimens who had survived upbringing by a widow.”

In June 1896 we three went to the Heathcotes’ at Connington Castle, near Peterborough. My Father and Mr Heathcote played golf most of the time, and, no doubt, laughed at the Hampton Court tennis-markers’ lamentations; but on one of the three days we were there we drove over to Peterborough, about nine miles, to see the cathedral. I asked my Father if it were a very fine one, and he answered, “not half as fine as Winchester.” The country and the road were absolutely flat except for one steep hill leading up out of the fens into ordinary country.

In February 1897 Orchardson gave a short to-the-point address to the art students of the People’s Palace; “they were all most attentive, but, as usual, he was nervous, and he did not feel well” (E. O.’s diary).

I went with my parents to this prize-giving; I remember that the Bishop of Stepney, Dr Winnington Ingram (now Bishop of London), was on the platform and that I was introduced to him; I remember that my Father spoke well and clearly, improving as he went on, and in a manner to be “apprehended of the multitude,” but not one solitary word of that address can I remember, possibly because I found the Bishop’s face so extraordinarily interesting.

I have found, however, amongst my Father’s notebooks and scraps of paper (whereon he was wont to make notes in sketches or words), a series of notes of just such an address as would be suitable to this occasion:

“I need not say how delighted I am to be here, and how pleased I am to see the good work that is being done by this noble institution.

“There is nothing that we of the older generation take so much interest in [as] the progress and success of these who are to follow us in carrying on the traditions of the art of the country.

“Glad to hear not come prepared to deliver an address. You don’t, I am sure, want any tall talk about the principles of art or its history.

“I know this because I have been a student myself and still am.

“What students want if they want anything is any practical hint as to the . . .

“What I should like would be to imagine myself coming amongst you while you are at work.

“To learn to see that is the root matter of Art. The eye itself merely reflects the image before it. It is the brain taking note of that image, which is seeing, and it is the training of the brain to take accurate note of what is reflected on the eye—that is learning to see.

“Now when you are at work you may, you must, you ought to feel dissatisfied, you know you haven’t got it quite right, but you don’t know why, [that] is where your master comes in, you see it when pointed out.

“By and by you will find it out for yourself, you will not make the mistake at all.

“Draw with a purpose.

“Line of the action of figure. Outline relation to outline.

“Figures must have action, even if it is that of repose.

“It applies to colour in perhaps a broader and more subtle sense. Now what shall we take as an example.

“Art is not merely looking at Nature with more or less accuracy, but looking with a purpose.

“Do not [neglect] the hand or the eye, they are faithful servants which never fail unless the brain their master gives insufficient direction.”

Another sheet of notepaper, folded and torn and covered with faded scribbles in several directions, is labelled by my Mother: “Evidently one of his speeches to the students at the R.A., when he was a visitor.” I have pieced the notes together:

“It gives me great pleasure to be here to-day. A gathering like this, and for such a purpose as this, keeps one in mind that the world is always young, always hopeful and, I trust, improving.

“I am with you very much in spirit as well as body, for I have a lively recollection of my student days. I also recollect a fact which, I think, will put me more in harmony with you than perhaps anything, the fact that I paid little attention to what was said.

“It is a long time ago, yet it seems but yesterday since I went to classes and attended prayer-meetings, and I have a lively recollection of everything except the speeches.

“But I cannot recollect that the speeches did me any good, perhaps they were too learned or perhaps I was inattentive, one result of which you will be pleased to hear is that I have not prepared a set speech.

“Addresses [?] too, usually address themselves to æsthetic considerations and to the general history and progress of Art rather than the practical spirit which the student is truly in need of. For after all, the province of the painter is to paint and it matters little what a painter knows if he cannot paint.

“Now what I should like to say here is what I would like to say in your own studios if I had the opportunity.

“The first thing is to learn to see, second to look for, third to see what you look for. Most people think they can see but that is a mistake—at least, they don’t see in the painter’s sense.

“A man who works or studies without a definite idea is like one who wanders over pathless hills in search of some distant village; he may arrive, but if he does it is to find that there is a good road he might have travelled from the start.”

The rest of the speech was entirely extempore, and dealt chiefly with the right way to see.

Another fragment of a speech, but I do not know on what occasion it was delivered:

“My lords and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to respond to the toast of what may be called the youngest [member] of the European family of Art, appropriate as we are here imaginative, an enterprise which always promises to bring her into closer communion with her elder sisters of the continent in Italy, Spain and France. The continent generally had reached adolescence, I might say maturity, almost at a time when the strongest colour of our national palette was woad. It had plenty of vigour whatever its faults.

“That directness of intention, that tenacity of purpose which have carried Englishmen to the front in every other walk, art and scene in life, and of which we see so many examples here to-night, will I am [bound (illegible) not bound] to believe not to be found wanting in that art, the toast to [of] which you have . . .”

A letter that explains itself, from the man Orchardson always called the “Modern Benvenuto Cellini.”

Gravel Pits,

Feb. 6th, 1889.

Dear Orchardson,

I had really no right to put you off yesterday as I did, and I hardly know how to excuse myself, but I throw myself on your good nature to take my explanation, with which I am sure you will sympathize. The fact is I have a piece of work on hand which for a very long time has been worrying me, as I could not get it to come right. Yesterday I had been poring over it all the morning, and at 1.30 in despair I was about to give it up to prepare to come to you, when one of those unaccountable hazards, a suggestion formed by a stray circumstance, an accidental effect of light and shade falling upon the work, revealed to me what I believe will be a solution of my difficulty. It is one of those fleeting suggestions which if not taken at once fade for ever. I countermanded at once my luncheon and went hard at the work, and only just had time to fix the suggestion before being obliged to leave to catch my train here . . .

Yours sincerely,

Alfred Gilbert.

My Father as a youth always intended to be a great traveller, but had to paint instead. It is a travelling family, my brothers and I are scattered over Africa, my Father’s brothers and sisters went to America, and we have relations in Australia. The brother (another Charlie) went twice round the round, then settled in U.S.A. as painter, lecturer, farmer and socialist; he was an unsuccessful candidate for the mayoralty of Chicago. He was unsuccessful in everything, and my Father helped him. The following draft letter from W. Q. O. explains itself:

“You clearly don’t understand the condition of things here; you speak of being introduced to the studios but that sort of thing does not go on here. Why, with the exception of two old fellow-students, one of whom is a very clever painter who has a difficulty in making both ends meet, I haven’t been in a studio for years. Of what good would my introduction be? People won’t buy pictures to please me, they only buy to make money. Lowering the price does not meet the difficulty. A. D. told me lately that at one time most pictures that had anything in them could be sold at a price of some sort; now they could not, and they never went to the studios because they could not buy. The cry to the unsuccessful here, and their name is legion, is that of course the R.A. and everyone else conspires to keep them down. There were this year over 14,000 works of art sent to the R.A., though everyone knows that not even 2000 can possibly be placed. Of course I have no right to object to your coming over, but knowing the condition of things, I would be wrong to encourage you to come. Looking from a distance it may seem hopeful, but after all it is a mirage, and a mirage is the worst place in the world to be stranded in, and the most hopeless.

“If you take my advice you won’t come.

Photo Watt & Son
By kind permission of James Orchar Art Gallery.

“You seem to speak as if society consisted of two classes, the vicious and the virtuous, and that wealth was the reward of the first and poverty that of the second. Does it not strike you that brains, capacity and conduct may have something to do with success in life and that incompetence—without going farther—[may] contribute towards failure even if backed by virtue, or even by vice? Though some clever people fail they do so from various causes. Now your troubles come not from want of power to manage your own affairs but possibly by your enthusiastic devotion to that of others.

“You may call it plain speaking—I don’t—but do you think that to overstate a case and call your opponent a scoundrel is plain speaking? It is not, it is special pleading and never commends itself to fair-minded men, and its natural result is to stir [up] antagonism. Now your object in advocating a cause should be to convince not to antagonize. This is the common fault of most socialists, they get so excited and incensed by the wrongs they try to remedy, that they overshoot their mark and belabour in their fury friend and foe alike.”

A Secretary to the First Lord of the Treasury wrote that Mr Balfour had just received a memorial bearing W. Q. O.’s signature amongst others recommending Mr X for a Civil List Pension . . . The point to be specially elucidated was whether Mr X could claim to be considered a first-rate artist in any sense, or rather an expert workman? and if the latter, is he quite exceptional?

Hawley House,

by Dartford.

Dear Sir,

Permit me to apologize for the inadvertent delay in answering your letter of the 28th June which has followed me about a little. In answer to your questions as to Mr. X I may at once say that I know Mr X, not personally, but by report—good report—I have also seen his work which was excellent.

These, together with the representation of some of my friends who were in the most favourable position to know the case, formed my reasons for adding my name to the petition. I may assume, therefore, that I do not possess that exact information which your more searching enquiries suggest. Again apologizing for this delay.

I am dear Sir,

Yours very truly,

W. Q. Orchardson.

Though Orchardson objected to being called a portrait painter he had been elected a member of the Society of Portrait Painters in 1897. Apparently he followed his usual habit of forgetting to write in answer.

Oct. 1897.

My dear Orchardson,

I wrote some days ago to announce to you your election as a member of the Society of Portrait Painters, but have heard nothing from you. That doesn’t matter, but worse still, we haven’t any picture by you! and we want one badly. . . .

I was so pleased when you told me in the summer (at the Tate Gallery) that you would like to be a member if elected; everything has been done with all desire to do you honour and I hope you are going to exhibit. Herkomer (very strong), Watts and several others of the R.A. have sent good things and the Scots are in force and very interesting. . . . So long as we know the size we can keep a place till Tuesday night anyhow.

Yrs. in gt. haste,

Arch S. Wortley.

W. Q. O. took up this election and thereafter exhibited regularly, I believe, though not always fresh work.

Carnegie Art Galleries,

Pittsburgh, U.S.A.

W. Q. Orchardson, Esq.,

Dear Sir,

In again thanking you on behalf of the Trustees of the Carnegie Art Institute of Pittsburgh, United States, for having kindly consented to act on the advisory committee for our future exhibitions, I have the honour to inform you that your colleagues on the committee for London will consist of Messrs Abbey, Alma-Tadema, Sargent, Boughton, Luke Fildes, F. D. Millet and G. J. Shannon.

I assure you that your interest thus expressed is very highly appreciated by us and that the service you will render us will be invaluable.

I am,

Very respectfully,

John N. Beatty,


[p.p.: undated, about 189(?)]

Dear Poynter,

When I get a letter which I want to answer personally I rescue it from my wife who does my correspondence.

This is usually fatal as it gets mislaid and delayed in its answer. Yours has been a case in point, and it is only now that at last I am able to thank you for your kindness—congratulation and appreciation, which latter is what we most desire from the right quarter.

Will you kindly add to my debt to you by forgiving my very remorseful tardiness,

And believe me,

Yours most truly,

[Unsigned; his own handwriting.]

Royal Academy of Arts,

Jan. 26th, 1890.

Dear Sir,

I have to-day received from Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna of Russia a telegram with reference to the exhibition of English pictures now being held in St. Petersburg, a copy of which I have pleasure in communicating to you.

I am, dear, Sir,

Yours very faithfully,

Edward Poynter.

Copy of telegram:

Sir Edward Poynter,

28 Albert Gate,

Accept my thanks and please transmit the same to all these who so generously contributed to the success of the English picture Exhibition opened to-day in the august presence of Their Imperial Majesties.

Elizabeth, Grand Duchess of Russia.

Draft letter:

Your brother, the late —— whose portrait I painted for the Bank in E.[4] used while sitting to speak of you often. My writing to ask your lordship a favour may suggest the terms of his talk.

I have in my mind’s eye a picture of N. and should like to make some preliminary studies on board the Victory. I did not know exactly how to procure the necessary authorization till it occurred to me that half a word from the first lord would be an open sesame. If this you will kindly grant me, I need not say how grateful I shall be and shall always remain,

Your lordship’s

very true servant,

[Unsigned; his writing.]

In 1895 Walter Armstrong wrote an excellent monograph on W. Q. O. for The Portfolio; in 1897, Stanley Little wrote another for The Art Journal. I have no record or recollection of my Father’s opinion of the former; of the latter, the following note appears to be part of a letter to the author:

“It is not given to every man to write on Art, that most subtle of all subjects.

“I had looked over the illustrations and had already groaned over the superabundance of the immature examples of an apparently misspent youth; and when my wife read your introduction, which is admirable, I said, ‘Ah, a little too much of me and not enough of Stanley Little.’ ”

[1] The author of A Daughter of Heth, etc. etc.

[2] Mr. Heathcote was amateur champion for twenty-five years.

[3] “Alimentary canal” was my Father’s expression.

[4] Lord Lothian, 1899.


After we left Westgate my Father found he had an intense desire to see his native country again and to hear the “kindly Scots tongue,” so he and my mother decided that the Highlands would be an ideal place to spend the summer holidays especially as holidaying and fishing could be combined. The last time they were in Scotland was in 1879 or ’80, when they visited the Stevensons at Loch Etive and the Robertsons at Muchall’s Castle, Kincardine; Charlie was with them then, but this time it was to be the whole family.

Lawers, Loch Tay, was finally fixed on and most of the little inn taken. After much unpractical puzzling over time-tables, Orchardson decided that the only way of being certain to arrive at his destination with both his family and his luggage, was to take a self-contained saloon carriage; which he did, the family travelling north at night in much comfort, at the end of July in 1891.

As my Father could only get to the North of Scotland by means of a saloon carriage that delivered him and his “impedimenta” at his destination, so in London he had taken a hansom cab in order to get anywhere; there were many places he described as “one of those places one gets to in a hansom.” Once he wished to go to a certain street and, having walked some way, found himself lost; so he hailed a cab and settled himself for a long drive. But the cabby turned the first corner and beamingly deposited his fare within a hundred yards. Yet my Father boasted of his bump of locality and laughed at his London wife for being unable to reach Knightsbridge from Victoria except via Oxford Circus!

To return to our Scottish holiday. I went to the Grays and joined the family later, my Father meeting me at Stirling; on my expressing my surprise and delight at his coming so far to meet me, he replied:

“I could not let anyone else show my little daughter her first sight of her native mountains.”

Although he was born in Edinburgh, he always felt himself a Highlander, as he was by descent—some ancestor had been in England, where the mispronouncing Sassenach changed the name to Orchardson, which the ancestor retained on returning to his native glen, as a distinction from the many other Urquharts.

The train took us to Killin and from there we went to Lawers in the little steamer that plies along the lake, a lovely place, a lovely day and a charming companion. On the way my Father told me of his first Loch-fishing adventure. He and Charlie were out fishing for the day with a native boatman—one of the usual charming-mannered Highlanders. Quite early in the day they “got into” a big fish. The line whirred out and was almost finished before Donald got the boat turned to follow the fish. Then began an exciting chase, W. Q. O. giving the boatman steering orders and Charlie’s internal spirits cutting such capers that he could hardly keep within the boat. All the afternoon the chase continued and Charlie and Donald relieved each other at the oars till at last the fish seemed to stick tight in some cranny, and no twist or turns or rings on the line could shift it. At ten at night, in pitch dark, my Father tied the line to a piece of wooden grating from the bottom of the boat and threw it overboard. Then they rowed home to Lawers, where they found a search party just setting out to find if they were drowned or not.

The following day at sunrise the enthusiastic fishermen went back to the loch, found the grating, pulled it into the boat, and wound up the slack of the line; but, alas! just as they thought the chase was beginning again, the line came away, loose. W. Q. O. maintained that the hero of this story was probably a salmo ferox, of which a few have been caught in Loch Tay, but as he never saw the fish either at the time or afterwards, he was never certain.

How many fishermen would have refrained from seeing that salmo ferox in after years? Even fishermen wonder.

My father was always honest in his fishing stories as in all other things, and could never understand other fishermen’s embroideries; so many odd things happened when fishing, he said, that it was quite unnecessary to invent.

“How is it that the fishing above us gets so many more fish than we do?” asked a man on the Dee, near Banchory, of his ghillie, who answered:

“They’re just bigger leears there than what we are here.”

We stayed at Lawers for six delightful weeks, my Father fishing every day and all day with one exception, when he accompanied us on a drive of thirty-six miles round Ben Lawers—up the pass of Glen Lyon (the home of the Campbells, who massacred the McGregors), where we saw “McGregor’s Leap,” a huge jump from one side of the river to the other which the McGregor took and so saved himself from the pursuing Campbell, who dared not take the leap; through the pastoral valley above the narrow pass and home across the west shoulder of the mountain, a wild wide pass, bare and rocky and boggy and heathery; beautiful in sunny weather, even cheerful, but on a stormy day, wonderful and forbidding. We went fishing there one day in the little tarn at the top of the pass, dark, peaty water overhung by dark lichen-covered rocks—my Father as well as I felt the awe and the wonder, although he was busy fishing if not catching fish.

Our friend, Mlle Céleste Léveillé, came all the way from Paris to join us on a visit, and delighted my Father with her French capacity for expression. She actually climbed the Ben “himself” with the younger members of the family. Imagine a French woman no longer either young or thin, wearing French boots and a long dress, climbing a rocky boggy mountain, a distance of four miles to the top. Her account of our adventures, given in a mixture of English and French, kept my Father laughing and entertained for a long time.

Another visitor was Sir Walter Gilbey who came over for a day and who was so enthusiastic over the delicious Highland beef and mutton that my Father laughingly remarked he hoped he would not suffer the same fate as “Cousin John” who, all his life, bitterly regretted that he had not had a “third helping of that saddle of mutton, you know!”

Our holiday ended with a fortnight at Inveroran near Loch Tulla in Argyleshire; we drove there from Lawers in a wagonette looking like a gipsy caravan, being hung round with fishing baskets, children’s toys and so on. My Father hoped to get some salmon in the Orchy which flows out of Loch Tulla, but he had no luck.

The day after our arrival my brother, a boy and complete novice, got a 16-pounder and two other men from the hotel got one each; after that nobody got anything except a couple of pike in the lake, which, of course, did not count, not being “fish.” The expression on a fisherman’s face when he catches a pike instead of a trout is—well, it varies according to the amount of “language” at his command. But my Father never used “swear words,” and was quite remarkably sweet-tempered, usually consoling himself with quaintly philosophical remarks. It is on record that he once said “damn” when he was practising golf by himself, and a little Aberdeen terrier knocked the ball off the tee every time he put it up. He was so ashamed at what he considered his loss of self-control that he stopped his game and went into the house to confess his weakness to his wife.

At the end of September my Mother took the family back to school and London (what a flat, dreary, dark and ugly place it is after the Highlands!) but my Father went to Mr. Gilbey’s at Coldstream.

Again those who do not like letters are advised to skim or skip.

Photo D. Croal Thomson, Esq.
By kind permission of the Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Red Lion Hotel,


[p.m. Sept. 23rd, ’91.]

My dear old Sweetheart,

I got to bed as the clock struck two! after a march through the empty streets to this place which you may observe is in Berwick—not near the station, however—the porter who carried my bags said there was nothing nearer where one might get in so late.

After Inveroran anything is comfortable, not to say luxurious, and sleeping “wellish.” I breakfasted alone in state in the “commercial gentleman’s” room with everything right and proper down to the patent bottle fly-catcher on the sideboard. This at 10.30 a.m.

Have been since down to the river. Crossed it by the bridge, blowing gales, no rain lately—characteristic things about.

But how are you? How did you get on? And how are you getting on? Resting, I hope, to-day, and getting fit for to-morrow, when I expect you to obey injunctions and wishes by commanding your myrmidons not in a standing position, but from a central if movable seat. And now good-bye. Give them one all round for me and keep the rest!! for yourself.



Newcastle Arms Hotel,


[p.m. Sept. 28th, ’91.]

My dear old Sweetheart,

“And,” how are you? Not knocking yourself up I hope. I got here last night, no trap—had to send for one.

Was received very cordially though the landlady was both surprised and grieved to find me alone. They did not get my letter. Sligh [boatman] had been hovering around. “She”—the River!—has been in flood—highest for twenty years and is still too high for sporting purposes. Nobody went out on Saturday.

I am just starting so good-bye, much love and many “what ye callums.”



Newcastle Arms Hotel.

[p.m. Sept. 29th, ’91.]

Dear old Sweetheart,

Came home last night about “dead beat.” A perfect gale in the River just not enough to blow you out of the boat. Had good sport, though, landed three fish—two grilse and a salmon fresh run. The first that have been got Sligh says for about a week, besides which I lost that I had on for about three minutes. So you see I had better sport in a day than I have had for the last two months.

I have your letter this morning, but you don’t seem to have received the one I wrote on Sunday at Berwick.

I sent one of the grilse to Mrs Huntly, the other with the salmon I sent to you. Perhaps you had better pass on the salmon to McGregor—they are entirely yours though, every pound, so you must do with them as you like. Sligh says the grilse here this season are of splendid quality. But I am late and

My cab is at the door,

My boat is by the shore,

While Guthrie soothes the waiting Sligh,

Answering to the old man’s “damn”

With, an if he could, “cherchez la femme.”

So good-bye with much and many and one all round.

From yours,


Newcastle Arms Hotel.

[Sept. 30th, ’91.]

My dear Old Lady,

No letter this morning! How about it? The extra one last night does not count for to-day, insufficient for the day is the letter thereof.

“She” was in flood yesterday so there was no fishing. Sligh was at his worst. His wife whom I met in the village says she is at her wits’ end when the river is like that, nothing she can do or cook pleases him.

I spent the day wandering, there are some fine things about, both up and down.

Guthrie reports that “She” is a wee bit down this morning so I am going to have a try. There is an old lady—Lady Sandwich—at the Hall for the fishing. She came down yesterday to the river in light grey hair and her hands in her pockets—very formidable.

Your hurried but affectionate,


Sligh was a boatman on the Tweed, celebrated—or perhaps notorious—for “character,” unfortunately it was of a disagreeable kind. One day he was rowing for his employer, a lady, who was fishing; she got into a “fish” (on the Tweed only a salmon is a fish) but owing to some mismanagement lost it. Sligh was in such a rage that he rowed straight to the shore, jumped out, pulled up the boat, and left Mrs (Huntly, I think) quite literally stranded.

If he could do that to his employer and a “leddy,” imagine what he was like to her guests! My Father, however, good-tempered, courteous, humorous, and strong-willed, contrived to get on very well with the old man after the first battle of wills in which old Sligh came off second best to his surprise.

My Father wound up his account of the old man by saying: “Sligh loves the river more than his wife and children or anything in the world; if he loses his job, and he deserves to, poor old chap, he will die.”

Some years later his temper grew more than unbearable and he at last lost his job. Within a year he was dead.

W. Q. O. spent the autumn and winter working hard as usual, but in the spring fishing interrupted, and after finishing his work for the R.A., leaving his wife to send it in and look after the family, he went off to Sutherlandshire where he had taken a salmon fishing with several old friends, Pettie, William Black and his lawyer brother-in-law Mr Morten, and Mr Orchar, an engineer, Provost of Broughty Ferry for many years, art lover, and incidentally, if I remember rightly, inventor of the gutty golf ball in place of the feather-filled leather ball of the old days. He gave W. Q. O. good advice as to how not to be cheated, and advised my Mother to take good care of her husband.

Oykel Bridge Hotel,

April 3rd.

[p.m. Lairg, April 3rd, ’92.]

Midsummer weather.

My dear Wee Wifie,

The above heading is quite reliable. We drove yesterday in an open trap from Invershin—16 miles—without topcoats! and to-day the inside of the house is the coolest place.

Had a bad journey, no sleep to speak of, and arrived very tired. To-day we lunched with Morten and Black, Morten showing us the pools on the river up and down. We have walked about 9 miles and I feel that I shall be fit for anything to-morrow.

There has been nothing doing for the past week, and nothing is expected till there is rain, for the present waterproofs are a mockery and furs a farce.

The whole thing here is as Katie might say “simply lovely,” but I wish that you and Charlie were here. Nothing is ever complete in this world—except Barton, of course.

This is the first possible post since my arrival.

Yours as you only know,


If you post your letters in the morning it saves a day.

Oykel Bridge Hotel,


[p.m. Lairg, April 3rd, ’92.]

My dear Wee Nonnie,

Your letter—a nice one—came to-day between one and two o’clock, and though I wrote last night mine would go by the same coach, so you see we are a little separate.

About the letters, open whatever you think fit—among those you sent to-day there was a majority of circulars.

We did not begin “work” to-day till after lunch, the water was so low and the day so bright. I went up to the head waters to the Oykel falls, it was more like deer stalking than anything else, up hills and down precipitous banks of jagged rock to the river, where merely to stand was a feat and to get further down the stream an impossibility. The only way to the next pool being up the hill again and another scramble down.

My labour was in vain, but on going home pretty pumped I found Orchar, who had gone down the river—had got a ten-pounder—a fine fish. I was almost compensated, for no one expected to do anything, in fact it is the first fish taken for a week.

I still wish you were here, the weather is so delightful and the place.

I need not say, however, that everybody is looking out for rain—the glass is making promises—and I am



[p.m. Lairg, April 6th, ’92.]

My dear Old Pet,

Refuse all applications for reproducing the Napoleon in the meantime, and, by the way, open all my letters before sending them here and answer those you think you can.

The weather is magnificent, we bask in the sun as if it were July, but alas! no fish. We have worked hard all day. Morten and Black join in prayers for rain, which prayers are not unlikely to be granted as the wind is getting round into the West.

I’ll have to wind up—Orchar is getting restless, thinks I’m very busy. He has gone out for rain—hope he may find it.

With all love,

Yours altogether,


Photo T. & R. Annan
“Have I forgot the words?
Faith they are sadder than I thought.”
By kind permission of J. M. Robertson, Esq.

[p.m. Lairg, April 7th, ’92.]


My dear Old Lady,

Your dream of no fish but two grey mullet is funny and so far quite true—bar the mullet. We begin to think the river empty as we see no signs.

Pettie comes to Langwell Lodge to-day, and they are all to dine with us here on Sunday next.

I am glad you were not made miserable on Sunday[1] and am not sorry to have been out of the way. You must have had a high time. But how was it that so many turned up?

To-morrow we mean to give the river a holiday and betake ourselves to the mountains. We hear of a loch about ten miles off and shall take our trout rods in case of trout.

Would it surprise you to learn that I keep on missing you? I don’t get better of that though I do of my cold.

Yesterday we lunched on the bank of the river and rested afterwards at full length on the grass, so you see I am well enough for anything.[2] Tell Charlie that this is, in the present state of the weather, a repetition of the Orchy—four men and four ghillies to thrash the water and no fish since Orchar’s!

Meantime to the lot my love.

Your sweetheart,


[p.m. Lairg, April 9th, ’92.]

Bridge of Oykel.

My dear Little Pet,

Yesterday I missed fire. We had gone to a place ten miles from here, “Loch Ailsh” (spelling phonetic), and did not get back till late enough not to be able to write. We had a lovely day and strolled about taking our trout rods with us (six nice fish only).

This has been such another day—sky cloudless, the river dwindling, and fishing out of the question, so we went six miles further afield to a beautiful place called Inchnadamph on Loch Assynt, and here I am now sitting up to say how do you do.

Orchar is very lively and sends you his good wishes.

I am glad you are busy and therefore happy and I am glad that Ian is all right. Is the school well again? I suppose the invalids are removed?

We are very busy waiting for rain—haven’t been near the river for three days. I do wish you were here, just the weather you would enjoy and the excursions—oh dear.

With all my heart,



[Lairg, April 11th, ’92.]

Oykel Bridge,


My dear Pet,

Here we are still in broiling August weather, no cloud, no symptoms of change, and need I say no fishing.

Yesterday we went to Kinloch Ailsh and loafed. To-day we have had the Langwell people up to lunch—they are all somewhat down about the weather the gods send—especially Morten—so we have arranged to spend the next two days in an excursion to Loch Inver, 32 miles off on the west coast, not to fish but to see the country. As you know, I don’t like long drives but I just contrive to “thole” them.

I forgot to wish you many happy returns of the day;[3] but I do—or how could I have them myself?

I am very relieved to hear Ian is all right—would you like to give him a licking for the fright?[4] And Charlie—what business is it of his to get neuralgia? I am doing all that sort of thing myself, having spent the last two days with my old friend Tic. He has gone, however, and I feel myself again to-day.

Mr Orchar sends his kind regards. His champagne is getting about done, so I think you had better send me a little, say six, nine, or a dozen, as you can most easily get packed.

Meantime now and ever,

Your sweetheart,


[Lairg, April 12th, ’92.]

Oykel Bridge.

My dear Old Lady,

This is the climate of magnificent variety. From July we have jumped into December. We have been praying for rain and warm winds—they send us snow and a north-easter. Orchar threatens to go to-morrow if the roads are passable. Meantime he is sketching from the window. Yesterday, as I told you, we were all—the five of us—going to Loch Inver, but Orchar and I turned back at Inchnadamph.

You are evidently, I am glad to think, having a high time with callers and calling, but think of us! and sympathize. We have come a long distance, we do not get what we came for, and we get nothing else.

Ah! here is the post, so good-bye and kiss me.

Your affectionate,


[Lairg, 13 April, ’92.]

Oykel Bridge.

My dear Old Lady,

The hills are covered with snow. Orchar has gone, and I am bearing with my own company in the intervals of the Tic—fifth day—haven’t had such an attack for years. I don’t know that I should stay on but that I wrote the other day to Arthur Gilbey asking him here and have not yet received his answer. I thought it an opportunity of returning the Tweeddale compliment.

Excuse my letter being short, but the attacks of Tic are so rapid. I am all right otherwise. Thank Hilda for her nice letter.

Many kisses from,

Your old sweetheart,


[p.m. April 14th, ’92.]


Oykel Bridge.

My very dear Old Lady,

Better this afternoon, thank you—no tic since 1 p.m. Pettie and Morten, whose day it is on the upper water here, lunched with me. So not so badly off for company as usual. Am to spend Sunday at Langwell Lodge.

Black has the best of it here, he is revising a new edition of his works so does not feel this dreary waiting for the rain so keenly.

Would I had brought some time-killer with me, but I am without even a note-book. I think of you, however, and Sheila, and Ian, and Quentin, and Gordon, and Hilda, and Charlie, and then of you again, and so the time passes and is assuaged.

The snow has melted like a dream, the old weather is back again, and the hills, the thirsty hills, have drunk all the moisture, for not a drop seems to have found its way to the river, which is lower than ever. The poor ghillies are in great distress, never seen “the likes” of it before, “no, indeed, sir.”

When the notice of the touching-up[5] days arrives, telegraph them. I shall know what it means, however short.

With much love and many kisses,



[p.m. April 16th, ’92.]

Oykel Bridge,



How do you do? There is a seat here on my right and one on my left and you are in neither. It does not seem natural nor do I like it. So you see I am not so happy as I ought to be on a holiday. Moreover, the rain cometh not, and the wind is still in the north-east, and, as you know, the parson knows it is no use praying for rain while the wind remains in that quarter.

It is bitterly cold and I am still suffering from Tic. I went out twice to-day notwithstanding—and landed a fish in the middle of an attack, could not get my hand to my shoulder, lively! Sent it to my sweetheart—hope she has got it all right.

The Langwell people are to break in on my solitude to-morrow and lunch. They are all robustious.

Perhaps you had better send Grannie part of that fish—with my good wishes—if you like. I would have sent her one direct but the river dwindles daily, the fish can’t get up, and those that are already up seem to be in hiding.

Yours more than possible,


[p.m. April 18th, ’92.]

Oykel Bridge.

My dear Old Lady,

Your hands must be full indeed, all six of them at home and two extra! Not to mention your occasional charge of Grannie and Mrs Middleton.[6] I had been pondering all the morning the momentous question as to whether I should telegraph to ask whether you and Charlie would like to come here for a week and return all together. Judging from your letter, however, it would seem to be out of the question. I am very sorry, it would have been—to me—such a treat to meet a week earlier, and I know you would enjoy this place, and so would Charlie with a rod in his hand.

Of course, the river being in the state it is I would start for home at once, but that on my way I should meet the rain for which I have waited so long.

I have had Pettie, Morten, and Black at lunch to-day, and to-morrow I spend at Langwell Lodge, returning on Monday.

My love and congratulations to Hilda and the boys on their school success—it’s capital.

And now, my sweetheart, good night, good night.


“Touching-up” days came, and with them W. Q. O., and a week later the private view to which my Father and Mother took me for the first time. It is an amusing function, all the R.A.’s and A.R.A.’s wives and daughters have new gowns and “bonnets,” as my Father called them, for the occasion, and there are (or were then) many celebrated people to be seen, besides most of one’s friends.

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of the Edinburgh National Gallery.

People are accused of going to see people and frocks and not pictures; but my Mother and I always went early and had a good view of the pictures before the crush. If we could get our artist to go with us, so much the better. On this occasion he gave us the benefit of his company and his criticisms, but unfortunately I only remember one of the latter.

We were looking at Leighton’s “And the Sea gave up the Dead which were in It,” which was causing much discussion.

“Is it really good?” said I in a doubtful voice.

“No,” said my Father, “Look, see! the people are all rising out of the water—and their clothes are dry! But, after all—well—that sea is dry, so perhaps it would be difficult for the clothes to be wet. No, it is not good; the man who is supposed to be supporting the two figures is not doing so, the muscles are flaccid instead of braced to meet the strain.”

Luncheon at Prince’s Restaurant with Mr (afterwards Sir, and Director of the Dublin Art Gallery) Walter Armstrong, this year, and at the Berkeley Hotel next year (or vice versa—it is immaterial) added to an entertaining day. They were both big parties, but I forget the hosts and only remember Monsieur Gauchez at the Berkeley, rather shocking and surprising everyone by criticizing Irving and Ellen Terry in his violent and emphatic way.

The R.A. banquet, opening day and the Greenwich dinner followed in quick succession, and then my parents went to France, taking me with them for the first time.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel, dined with our old friends the Jouanins, lunched with Monsieur Gauchez, I fancy; and, above all, went to the Salon. There we met Bouguereau, Meissonier (I think) and other painters, all full of compliments to the “English” painter, especially when they found he was Scotch.

There were two pictures of the year, De la Roche’s “Chevalier au Fleurs” and “Les Conquerants.” Orchardson was not enthusiastic over the former, it was “clever . . . but,” and as for the latter, he turned his back and took no further notice of it—he would never look at anything ugly. The shades of the conquerors—Napoleon, Cæsar, Alexander, and the lesser conquerors behind them, riding through the ranks of the dead, corpses lying in rows on either side—what a ghastly picture! Made worse by the horrible suggestion of truth in it. Yet it must have been clever to have made so great an impression on me that I am still shocked, stabbed by it after more than thirty years; I forget who painted it.

I whisperingly begged my Father to come away from the thing—he was talking and oblivious of horrors—and we went round the exhibition, but the only impression left is that of blood—every picture seemed to stream with it. And yet the French are considered a gay people.

I find the following note in my Mother’s diary:

“W. Q. O. glossed over ugly things and did not, in a picture gallery or other place, notice the ugly or even uninteresting. I notice Gosse says much the same thing of Andrew Lang; and, also like Andrew Lang, he had often “not heard” of things or people that others had been talking a good deal about. W. Q. O. was passionately devoted to the beautiful in everything and was never “spoilt.” Beaudelaire says of Theophile Gautier: ‘Homme heureux! Homme digne d’envie! Il n’a jamais aimé que le beau.’ So also of W. Q. O.”

On my asking my Father what he thought of French art, he said that the French were better draughtsmen than colourists, and that as a race they were extremely artistic, yet had never produced a First Old Master—a Raphael or a Titian.

From Paris we went on to Troyes to my Mother’s old friend, Mlle Léveillé, in whose charge my parents left me to learn French.

They stayed a couple of days and we went to see the sights—the house where the Treaty of Troyes was signed, the cathedral of no particular interest, a beautiful old church and of course the picture gallery of which my Father remarked that he had always wondered “where the vast canvases of the Salon disappear to, and now he knew, to a well deserved oblivion in the provincial galleries.”

This was one of the occasions that caused him to remark that most picture galleries “could be done at the rate of two miles per hour.”

Then I was left to France and homesickness plus an ancient brooch (which I still have), and they went home to painting, reading aloud, dining-out, and fishing.

[1] In other words “I am glad my work was liked and praised and you consequently enjoyed Show Sunday.”—H.O.G.

[2] It was an old joke in the family that laziness was a sign of extreme good health in W. Q. O., and restless industry the reverse.

[3] April 8th, Wedding Anniversary.

[4] School infection.

[5] “Touching-up days” are the days at the R.A. after the pictures are hung and the artists first see their pictures in a new light and put finishing touches.

[6] My Mother’s godmother, who possessed a few pictures.

SCOTLAND (continued)

In July my Uncle fetched me home from France, and as I curled up in an ecstasy of enjoyment (how lovely the Garden of England is after the cultivated desert between Paris and Calais!) I anticipated another pleasure—my Father at his easel and a talk on art.

But when in my usual hasty fashion I rushed to the studio, there was not a sign of art anywhere; the place was littered with fishing-tackle and my Father was busy “playing with his toys,” as my Mother always expressed it. In his own words he was “tidying” his tackle box, looking to his lines and gut, sorting and admiring flies and so on.

My Mother with the servants’ help packed the mundane necessities, but when it came to fishing boots and clothes my Father looked on critically, and between them they usually left some very important article behind; and my Mother always forgot the keys. So much so that after many trials and tribulations she never locked any boxes and left the keys permanently behind. Even her household keys were never to be found when wanted, and the dear Quiller made great jokes at his wife’s expense, saying that some day he would write a novel entitled Her Keys!

The following evening we entrained in our sleeping-saloon to the tune of (as it might be) “Have I forgot the keys? Faith, jaunts are harder than I thought they were.”

Oh! those night journeys! The blazing infernos of the Black Country, the peaceful meadows, the mysterious hills! With sleep between! And then the gay awakening in another land! My Father would put his head out of the window at the first stoppage and snuff the air, “Ah, how fresh!” and listen to the people speaking on the platform.

“The kindly Scots tongue! how good it is to hear it again!” And he would call a porter to make some small enquiry just for the pleasure of hearing his native tongue once more.

And then into the mountains!

Our saloon was shunted right down to the little pier near Killin, and my Mother went with it, but “the juveniles” decided to walk the pretty wooded mile from Killin village. My Father accounted himself a juvenile and came with us; he did not say much—I think he was “seeing visions.”

We did not wait for the “passenger only” boat that plies “D. V. weather permitting,” but took the little luggage steamer that plies “w’ether or no,” and after crossing the Loch several times, calling at the different villages, arrived at Fearnan, where we were welcomed in the usual pleasant Highland manner.

My Scotch husband tells me that there is no such thing as a “hamlet” in Scotland, but all the same Fearnan was a hamlet, about four miles east of Lawers, with a temperance cottage-hotel, a tiny general shop attached, and a few cottages.

It was low on the banks of the Loch, and not so bracing as Lawers, which is 300 feet above the level of the Loch; but it was more convenient for our fisher, who had found the climb to Lawers tiring after sitting cramped in a boat all day. I think that was the first sign of age noticeable in my Father, though he accounted himself a young man for years after that.

At Fearnan I usually played boatman; no easy job, for my brother in the bow invariably said I was too far away from the shore and my Father in the stern said I was too far in—the boat must be kept stern-on to the shore and just over the ledge that drops suddenly from the shallows to the deeps. Of course, when the trout are rising and hungry there are no troubles; it is only when there are no fish anywhere that fishermen are hard to please. Then the lines get tangled and the wind is too strong or not strong enough; and the water so glassy that it cannot disguise the fly, or so rough that no decent fish could possibly see a fly, and so on and so forth—for all of which the “boatman” gets the blame.

Sir Donald Currie (the shipowner) lived in Glen Lyon, the next valley to the Tay, and my parents lunched and dined there several times. Sir Donald lent us his steam launch on Loch Tay two or three times but my Father found the sport less exciting than from a rowing boat. W. Q. O. also had permission from Lord Breadalbane to fish in his private loch water and away down the Tay, where it flows out of the lake past the village of Kenmore and through the grounds of Breadalbane Castle. He got some good sport there, and enjoyed it more than the loch fishing, especially as it was very beautiful.

From Fearnan my Father and Mother went to visit Carnegie the millionaire at Loch Rannoch Lodge, where he and his young wife lived comparatively simply in spite of their enormous wealth.

One morning at breakfast, the conversation, so my Father told me afterwards, turned on Columbus and the egg. My Father remarked that it was quite unnecessary to flatten the end of the egg, as it was perfectly easy to balance. Mr Carnegie was sceptical, so my Father took up an egg and balanced it. “But that’s a boiled egg,” said the host and sent for a raw one, which my Father also balanced at the first attempt. Nobody was more surprised than W. Q. O. at having proved his argument so easily, but of course, he merely waved his hand in his foreign way and laughed his pleasant laugh. But Mr Carnegie was exceedingly cross.

I saw him once—a small, self-important man, light khaki-coloured, with a very wide mouth; he told my Father that he had made seven different fortunes but had lost them all except the last.

At the end of August my Father and I went off on a visiting expedition without my Mother, who stayed behind to look after the small children. Our journey to Muchalls Castle, Stonehaven, where we were to stay with the J. P. B. Robertsons, was not apparently a very satisfactory one; we had two changes, the trains were late and missed their connections, and my Father discovered too late that he had filled his luncheon flask with paraffin instead of whiskey and water!

At Muchalls I was relegated to the schoolroom, which was rather trying, schoolroom conversation being very dull after my witty well-read Father.

My Father was taken on several expeditions, a doubtful pleasure, as he did not like driving, but he enjoyed the interesting old houses he was taken to see.

From there we went on to stay with the Keillers at Ballater.

[p.m. Sept. 2nd, ’92.] Morven.

My dear Old Lady,

“Countless ages” have passed since we met, and time is still in the way . . .

The Dee is six miles from here and is only falling after a spate. I am going down to-day however to give it a try.

We left the Robertsons very jolly and saw Mrs MacDonald, who is looking well and young.

. . . It pours, which keeps us waiting a bit to start for Braemar—it is no joke driving, the cold is so keen. River here too high for fishing from this side, pools all on the Queen’s side.

Sunday. We start to-morrow for Dundee. I am sorry not to write Fearnan instead—I feel as if we were on a penitential pilgrimage and wish it were well over. Another thing I am vexed about your troubles with the landlady and Susan, but you must try and take it easy until I return and just quietly ignore the old woman.

. . . Tell Charlie I did not bring the key of my tackle box, I don’t know where it is, but perhaps a judicious search will find it.

Write and tell me how you are getting on, but, above all things, throw away any worry—or give or share it with me.

I have no doubt that they are all well as can be, and are busy coal-heaving or something else equally interesting.

Kisses all round (the biggest one for yourself),

from yours,


“Penitential pilgrimage” refers to travelling with his daughter instead of his wife.

Broughty Ferry.

[p.m. Dundee, Sept, 7th, ’92.]

My great Pet,

I have been so knocked about from pillar to post that writing has been all but impossible. I am working hard with the view of getting away to-morrow . . .

“Once upon a time” there was a man who loved his own wife and—but the story is too long for the end of a letter-card and, moreover, Orchar waits; so good-bye, and remind me that I may finish another time.

With many kisses,



The “penitential pilgrimage” ended we resumed our joyous Bohemian life at Fearnan.

We had a long spell of lovely weather, useless for fishing, so my Father was persuaded to take us all for a long drive to Kinloch Rannoch. The way lies across a bare moor over the shoulder of Schelalion down to Loch Tummel, thence up the valley of the River Tummel and into Kinloch Rannoch village. Each view as we came to it was more lovely than the last, and the accounts of the fishing on Loch Rannoch being as captivating as the views, our fisherman there and then decided to come there the following year.

He and his wife went there for the next spring fishing, staying at the Bunrannoch Hotel, and returning for work and the London season. Then the whole family went north again for the summer holidays. There were two hotels at Rannoch, neither of them fitted for a family of “young barbarians,” as our father called us, so we stayed at the blacksmith’s cottage, where the “guidwife” was engaged to do the cooking. But after a day of exceedingly bad cooking she threw up the job, which our very undomesticated Mother took over until our own holiday-making cook could arrive. She made a great success of it, however, especially her “roly-polies,” which were so good that her admiring husband “commanded” one daily!

The arrival of the real cook put an end to the pretty scenes in the little stone-flagged kitchen, where in the intervals of preparing for his fishing excursions my Father, after twenty years of married life, made as ardent love to his wife as after twenty days.

My Father and Charlie fished energetically but without much success, sometimes near the east end of the loch, sometimes further up, driving there and drifting back in the boat with the wind. Sunday as usual was a distressful day, no fishing being allowed, of course; my Father and Mother sometimes went out a drive to lunch or dine with Mr and Mrs Bunten at Dunalastair, and no doubt elsewhere too, though I forget. Sometimes he would accompany his family in their rambles, and even accepted an invitation to come to a cave and eat potatoes cooked in a gipsy fire, but the entertainment fell rather flat as he thought the amount of edible potato did not compare favourably with the amount of burnt. On the same occasion we took him to see a wasp’s nest, which he examined with much interest, and a curious tilted flat ledge of rock—my young brothers’ favourite playground. They gave a display of the game of sliding from top to bottom. My Father watched them, then said solemnly in a most matter of fact voice, but with a twinkle in his eye: “The constant work of patching breeches is now explained. I advised leather patches, but it would be best to slide on your own leather in future. That is the only cure; so don’t forget.”

Photo Henry Dixon & Son
“ ’Tis the little rift within the lute
That by and by doth make the music mute.”
By kind permission of the Tate Gallery.

To go back a little—after we left Fearnan, my Mother took the family to London, and my Father went to the Tweed again alone.

Newcastle Arms Hotel,


[p.m. Sept. 26th, ’92.]

My dear little Person,

Got to bed at Berwick 12.30, to be called seven. Not called! Woke at eight, caught my train and breakfasted here. Ultimately reached the river to find “her” not quite in condition, rather too low. Had a fish on for two or three minutes, knew by his giggening I should lose him. Which I did. A rise from another finished the day. Sligh was soothed on hearing that no fish were got on the other side.

Vokins is here with a cockney friend, Vokins all right but the cockney—whose name I fortunately forget—is too much; these things have to be taken as they come when roughing it.

Your hat box, which is not unlike my tackle box, was handed out at Stirling. Shall I send it on or can you do without it till I return? Hope you have sent mine.

How are you getting on? and how did you find things? The children, including the big ones, are all well, of course. Give them my love and take care of yourself. Moreover, remember me as



[p.m. Sept. 27th, ’92.] Coldstream.

My dear Pet,

Glad you find things all right at home and that they, the little ones, are all well. Could not write last night so am doing it this morning before going out.

Got one salmon and one grilse yesterday, sent the salmon to Mrs Orchar, it was a fine fish. The grilse you will have received.

Vokins got one, a 6-pounder.

Weather frightful, wind like to blow you out of the boat, killing work casting, but I am still fit enough to say,

I am always,



[p.m. Sept. 27th, ’92.] Coldstream.

My dear Old Pet,

Enclosed cheque, but it did not want any explanation, enough that you required it. “She” is in flood to-day suddenly and if she does not go down as suddenly I shall make for home forthwith. I have been up at Carham, but fishing is impossible. In a hurry for the post.

Yours ever so much,


[p.m. Sept. 29th, ’92.] Coldstream.

My dear Old Perpetual Pet,

“She” is still in flood, but if there is no rain “she will fish” to-morrow at Carham where “she fishes bigger” than here.

I have had a dreary day—and yet no, for I have crossed the ferry to Wark, seen and made notes at the old Castle and village, gone a railway journey to Sprouston and have also visited the river three times to decide whether to-morrow means fishing or London.

I was packed up last night lest there should be rain this morning, but it was so fine I stayed. You see, I am having the same luck as last year—I am only [hoping] it won’t last so long. Yesterday I had a turn before the flood came and had “on,” as Ian would say, a splendid fish which jumped clean into the air twice, leaving me at last a slack line. I have had plenty of Tic while fishing, the wind has been so strong. I am all right to-day, however, and here is Rowley (the waiter) for letters, so good-bye, with many kisses from

Your affectionate

Q. Orchardson,

I mean Quiller.

Autumn and winter were spent working as usual, then we went to Kinloch Rannoch as I said before, and as usual my Mother took the family home, and my Father went to the Tweed again.

Newcastle Arms Hotel,


[p.m. Oct. 1st, ’93.]

My dear Old Lady,

How do you do? Up to the eyes I dare say. On Friday after you left Perth I went home with Cranstoun[2] and spent the evening there; his sister and brother were very excited over my visit and I was glad to have gone.

I got here last night. Gilbey arrived this morning and finding from the coachman that I was here, came up to my room on his way to Springhill. I shall follow on presently, my things are being put into a “trap,” so good-bye.

With all my love,


My Father always used the word “presently” in the Shakespearean sense of now—at once.

[p.m. Oct. 3rd, ’93.]



My dear Old Lady,

I hope things are going smoothly enough to let you come down soon. You will find this very nice and I have written to Steele to say that we shall be at Philiphaugh[3] on Saturday afternoon.

The river is lower than Gilbey ever saw it before, but I had the luck to hook a big fish and bring him to the net when Guthrie went at him as if he were charging with a bayonet and struck him in the side. The fish is now sailing about with my best fly in his mouth. Poor Guthrie! I was sorry for him.

We are just about to start for our morning’s “work” in weather more beautiful than appropriate. I only hope we—that is you and I—may have the same sort next week.

Yours, as Sheila used to say “all round the neck.”


Evidently my Mother joined my Father at Springhill for there are no more letters.

[1] This is a selection from several plan-making letters; most of the plans fell through.

[2] Boyhood friends.

[3] Somewhere near St. Mary’s Loch.


In 1893, I think, he took a fishing on the Kennet with Mr Basil Field, Mr Lloyd and Mr Halford—“fishing” friends; Mr Arthur Gilbey invited W. Q. O. to dinner “to meet Senior and Halford.” Headquarters were at the Mill House at Ramsbury, a bachelor establishment which my Mother soon remedied; an excellent example followed by Mrs Field.

I remember the place chiefly by a wonderful hedge of sweet peas and the tame trout that came to be fed every day in the mill pond. At least they were called “tame” and they certainly rose to the regular supply of food; but I cannot say that I think any trout looks sufficiently intellectual to be tamed; I fancy they came to the artificial food supply for the same reason that they went to the natural one—just hunger. But it would not do to say so to a fisherman.

There my Father spent many happy days; May-fly season, of course, being the gala time of the year. Then, besides the actual fishing, there were the hatcheries and stews to be looked at, kingfishers to be kept down—trout fishing must be extraordinarily fascinating for an artist to let such loveliness be killed for its sake. Keepers, poachers, weed and reed cutting all added to the interest.

My Mother generally accompanied her fisherman, but the following letters show that she sometimes “allowed” him go alone.

[p.m. May 24th, ’92.] Windsor Castle Hotel,


My dear Pet,

Sorry you can’t come. Also sorry you sent the wrong glasses (they are broken ones), shall mend and make them do though.

Was too late last night for the post, but have sent you three fish—our bag for the day. The little one is Noble’s, he sends it with comps. . . .

Yours most awfully,


Curiously enough, as my Father grew older he grew short- instead of long-sighted. When he was about 50 he took to wearing glasses for all games and sports, and for work he had a curious pair made to look through at the distant model and under at the canvas.

He never wore glasses for reading even when quite old, though he was not short-sighted in his youth.

[p.m. Hungerford, April 3rd, ’93.]


My dear Old Lady,

Had a splendid day. Went about all over the upper water with Marryat and the two Lloyds seeing to the netting—three nets and about fifteen men. . . .

They are howling for dinner.

Yours kissingly,


Mr Halford wrote in September ’94 thanking W. Q. O. for ordering some salmon flies for him and telling him about the dead trout he had left at Skelton’s.[1] Both Mr Marryat and Mr Halford examined it, and found it was a female, old and in very bad condition. There was no mark of heron, scythe or any other injury to account for its death, but these cases are not uncommon and the fact of its being so thin is evidence of there being something wrong.

Diary 1894.

April 16th, Ramsbury. One 1lb 1 oz.; one 1¾ lb. Lost 2, returned 1.

April 17th. One over 12 inches, but under a pound. Returned 2, lost 3.

April 18th. One 1¾ lb. (base); one 1¼ lb. (base). Returned 2, lost 2.

April 19th. One 1½ lb. over; one 1 lb. over. Returned 1.

April 20th, Upper Waters. One 1¼ lb. over; one 1 lb. over. Returned 4, all from 10½ to 11½ inches.

April 21st, Lower. 1¼ lb. Lost 2. The undersized in bad condition.

Trout weight for size: 14 inches 1½ lb; 16 inches 2 lb; 18 inches 3¼ lb.; 20 inches 4¼ lb. Average.

Aug. 1st. Drive from Marlborough to Goring by the Ridgeway.

Aug. 3rd. Upper Water. One 1¼ lb.

Aug. 7th. Upper Water. One 1¾ lb.

The following letters are not dated at all, but from the mention of a Council meeting at the R.A., probably Spring 1895.

My dear Mums,

Here we are all right—how are you? . . .

Splendid weather and the boys[2] are as happy as kings and agree with me it is a pity you are not here. They think and speak of you much—more especially when they meet a cow!

Has Sheila got her fish? I have got another. . . .

Boys waiting.

Your affectionate, etc.,


Saturday. Ramsbury.

My dear Old Lady,

I did not write this morning because we had to start early for netting a part of the river, the boys had never seen it before. It was very successful: in Tipping’s stream we had 25 pike and returned 69 fine trout. Batson was with us, his pictures have all been rejected, poor chap he takes it very well. . . .

The boys are looking quite rustic. . . . They are all over the place, but we come into every meal and go to bed every night, so you see we are doing well, though we miss you—which is a very great compliment under the circumstances.

Moreover, I am very much yours,


Sunday. Ramsbury.

My dear Nonnie,

. . . This forenoon I was out with the boys and got a brace before lunch besides losing three others, one of which Quentin muffed with the net, poor chap—he took his misfortune very quietly and landed the next one well. . . .

Yours with an embracing love,



My dear Nonnie,

I am so sorry you have taken cold, what a nuisance, mine is no better. . . . The boys are well, the weather is bad and so am I. There is a Council meeting on Wednesday at 5 so I shall be home in the forenoon.

You keep yourself too busy, I shall be glad to return and give you a rest.

Yours in everything,


[p.m. May 23rd, ’95, Ramsbury.]

Am writing at night so won’t miss

the morning post.

My dear Old Lady,

There is not a soul here excepting, of course, that good old soul Mrs Kimber[3] . . .

Tell Hilda I caught the train! Just stepped in as it left the station.

Went out after tea, had good sport, got 2, one a very big one which I returned as not in condition. The other a game fish—I saw him under an opposite bank and had him first chuck! Worth a day’s ordinary fishing—all this part is for Charlie, you know—I wish Charlie could have come down, I have got the whole place to myself and the ticking clock for company.

Your affectionate


My Father had a habit, well known to and much deplored by his wife and family, of stepping into a train after it had started: he often boasted that he had never missed a train.

[p.m. May 24th, ’95.]

Old Town Mill House,


My dear Old Lady,

. . . I haven’t worried you with the portmanteau story—now that it is all over. The said portmanteau was labelled Hungerford and the porter tipped, notwithstanding which it rested in the van at Reading and took a trip to Oxford; to-day it has arrived here and I feel the prospect of more comfort.

I had a brace of good fish to-day besides what I returned.

Yours awfully,



Old Town Mill House,

My dear Old Lady,

You don’t seem to get my letters, though I write every day. I wish you were here instead. I have much more to say than time or space to write.

We shall be very full this week, young Quilter is coming to-day for a few days, so is Holland, Hibbard and possibly Carr . . . next week we shall be more free and you must come at latest on Monday. I would prefer Saturday or sooner, but I am afraid you will want to see the boys. My love to Hilda and the others,

Your affectionate,


The enclosed [forget-me-nots] are for you.

[About May or June, ’95.]

Old Town Mill House.

My dear Old Lady,

Just a word—I am surrounded with fellows and we are about to start.

Be all ready for our trip on Wednesday, notwithstanding the May-fly threatens to be up soon.

Yours with all love,


Will you get me the sea antidote? Here is the dreadful name.

Granules Dorimetriques du Dr Burggrave Hyosciamene au ¼ de milligramme.

This is the whole prescription.

[p.m. July 2nd, ’95.]

Friday. Ramsbury.

My dear Old Pet,

The older the dearer. Shall be home to-morrow night after 11 p.m. Had a bad day yesterday, got broken up through hurrying here to catch the train, spent the rest of the day loitering.

Gilbey got a very nice fish, nearly 2 pounds, after I left and Halford got two. Had a bad headache all the afternoon yesterday, have it still, though modified.

Just going to start—no letter!!!

Yours very much,


[p.m. June 6th, ’96, Ramsbury.]

My dear Old Lady,

Just a word to catch the post. Enclosed is cheque. Got all my things. We are swarming here, nothing but males—perhaps you had better not come yet.

Yours all love,


[p.m. June 8th, ’96.]

My dear Old Lady,

We have such stormy weather that I am half glad you are not here.

Arthur Gilbey has been and gone, we went out together yesterday, he was not lucky.

I got a brace before tea and the day previous I got bootfuls of water trying to land a big one. Am all right and yours as you know.


“Upon his widowed heart it falls
Echoing a hallowed time.”
By kind permission of the Tate Gallery, Berlin Photographic Society, and the British Art Co.

[p.m. June 12th, ’96.]

My dear Old Lady,

Just a word—Quilter is waiting. Enclosed are voting papers. Wretched day yesterday, six of us out and no fish!

Yours altogether,


At the end of July my Father went to Ramsbury, the rest of us to Felixstowe.


My dear Old Lady,

As I am coming up for the Council meeting on Tuesday it is hardly worth while you coming down on Monday.

In fact, don’t be surprised should I turn up on Sunday evening. Sport is not good and you are not here. How do you like the house at Felixstowe? I have written every day, rain or no rain, so that things are not going right with the post. I am, however,

Yours in love,


Old Town Mill House.

My dear Old Lady,

I hope you are having a good time—we are not! No sport though company in plenty. The Fields, the Lloyds and others all fishing or duck shooting.

Did the bicycle come? and does Hilda like it? . . . If you go to Grannie’s on Tuesday I shall call for you after the R.A. meeting.

Meantime yours



The Athenæum, Pall Mall, S.W. Wednesday.

Aug. 5th, 1896.

My dear Hilda,

To-morrow is your birthday, and I had wished you to have that commemorative Bike, but I find it on my return still here. On Friday, however, I shall present it personally.

Meantime I wish you, my dearest Lassie, many and happy returns of the day.

Your affectionate Father,


My Mother had returned to town to meet my Father and then they came together to Felixstowe. We had a house just above the marshes and it was absolutely infested with virulent mosquitoes.

After two or three days my parents went to Ramsbury, leaving me in charge of my younger brothers and sister, with my great friend Katie Jones, who was governessing my little sister at that time.

But the place was awful and we begged to go to Ramsbury. Rooms were not available there, however, for so many of us, but at length my Mother found a farm at Axford, where we all settled down very comfortably for the rest of the holidays. Mr Pettie’s youngest son Norman visited us there, and “the boys” had a “glorious” time.

My Father spent most of his days fishing, but occasionally came with us picnicking on the Downs or in Savernake Forest, where he enjoyed himself just as much as his children, so long as the sun was too bright for the fish to be rising.

The Forest is many hundreds of years old, with long avenues of beeches and open glades, and short turf everywhere, with wild thyme amongst it. A lovely haunted place, and when we came to the great London road running right through it I, at least, felt that we should be lucky if we escaped a highwayman.

We spent two summer holidays there, and after that there were no more holidays en famille—Charlie married, myself grown up, Quentin learning engineering in Glasgow, and Hawley fascinating.

[1] Head-keeper.

[2] Quentin, Ian and Gordon.

[3] Cook-housekeeper at the Mill House.


In 1896 my parents took Hawley House, spent much money in doing it up and building a big studio; we went there in ’97. It was advertised as being 17 miles from London, 2½ from Farningham Road Station and in the heart of the country. All quite true, but we afterwards found that it was only 1 mile from the little town of Dartford, a curious mixture of modern factories and ancient history. Wat Tyler’s Inn, whence he started for London, is still there, and, of course, the old church, and Watling Street is the High Street; the factories are chiefly paper and guncotton.

But the whole district is full of history. A Roman villa, Darenth Church, partly built of Roman bricks taken from the villa hundreds of years ago; and, of course, Queen Elizabeth is reported to have slept or refreshed herself in every sizable house. There was a mulberry tree in our garden whereunder she was reported to have breakfasted.

There was a good deal of oak panelling in the house, but nearly all of it had been spoiled by being painted “grained oak.” As the house was only leased, my Father contented himself with merely repainting it in white for the corridor, dark green for the dining-room, and brown for the hall, a square room with mullioned windows and an open fireplace. Gold canvas covered the upper part of the hall walls where there was no panelling; an old oak gate-legged table, two old oak chests, some Jacobean chairs, and Frans Hals etchings on the gold made a charming entrance.

Onslow Ford’s bronze bust of Pettie in one corner, and Hutchison’s terra-cotta of W. Q. O. in another were not quite in the “picture,” but were inconspicuous enough not to hurt one’s eyes. Hutchison was an old Edinburgh fellow-student, and the bust is of my Father as quite a young man—most extraordinarily handsome. Onslow Ford did a bust of W. Q. O. extremely good and exactly like, except for a slight narrowness which he altered, but not enough. It is now in the Tate Gallery. There is a story for which I cannot vouch that the two artists laughed so much that no work could be done until the wives, one at a time, came along and reduced them to order.

The open fireplace had been filled in with a mid-Victorian grate, but my Father had that taken out and we enjoyed a log fire on the hearth. Up the inside of the chimney was the entrance to the priest’s hiding hole, and in the old unpainted panelled room above was a long narrow cupboard in the wall, in that again a little door into the priest’s room, just big enough to put food through. A terrible ghost was said to live in the priest’s room and to emerge every night through the cupboard; however carefully the door was fastened it was always found open in the morning. At my Mother’s orders a modern locksmith put an end to the fable, unfortunately for romance but perhaps fortunately for young nerves.

The kitchen and servants’ hall were the remains of the banqueting hall, and the kitchen yards and outhouses also showed great age.

As one went from the hall along the corridor the house gradually grew more modern till one reached the studio. The billiard-table was brought from 13 Portland Place (of which the upper part was now let) and was put at the one end of it.

Upstairs everything was old except my parents’ summer bedroom; one went up and down steps in the most entertaining but inconvenient way imaginable, into all sorts of quaint little rooms—a “powdering closet,” a pump room, an “apple room.” Odd staircases led to the top storey—altogether a fascinating old place.

But it was the garden we all liked best—I loved it and so did my Father, and of all the garden “the wilderness” (a little wood with a wide moss-grown path through it) was the best. Besides being lovely and full of wild flowers and birds the entrance to a secret tunnel lay there, and close beside, in the stable yard, was a secret room stretching back under the garden lawn.

All the secret places, of course, added nothing to the beauty of the place, but they gave an air of mystery and historical romance pleasing to the mind steeped in history, such as my Father’s.

Beyond the wilderness were two big paddocks with some fine walnut and elm trees, and at the end rabbits enjoyed life and happiness in perfect security, for none of the family liked shooting, and only once or twice, I think, did any of them avail themselves of the shooting rights that went with the house. Another “right” that went with the house was the “columbarian right” to keep as many pigeons as the pigeon-house (built in 1556) would hold, that is to say eight hundred pairs. But as the neighbouring farmers had an equal right to grow crops, it follows that other people besides ourselves enjoyed pigeon pie. So from eighty (we never had eight hundred) pretty creatures we were soon reduced to half a dozen, and my Father then added the doves, which I tamed, and he subsequently and consequently painted.

On the other side of the house, across the road, lay the most important part of the whole little estate of fourteen acres—the river and the trout. My Father put in a good many fish and at first it seemed as though it would be a success; but the paper mills above would insist on emptying their poisonous refuse into the river—whether accidentally or of necessity I do not know—with the result that the fish died off, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly, when we would find them floating topsy-turvy in batches; it depended upon the amount of poison.

Photo Leonard Card
By kind permission of the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

My Father and our neighbours, Colonel English and Mr. Oswald Magniac, and indeed most of the people who had fishing rights, formed a “Darenth Preservation Society,” but it did not seem to be much good, perhaps because the members were reluctant to go to law or perhaps because the paper mills—well, they were spoil-sports whatever the reason. However that may be, the sport was entirely spoilt, so my Father gave up trying to stock the Darenth and retained his share in the Kennet fishing for some time, and when that partnership was broken up, took a fishing on the Chess with Mr. St. Quintin.

Hawley was decidedly damp in the autumn owing to the luxuriant vegetation and the nearness to the Thames and Thames marshes. The Darenth, too, was canalised into many streams for the powder works, so that the machinery and the powder it made could be separated by water for safety.

The house itself was bone dry, all except the two modern rooms; the studio though modern was dry, but then it had two enormous fires, and two lamps were always kept burning under the big north window. Fog is very penetrating, however, and it was both frequent and dense. Then the Thames foghorns would start their melancholy moaning, three of them sounding a common chord and the rest very much out of tune.

But from January, when the first aconites came out, to October, when the last rose dropped, this corner of the Garden of England was indeed a garden.

Fruit blossom of all sorts, chestnuts, hawthorns, laburnums, rowan trees, a tulip tree, the little “carnation tree,” that I have spoken of elsewhere, and a most beautiful pink magnolia, besides wisteria, jasmine—but an old-fashioned catalogue is needed.

The meadows at the river were park-like, with hawthorns, beeches, elms, and a big perfect-shaped oak tree which was my Father’s favourite. A row of pollard willows along the bank of the river troubled the fisherman, but the artist would not have them cut down. When not fishing he used to stand on the little wooden bridge and watch for fish in the water below, of course with a rod in his hand.

For non-fishing days he made a few putting holes in the river meadows and practised an “approach” game of golf with much enjoyment. He tried to teach me, but was so insistent in exactness—“slow back, dinna press, keep your eye on the ball”—that my eyes hurt with staring at the (to me) silly ball and I gave it up as a bad job. He was more successful with the rest of the family.

Finding that the meadow grass grew too long for golf, he decided to get some sheep to graze it down, and sent our old coachman-gardener to get some, which he did, and brought home a small flock which he had obtained from his late employer. The sheep arrived lame and got worse—footrot and mouth disease. My Father was very angry, not with Kemp, who knew nothing about sheep, but with “the man who had taken advantage of his position to cheat an old employee of thirty years.”

My Father had his first game of golf at St. Andrews, and, according to himself, made a “fearful mess of it.”

“I had the queerest, most solemn-looking little caddie imaginable, who looked on without a word till the end, when he looked up at me in the funniest way and simply said, ‘It’s nae use playing gauf unless ye learn it as a laddie.’ Next day I had the same caddie, who was as silent as before, although I played much better and was half hoping for some praise from the little chap. But when we had finished he turned to me and said, exactly as if resuming our yesterday’s conversation, ‘Aweel, ah dinna ken.’ ”

My Father was one of the original members of the Sandwich Golf Club, though he did not learn the game till many years later. He told me he found the famous St. Andrews links very dull and easily played after Sandwich, with its “jungfrau” and bunkers to correspond.

About 1880 or 81 my Father and Mother drove over to Sandwich for the day, taking Charlie and me with them. We walked all over the little town, once a port, with our fascinating guide pointing out and explaining everything of interest. He taught us to wonder at the sand-dunes and what connection they might have with the Goodwin Sands; to think of the terrible wrecks there; and cheered us with the thought of the lifeboatmen and the splendid courage that took them to the quicksands whatever storm might be raging.

It was a delicious day, all sunshine and freshness, and we walked across the dunes, now the golf links, down to the sea, and gathered shells and saw their beauty through his eyes and mind. Sandwich takes my memory to Canterbury, where my parents went one year for the Cricket Week and saw Grace play; but the celebrated W. G. was bowled first ball and everybody was disappointed, especially my Mother, who always took things very much to heart. So my Father consoled her by saying, “But you have seen much more than you came to see. It is a common thing to see Grace make runs, but to see him out for a duck and bowled first ball to boot is an experience not likely to be repeated.”

“But all the same!” said my Mother.

They were staying with the Weigalls, I think, and Judge Hughes (“Tom Brown”) was a fellow guest. The house was a wandering one, and my Father’s bump of locality failed him frequently and once too often; for one night on going into his bedroom, as he supposed, he found someone else’s wife undressing before the fire—undressing is the wrong tense! Being quick in his movements he got out before being recognized, though he had time to recognize the lady, whose name, however, shall remain hidden.

Another woman in this same house party, very plain, not to say ugly, caused my Father and Mother much amusement; she always chose her seat in such a position that she could see into a mirror, and she preened herself and admired the reflection the whole time she was talking. Her name, too, may remain unknown.

At this same period of life my people stayed with Sidney Cooper and his wife somewhere near Canterbury. One morning coming down to breakfast W. Q. O. met Sidney Cooper coming in with a canvas under each arm. The old painter showed off his work to the young one and explained with pride that he painted two pictures before breakfast every morning in his life.

As my Father said when he told me:

“No wonder his pictures are all alike and all equally bad; he has perfected his imperfections.”

Another memory of these old days: my parents went to Minster, the oldest church in England, and Orchardson was much annoyed at the vandalism that had stripped the walls of their plaster and paintings and reduced them to bare stone—“stripping off history,” he said, “artistically ignorant parsons making ‘improvements’—they have a craze for it.”

An excitable friend of ours visited Minster with a party; at leaving time she was not to be found, but was at last discovered crouching beside an old tomb, sobbing bitterly. Everybody was distressed and inquired anxiously what was the matter. Sobbingly she said:

“I have just found my great-grandmother’s tomb. I never saw her but——” Sobs, which lasted till she reached home, choked further utterance.

Golf in the meadows at Hawley has led me somewhat astray, perhaps a talk in our boat there suggested these old memories. We had a collapsible Berthon boat which we paddled like a canoe—the river was too narrow for oars, besides oars make one sit backwards and one cannot see the different beauties as they come into view round the twists and turns of a river. This boat provided my best amusement, and happy were the rare days when “Titumy” came with me, but, alas! as he grew delicate they grew even fewer and then ceased.

In late summer and autumn my Father and Mother and I went a round of visits in Scotland, then came to Hawley, which now became “home,” the upper part of 13 Portland Place being let. Occasionally I went to Scotland alone, or stayed on alone; a letter to me from my Father and a few extracts from my Mother’s letters to me will give some idea of their life à deux, still a honeymoon life.

Hawley House,


My dear Pet,

Mother in her last letter “jumped” in one of her light-hearted and casual moods. What was really meant was that, if you wished, you had better stay on at Brownrigg[1] till Easter, when there will be more or less a family reunion here, and you will be in demand.

We enjoyed your lively account of the Scottish Academy visit. I never saw the particular Whistler, but I know them by heart. Your criticism on Noble is distressing and on the others not cheerful.

In much of a hurry.

Your very affectionate


Sorry to hear Mrs Gray[2] is not so well. Give her our kindest regards.

[E. O.’s letters]:

Hawley, Nov. 4th, 1900.

We have been finding it very mild, but the weather is damp and dreary. No, we did not go to Paris; Papa did not seem inclined, but thought he would like to come down here to work; so we arrived here on Wednesday. You say the . . . talk and talk and yet get nothing said. I am afraid you will find it like that in most households. You are accustomed to your Father’s sparkling talk, and that, among general folks, is not common. Without any of the family it is very quiet here, though Papa thought it would be more cheerful than London, and that he would like to work here best. We are having season tickets. I am glad to say though, Grannie went yesterday to Boscombe for two or three months, so Father says I shall have no excuse for going to town, but I told him I should have to find one. [A standing joke this my Mother’s desire to go to town!] Charlie has spent the day with us, and played golf with Father, whose arm is not well, but he uses it as much as possible.

Hawley, November 11th, 1900.

It is most kind of Lady Reid to invite Quentin; will you please tell her how much Father and I appreciate it. What a wonderful little adventure you had with poor old Mr Hutchinson; Father said, “Well, that is a long time ago.” How awfully kind of him to give the old friend’s daughter such nice books [Dante]. Yesterday I went up to town to Agnew’s, they have a most interesting exhibition; Papa’s picture looks as dainty as ever. I met lots of friends there; unfortunately Father was not well enough to go. His arm is sometimes so bad. [Neuritis which got steadily worse.]

November 15th, 1900. Hawley.

I went to town yesterday to see the New Gallery, but I did not think much of the work—of course, one or two good things. Father’s portrait of Mr Davis is there.

That the Darenth fishing was no great success is shown by the fact that he kept on the Kennet fishing at Ramsbury, and not infrequently went dry-fly fishing visits as well as the visits in Scotland for wet-fly and salmon fishing.

A few letters to my Mother will tell of W. Q. O.’s health and spirits; “end of century” may be the general date:

[George Hotel,


My dear Old Nonnie,

I am here as you have heard. Found the train at Dartford altered—15 minutes later made all the difference. Changed, however, at Waterloo, crossed the line to S. Eastern and stepped into the train as it started—narrow “squeak.” Found myself on arriving here at about 4 o’clock somewhat famished and a little faint. We are all here, had fairish sport yesterday. Morten and I had two brace each, Butcher one fish and St. Quintin blank.

Don’t forget Portland Place is the tryst for to-morrow, Wednesday.

Waiting breakfast for me,

Yours so much,


[p.m. Amesbury, April 10th, ’97.]


My dear Old Lady,

So sorry you find yourself among the chief section of the “forty millions.” Never mind, you will recover your “things” to-day at Hawley.

We here are all right. Quentin’s cold better.

Just starting. Had bad luck yesterday, lost five fish. Hope you are jolly and not tiring yourself too much.



[May, ’99.]

Poplar Farm,



My dear Pet,

The train went before I was aware and I did not get a good-bye, so was vexed and dreamed all night.

They are waiting for me. Good-bye and much love,



My dear Pet, Sunday.

Two days! No letter! How about it? Had a tiring day yesterday, but slept last night from 10.15 till 8 this morning, and am particularly well and begin to think of giving my “valet” a month’s notice.

Arthur Gilbey and two others are coming over from Houghton to spend the day with us, and to-night I have to go and dine at Major Turles’—they promised for me before I arrived. My dress is to be forgiven.

How are you getting on and Grannie? I hope the weather is not too upsetting.

With all the love of,


Here they are.

[May, ’99.]

Grosvenor Hotel,


My dear Pet,

Just going to breakfast with a good appetite so that’s all right.

Had a very good night but in the morning missed something. Did not, in fact, like the change of “valet.”

My love to the two lassies.

Yours as always,


Caught one last night.

Grosvenor Hotel,


My dear wee Pet,

How are you? I had a goodish day yesterday, top score with three fish. We were all unlucky in the way of losses. Did not get home till past ten! Feel very well this morning though, and ready for breakfast, which is crying out “Come on.”

Yours, Yours, Yours,


[p.m. Southampton, July 29th, 1899.]

Grosvenor Hotel,


My dear Old Lady,

Our hours are not good for letters. We start at ten in the morning and get back at ten at night. They are waiting for me. Shall be home to-morrow.

Yours in love,


Three grayling yesterday.

There are two little jokes in these letters. Whenever anyone did anything silly or stupid my Father always quoted Carlyle’s description of the population of England, “forty millions, mostly fools.”

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of Mrs. P. M. Inglis.

The “valet” was his loving name for his wife, pointing out and emphasizing the way she waited on him hand and foot, helping him to dress, and even changing his socks for him three times a day.

Some of W. Q. O. diary notes for 1899:

Feb. 18th. Start for Monte Carlo (a fortnight).

March 21st. Archdeacon Sinclair dinner 8 p.m.

[Working several days at Windsor in February, March and April for “Four Generations.”]

May 19th. Chilbolton Fishing, Lionel Halford.

July 4th. Bunten 11 o’clock [to sit].

Windsor Castle.

July 10th. Stockbridge to fish Club water.

August 8th. Windsor Castle.

Nov. 18th. Duke of York [to sit].

Laddie if thou wilt,

Laddie if thou wilt.

The moon is blind and I am kind,

Laddie if thou wilt.

[1] The Gray’s farm in E. Lothian, where I constantly visited.

[2] My future mother-in-law, though she died before she became more than a dear friend to me.


In September 1889 my brother Ian and I were sent to Bavaria for educational purposes, and almost immediately my Father and Mother went off to Scotland, travelling from Euston by the day train straight through to Struan, with “Grannie,” Charlie and Gordon to see them off.

My Father was always very lively at a station; he “saw to” his luggage with much energy, but seldom arrived with anything but a small fishing bag, which he always kept in view, to amuse himself with its contents, his toys, on the way—“In that toy to me what joy”—his wife’s “bonnets” were of no account. This view having been corrected, he sometimes, though seldom, managed to arrive with the “bonnets” as well as the fishing tackle, but nothing else. Asked why he did not leave the luggage to his wife he said she was worse than himself—but that was a fable.

My Father wrote to us occasionally and my Mother so constantly that her letters almost form a diary. As my Father studied the Boer War like an old soldier and with the skill of one, so his military friends said, I give his letters in full, and extracts from my Mother’s in diary form:

September 18th, 1899.

[In the train, Euston to Straun.]

So you agree with Papa and me that the Rhine is not half so fine as Scotland, but the great pleasure is seeing the difference there is between our country and another. Cologne, if I recollect rightly, is old and picturesque—the cathedral was not finished when we were there. We are very sorry for our fellow traveller—he is just returning from seeing his son off to the Transvaal, in the “Fighting Fifth,” but he is evidently very proud of him. From the paper this morning war still seems inevitable.

Rannoch. It is pouring with rain and did a part of the night, but we had a beautiful drive in the moonlight [from Struan, 13 miles].

Sept. 20th, 1899. Rannoch. We don’t want you to mix with a horrid lot, though, of course, nobody will equal the Scotch or English. This is a joke but at the same time quite true. [I can almost hear my Father laughing.] We are going to drive to the Bunten’s and I am going to drop Papa at the river, and to-morrow he wishes to drive up to the other end of the lake. He is having his breakfast in bed like a good boy, and I have it in the room as well. This is a very good place. We keep taking little walks and Papa says he had no idea Rannoch was so fine and picturesque; but he is disappointed at not being able to go out in a boat, the fish in the river are too small for him, and he says there are too many people about “worming,” which he considers poaching.

Sept. 22nd. Yesterday we went up to the other end of the loch for Papa to fish; he got six and in the evening I fetched him, so I had a forty miles’ drive, and we had the fish for breakfast. It is still awfully blowy and rainy, so we have fires.

Sept. 24th. C/o James Bunten, Esq., Dunalastair, near Rannoch. Yesterday was the worst day we have had yet, but Papa was out fishing on the river and he seems to have enjoyed himself, though he says it was fatiguing and trying against the wind; but he got some fish. We get beautiful views from this house and are always looking at Schiehallion, which has had snow on it ever since we have been at Rannoch. We sit down here about twelve to dinner, all staying in the house. We met some very nice people at the Bunrannoch Hotel—Sir Henry Rae and two daughters. I suppose they found out who we were because the old chap always came to give his Globe newspaper to Papa, and the last evening we were there they invited us to have coffee in their room; so we did, and strangely enough I was talking about Darenth (near Hawley) and where we lived, when one of the daughters asked if I knew Darenth Grange.

Papa has been proposing to write to you but I do not know that it will come off yet; at present he is “playing” with his flies and joins in very best love to you both.

Sept. 28th, 1899. Perthshire. This is a very beautiful frosty morning and Papa and I are going out; he thinks he has found a background and I also think I have found one for him, so we are going to show one another the spots. I daresay they are both very good but neither of them the exact thing he wants.

[W. Q. O. was painting a portrait of Mr Bunten with his own deer forest as background.]

(Next day.) We were out all the morning looking for Papa’s background; we did not quite succeed then, but found a place for him to inspect after lunch, which he did and which he found quite satisfactory. So I am very glad; as you know that always makes him contented and happy; so now he will be able to start his work. There is no war at present, but still it looks very like it; there is to be another Cabinet meeting to-day, and Sir Redvers Buller is to be sent out on the 7th. Papa dreamt about old Kruger last night, he came to London, and was at a meeting or did something in Trafalgar Square, and Papa said, of course, he was in London and that would avert war, at any rate for a time; if it were true it would be such a joke! because no doubt he would be invited out everywhere to dinner. Yesterday Schiehallion had no snow, but to-day it is covered and the clouds keep rolling by on it, it looks fine.

I expect Papa will go and fish to-day as he has forgotten charcoal; so we had to telegraph for it, and he won’t get it till to-morrow. He has indigestion always more or less, but here it has been much worse, which is unfortunate.

Sept. 30th, 1899. Dunalastair. This morning Papa and I went out at eleven o’clock; the east wind was blowing a gale so he could not sketch, we had an awful time with the wind; then the rain began about one o’clock, and it looks as if it will never leave off again. This morning we could see the snow on the Glen Lyon Hills, and Schiehallion has been enveloped in clouds all day.

There was a Cabinet Council yesterday, and a very decided message has been sent to Kruger, but that is all we know—we cannot hear anything till Kruger has received it—so we are all kept in the dark, but it is still very warlike and troops are being continually sent out a few at a time, but neither side wants to fight in the Transvaal until the rains come. But they say the Boers will pounce on us suddenly one day when they are ready, and we shall not be prepared, as it takes a long time to get troops so far, and I am afraid we should have some reverses to begin with, which would be rather serious because of the natives; the young Boers seem awfully anxious to fight. (Next day.) During dinner every evening we have lots of Scotch stories which make us go into fits; Mr Bunten knows a lot, and as you know, when once you begin, one story reminds someone of another. I am reading the Children of the Ghetto, aloud; it is awfully interesting. Papa feels a good deal of indigestion and was breathless this morning. He always enquires if I send his love and if I mention him, which, of course, I do, so I am sending his love and mine to you both just now.

October 5th. Dunalastair. I drove Papa to his destination this morning, at least was driven and left him to make his sketch. I told him to be sure and not fatigue himself, which walking and climbing seem to do. We enjoy your letters with their stories of Munich and the “toy” kings, etc. War is still not declared but everything and everybody seems in a very upset and excited condition, and we are afraid our men will have rather a bad time at first—but, of course, we must have the best of it in the end. Papa joins in love—he has just come in after a pleasant morning on a hill.

Oct. 6th, 1899. Dunalastair. The news is very exciting every day, as there are always false rumours. Yesterday we got a great shock when Mr Bunten came back from Glasgow with the news that the Boers had taken Laing’s Nek and that our troops were falling back—imagine all our states of mind! And this morning there was nothing about it at all in the paper, but still, war is almost inevitable, and we are not prepared; at any rate we ought to have had more troops out there long ago. Strangely enough I met Mr Charles Gold[1] in Kinloch Rannoch; he is expecting telegrams every day calling him to political meetings. Parliament, I believe, is to assemble about the 17th, they have already spent about three millions and want two millions more. War is an expensive business; every way, money as well as lives. I daresay we shall be going home about the 16th, as Papa has accepted an invitation to dine at Sir Henry Thompson’s on the 19th.

Oct., 1899. Fisher’s Hotel, Pitlochry. We had a good send-off from Dunalastair yesterday, and Mrs Bunten invited us to go back for a week next year—a great compliment as she says she generally gets sick of people. They seem very pleased with the idea of the picture. Papa got his sketch, but, as he says, he will have a good deal to make up. Out walking this morning we came across a nasty smell which rather upset him, but I hope it won’t make him ill.

Oct. 13th, Fisher’s Hotel, Pitlochry. I am waiting for Papa to come in; he is fishing and it is so much too long for him to be out without anything to eat—he must be “into” a fish. I should not mind if he had his lunch with him. I am going out to look for him.

I went to look for him at Cluny Bridge. It is a most beautiful rocky bit of the river about a mile from here through a very pretty wood, and on my return, I found him busy taking off his fishing boots and wondering where I was. He got no fish, the river is still too big; and he sent a message by his ghillie but the hotel people never gave it me. Can you imagine anything so duffing. To-morrow is the last day of the fishing, so Papa proposes going to the Tay, seven miles from here; it seems to me rather a wild goose chase, but at any rate it will be a nice drive. I can’t get him to make up his mind about going to Glasgow [Quentin the attraction there].

Oct. 18th, 1899. 13 Portland Place. We arrived here at a quarter past 11 o’clock on Monday night in a train very full of passengers, as all the Scotch members were coming up for the assembling of Parliament the next day. They have been called to vote for the money to carry on the war. I believe they want 20 millions—it seems a good lot. The reports of the one fight have been very contradictory, but it really seems this morning as if there had been a small fight and that the English had the best of it. The public seems calmer now war is going on than before. I suppose because it was so expected and even wanted (after Kruger’s misusage of the “uitlanders”), and yet we were trying to put it off. War is always horrid but sometimes cannot be avoided. We saw Quentin in Glasgow, Mrs Stokes[2] and Rosie came with him; Gordon is coming this afternoon, Sheila is home, and Charlie was here yesterday and also came to meet us at the station; he and Grace are coming to lunch to-day.

Oct. 22nd. Hawley House. We came down here on Friday and found everything just the same, but the house very empty [most of the family dispersed]. We are using the old red bedroom and like it very much, Papa especially, and, of course, the journey is not so long for the breakfast; at present Sheila and I have it upstairs with Papa. I expect we shall bring Papa’s big picture down here next, where, though it may be foggy, at any rate it will be light; we found London foggy and dark—the last two days are damp. We think it is as quiet as Dunalastair; there is not a sound or a person about, but the leaves are still wonderfully green.

Oct. 26th, 1899. 13 p.p. Papa is gone down to Sir Norman Lockyer’s, who has a smoker on to-night. We have no war news to-day, but this evening there are rumours of very bad news.

Oct. 30th. [Have evidently been back at Hawley now again at 13 p.p.] I am sending you two papers to-day—to supplement your usual Daily Graphic—one, unfortunately, containing shocking bad news. Papa has been expecting something of the kind as he thinks Sir George White is managing very badly; he hopes to write to you himself to-day. It is shocking to think of so many lives being sacrificed through bad generalship; what a lot of sad things there will be just now.

13 Portland Place,

October 31st, 1899.

My dear Hilda and Ian,

Your letters are very jolly and convincing, they make us know that you are all right—have you found the German equivalent for that comprehensive phrase?

I am sorry you have as yet not found any decent folk to board with; it would be much better for your German than a polyglot lodging-house, for, after all, the only advantage of going abroad for a language is in being compelled to speak it, and, of course, it is only human to drop into English if it will serve the turn.

We are much exercised here about the war, and to-night there is bad news; perhaps I had better give you a slight sketch of things up to the present. During the negotiations with the Transvaal, the government here, to avoid the appearance of bullying, did not send out many troops, so that when the war broke out there were only about 15,000 of all arms under General White. The main body at Ladysmith, and 3000 at Glencoe and Dundee, about 40 miles further north, as General White’s object was to remain on the defensive till reinforcements arrived or a division was made. Entrenched camps were formed at Glencoe; being overlooked by a hill, this was thoughtfully left for the Boers, who, not being fools, did not refuse to occupy it on their arrival. From this position they shelled the camp at their leisure and there was nothing left for it but to take the hill. This was our first victory!

Photo Henry Dixon & Son
By kind permission of the Royal Academy and the Berlin Photographic Society.

The second was on precisely the same lines, and finally, while the camp was being bombarded, the British troops evacuated the place in a storm of rain under cover of night on a forced march to Ladysmith. At Ladysmith the same sort of strategy prevails, and the Boers, who have now got there in spite of all our “victories,” are shelling General White in what appears to be his favourite position, a plain dominated by a hill, and have already induced him to remove himself farther back. Yesterday he sent two infantry regiments and a battery of six guns to occupy some hills from which he was threatened on his left. To-day he wires they have all been taken prisoners, and concludes with saying they were not to blame as the position was untenable.

Why, oh why did he send troops to occupy a position he knew to be untenable!!!

What do you think of British tactics? To come to our own affairs, I think, Ian, that the University is the straight tip; you will meet a lot of young fellows and learn “to rot,” in the language of the country, and that will bring it nearer to being a second mother tongue than anything else.

Dr. Vaughan Harley has been kind enough to write to Prof. Bayen—I enclose Harley’s card of introduction and the letter his Mother sends it in. I shall be anxious to hear how you get on, so keep me posted.

I say, Hilda, is it true, dear old lady, that you are off for a ramble on Parnassus? I am very glad; don’t try the rugged inaccessible heights yet, but keep to the gentle slopes till you get into good training.

Dear girl, dear boy,

Yours affectionately,

W. Q. Orchardson.

[E. O.’s letters continued]:

Nov. 5th, 1899. 13 p.p. There is no special news this morning and cannot be as Ladysmith must be surrounded and all communications cut off; except for what news comes from abroad—we got the news about the 18th Hussars being captured, from France first, so it shows there is treachery somewhere on the part of some foreign Government as the cypher code of telegraph is stopped. As all the cables are English somebody must be bribed. Papa cannot make it out, but we think Dr. Leyds is at the bottom of a great deal of all of it. He is in Brussels and likes to stir up bad blood against the English. Though the Russians and French are dead against us we don’t think they will go to war, because of the Paris Exhibition. Yesterday we had Mr and Mrs Bunten and Mrs Liddell to lunch and then showed them “The” picture and theirs; they were highly delighted with both, and Mr Bunten’s sister-in-law said to him, “How do you manage to look so like yourself?” And as for the Queen’s picture, they were in raptures; so was Arthur Gilbey when he saw it, and Grannie and everyone likes it, so you can imagine my excitement. I am sorry war is going on when we are happy with this big work, and I am afraid it will not be over by May. Papa’s arm seems wonderfully better and he uses his sling very little, but I am afraid of his overdoing it. He has not been quite up to the mark in himself so did not go to the Tadema dinner last night. To-night we are going to the Critchett’s [oculist], that is the reason we are in town. We are having awfully wet weather—pouring in torrents every day.

Nov. 8th, 1899. 13 p.p. Here, of course, no one talks of anything else but the war, and we have a very tough, long job before us—but of course in the end must win, but, as you can imagine, everywhere they are getting up subscriptions and making clothes. We are dining at the Montague’s [Banker and M.P.] to-night and to-morrow at Henri Rivière’s.

My dear Hilda,

I wrote yesterday a hurried note to Ian “anent” his affairs and posted it just before receiving your two letters. I am glad he had found out about the brewing school, it sounds very like what is wanted.

Your questions! A privateer is a ship not owned by the Government, but fitted out and armed by a private owner which gets a commission from the Crown or Government to prey upon the enemy’s commerce, the spoil being usually divided in equal proportions between the owner and the crew.

A Letter of Marque is much the same thing in time of peace; it is not commissioned, but has a letter authorizing reprisals and all that sort of thing if interfered with.

I see by last night’s papers that Gen. Buller is forming a big camp at the Cape, waiting the arrival of the transports, so that it looks as if he meant to stick to the one line of railway that goes to the south-west of the Free State, instead of utilising the three; he possibly prefers to keep the whole under his own eyes rather than trust to timing it. Of course, his artillery train and other impedimenta will severely tax one line, but the balance of advantage may be in its favour.

Once more much love,

From your affectionate Father,

W. Q. Orchardson.

Nov. 14th, 13 p.p. We have had Sir William Ingram [Illustrated London News] and Hamish McCunn to lunch to-day. We have really not had any news for about a week; we are all anxiously waiting to know what is to happen next [W. Q. O. waited most impatiently]. The Boers are still behaving shamefully about the white flag. The English will not easily forgive them that; it is such a mean and cowardly thing to do! Papa has a map on a screen in the studio which he studies and, I say, fights imaginary battles.

He showed “The” picture[3] to Mrs Joseph and her daughters yesterday and they also liked it immensely. At present I have left Papa, McCunn and Sir William Ingram talking “biz” in the dining-room.

Nov. 21st, 1899. Hawley. . . . But the most sad of all is the death of Lady Salisbury, it is so sad for Lord Salisbury who must have had a very anxious time lately with his wife and political affairs; and now he cannot see Count Von Bülow, who has come from Germany with the Emperor, or be at the banquet to-night. We think it unfortunate for England as well as Lord Salisbury—she had been such a good wife to him and they had been married forty-seven years.

We had the Duke of York[4] last Saturday; he was most excited over the picture and said it could not really go to the Agricultural Society, it must go to Windsor; he was delighted with it, and Papa and he got on splendidly; they talked fishing and he came without an equerry. Papa is hoping to have the Prince of Wales[5] again before he brings the picture down here, but this week they are all busy at Windsor, so he will have to wait.

Nov. 25th, 1899. We were dining at the John Stevensons the other night. We have not been having much news lately, but the best news is that the poor Khalifa in the Soudan is killed and most of the Emirs. It sounds awful to say it is a good thing for people to be killed, but we think it will mean more peace for the Soudan. But with this South African War the Egyptian Campaign is quite out of it—of course, they are not “whites,” and as Papa says, not “schlimm” [“slim”—cunning, smart.]

Nov. 30th, 1899. 13 p.p. I think I am writing to-day to tell you it is pitch dark; it was a beautiful frosty morning when we left Hawley (9 a.m.) and by the time we got here at this house a quarter past 12 it was dark and the cabby thought he really deserved 2s. (instead of 1s.), so Papa gave it him. We are going to dine at the Trowers to-night, but I am wondering whether we shall ever be able to get there, we do not remember to have seen it like this for many years. The darkness is so strange. To-day there is absolutely no war news—there must be very strong censorship.

Friday (apparently Nov. 31st, 1899). 13 p.p. The war news is a bit better, but bad is the best—we are getting so many killed. Last evening we were at the Trowers. We find amongst our friends that very few people are going to the Paris Exhibition next year. It seems a pity; you know how much we like French people.

Abbey wrote to W. Q. O. to ask him to use his influence with McCulloch to get him to lend “Richard of Gloucester and the Lady Anne” for the Paris Exhibition. McCulloch had refused as he thought that Paris was not at all necessary to an artist, but “I learn that you are of another way of thinking, and I am told you have great influence over him.”

W. Q. O. did not think it necessary to study in Paris, but he exhibited there very frequently, in fact, whenever he was asked.

My Father evidently used his good offices, for Abbey wrote again:

“I thank you quite as much for taking good-naturedly so much trouble on my account as though you had been successful. An old gardener of ours said once, ‘What the young men of the present day is lookin’ out for, sir, is heasy jobs!’ There were many large dark canvases with dim heads at the top, and then many more speckled red, blue, and white and green landscapes—scarcely one thing showing real individual study. Whistler and Monet are responsible for a great deal, which after all is not their fault. One used to see from youngsters well-drawn and carefully studied nudes.”

[E. O.’s letters again]:

We are going to a theatre and are hoping to go to-night, but the theatres are so full it is difficult to get seats at the last moment, as we usually do. To-morrow the MacWhirters are going to stay at Hawley with us. The Queen is going to Italy instead of France.

We saw in the paper that there is an alliance between England, America and Germany, but on reading Chamberlain’s speech, find it is only an understanding; however, that is something, and may help to make the French more peaceable.

Papa went out to dinner last evening without his sling, but to-day he does not seem so well as he has been lately; I think perhaps yesterday’s fog did not do, but he thought this far fetched. I left him signing proofs, a job he does not like, and then he was going to Charlie’s to see how he was getting on with his picture.

Dec. 6th, 1899. We are going to dine at the Hohler’s to-night.

Dec. 12th, 1899. Papa is going to dine with Kinsmen to-night.

Dec. 13th, 1899,


My dear Hilda and Ian,

The Old Lady is out. I have hunted up some of her scraps for paper, having none of my own and her drawers being locked.

The weather you both feel so warmly is being reproduced here, though not on so heroic a scale—our thermometer is much too genteel to lower itself to zero. It is not the weather, however, that I sat down to write about, but you, Ian, and your affairs. I like the way you write about them yourself. I have had a suspicion before now that your head was not of the wool-gathering sort; but don’t worry about not getting enough for the money at school; possibly they may put newcomers at the inferior work, in which case things would improve as you went on. But don’t forget the chief reason why you are learning brewing or chemistry there instead of here is that you may acquire the language colloquially.

The Old Lady arrives and her paper.

Now how would it do to arrange with the Brau Meister to go for half a day to the Schule and spend the other half over German with Fräulein Daniels for an hour or so, filling in the rest of the time with chemistry somehow or somewhere?

WE—I have written the “we” big to show that Mother is in it—mean to be in Munich early in April—“if Munich be thereabouts”—and shall expect to find you both with German tongues, though we shall talk in English as to the next move. Meantime keep me posted in ideas or information that may occur.

And now a word to Hilda.

My dear Pet—you are both pets, though Ian might strike at the imputation—I am delighted to see that you are better in health, better in spirits and better all along the line since you took to sauerkraut and the other drawbacks made in Germany, though you must have a high time when you get on to the war.[6]

Personally, I have some difficulty in keeping my language within the prescribed parliamentary limits. Buller, instead of concentrating his army on the southern border of the Free State and marching in overwhelming force on Bloemfontein and Pretoria, has gone with one half to Natal to relieve White, dividing the other half into three separate commands not quite in touch on the Orange River. With the result that they are all getting knocked about a bit. You have heard by this of Gatacre’s fiasco, and to-night there is news that Methuen has been repulsed in an attack on a strong Boer position at Magersfontein with great loss. Most of our generals seem to think the only way to negotiate a stone wall is to run your head against it.

Buller has been careful, let us hope that when he acts it will neither result in a defeat nor a futile victory.

Your very loving Father.

Dec. 14th, 1899. 13 p.p. When I came home last evening I found Papa in distress as he could not find any notepaper, and the war news had upset him on the way to the club; he says it made him feel quite sick; and then he thought he got a chill down his back at the club. We were going to the theatre, but the bad war news and the other things put me quite off. Papa dreams about the war, and I really am quite sorry for him; he takes our defeats so seriously to heart. And there are so many killed, wounded and taken prisoners it is shocking. And the poor “Tommies” are so plucky that I feel I must cry, as we feel it is all bad management and bad generalship.

Dec. 18th, 1899. 13 p.p. Papa is gone to the Students’ Art Club dinner, given at a new hotel in Oxford Street; Charlie is with him, he is one of the Committee, I believe. [W. Q. O. used to enjoy these “young” dinners.]

[Undated—just before

’Xmas 1899.]

My dear Two of You,

Just a word to say I am sending a little, though perhaps seasonable, pocket money—a sovereign each—and have told the Old Lady to send for the future 5s. instead of half-crown a week for ditto. She has gone to Hawley and I follow this afternoon.

News of another defeat this morning. Buller has at last advanced and been repulsed with heavy loss, including eleven guns, has, in fact, run his head against the stone wall like the others. The general idea seems to be to wait till the enemy has chosen and prepared his position or trap, and then when you have reason to suppose he is quite ready, you go straight in. The talk is now of sending two more divisions—what is really wanted is one general at least—if they could find him.

Your affectionate


P.S. We got your letter this morning—had it for breakfast and liked it.

P.P.S. Your book and skates were to be sent yesterday from Hawley.

W. Q. O.

Dec. 25th, 1899. Hawley. Papa’s cold is very bad, and you know that always makes him feel depressed and ill—he is always talking about going up to London, but I won’t let him. He gets up very late and I read to him.

Jan. 5th, 1900. 13 p.p. Yesterday we had a beautiful day at Hawley and to-day here it has been dark and wet. Papa unfortunately has had tic to-day, and also his arm has been rather bad [neuritis]. I tell him it is because he has been using it too much; he does a little “putting” sometimes in the garden, and has also given up his sling, but I offered it to him to-day and am glad to say he accepted it, so that will rest his arm again. We are in great suspense to-day about the war news—what is going to happen, if Buller succeeds well and good, if not, oh!!! This afternoon there is absolutely no news at all; everything is very quiet. Papa has got his portrait of Mr Bunten at Hawley. I am glad, because now we can stay from Friday to Monday, and then he can work at the big picture here during the week—it is looking very well.

Photo Henry Dixon & Son
By kind permission of J. M. Fraser, Esq. (owner) and the French Gallery.

Jan. 17th, 1900. 13 p.p. There is absolutely no news this morning; we are waiting anxiously and everyone seems on tenterhooks lest Buller’s next performance does not come off well. What a state the War Office and the Government must be in, as Parliament meets very soon and Papa says if we had a victory it would make all the difference. Poor Balfour will catch it when Parliament opens, he has been making such stupid speeches, we cannot make out why he is such “an Ass.” [Orchardson had hitherto admired Balfour.] Sir Frederick Carrington has been recalled from Dublin. Papa thinks to supersede Lord Methuen perhaps—we think Lady Methuen made a great mistake when she contradicted the report about his being seriously injured at the time of his wound. It would have made it so much more comfortable and pleasant for him and everybody else for him to come home because of his health. As you can imagine, war here is talked for ever, always turning up wherever you go, whatever you talk about. Gordon was very indignant when he found that the guns he hears being fired near us have been made for the Boers, the Maxim Nordenfelt—which we met on the road also—it is too bad. But now I expect all that sort of thing is stopped, as there have been a good many “Queen’s Proclamations” issued.

We have been having awfully wet weather lately, and very gloomy, and sometimes dark, and Papa has been having tic the last two or three days, but to-day it seems better.

13 p.p. (Undated.) I feel you have either hurt your head or got very bad headaches, will you please let me know. We have no more news from Africa; we are all very sad about it.

My dear Hilda and Ian,

I need not ask how you are getting on. The broad facts are in your letters and the details are not beyond imagining.

Here we are not as you are, campaigning in a new country, rediscovering it and the people afresh for yourselves, but watching from afar with our strongest field-glass turned towards Munich on the one hand and the moody war on the other.

Your arrangement for the afternoon is, I think, all right, Ian, as I have no doubt you already have mastered the sublime and ancient mystery of bottle washing, and will also no doubt continue to treat it with all accustomed respect when it turns up again.[7] Meantime you cannot make a mistake in wiring in at the German in season and out.

News last night that Buller had established himself at Potgieter’s Drift; this is up the River and well round the Boer right wing. This looks well and shows him to have profited by experience—fools never do, albeit the proverb—this also accounts for the weakness of the demonstration he made when Ladysmith was assaulted, his main army being on its way from Frere North-West to the little Tugela. If he had only been a few days earlier he would have caught the Boer on the hop; now, however, they will be able to give him their undivided attention; they will, of course, quit Colenso now and concentrate among the hills. They have no doubt entrenched further north; if they have there will be heavy fighting. They may on the other hand funk, having White on their flank, and clear away from Ladysmith altogether.

I am finishing this on the dining-room table. All waiting! So good-bye, with all love.

W. Q. Orchardson.

Jan. 24th, 1900. We are living in a state of suspense and I proposed going down to the War Office last evening to see if there was any news, but we were both of us too tired. We think Lord Rosebery’s speech excellent. London is peculiar just now in the matter of newspapers; there is no shouting and very few newspapers about in the afternoon, and everyone seems more or less troubled. Papa is proposing to write you soon about the war, he may to-day; he seems to have it at his finger-ends. It is strange that the Germans are so against us, but the Emperor is evidently not. Papa and I both feel restless so we think of going to the Alhambra to-night, where we shall see cinematographs and hear the “Absent-Minded Beggar,” I suppose.

I must leave off and go and read to him.

Jan. 29th, 1900. 13 p.p. I feel I must write to you both to-day, the war news is so dreadful. I can hardly read aloud, and yet we feel we must take our thoughts away from all the terrible things that are going on. Papa would have written to-day, but he has tic very badly so will not be able to, and the bad news, I am afraid, does not improve it. The people in the train were quite silent this morning [coming up from Hawley], Papa and I both noticed it, as they generally talk about the news; the people in the buses are also silent and I hear the City is in great state. Papa wonders what is going to happen next; of course, he still has plans, but his plans don’t get carried out.

[Written across this in W. Q. O.’s handwriting, very shaky, is: “It will all come right by-and-by.” Father.]

Feb. 2nd, 1900. We are awfully sorry to hear how the Munich people behave, we are quite surprised; we knew they did not like us, but to treat a boy the way they do Ian and to clap their hands in your faces at our reverses, is awful. Foreigners will hate us worse than ever when we get any victories, but the German Emperor evidently does not, at least he thinks it the best policy to be friends. I am going up to Charlie’s to fetch something for Papa and to Hawley this afternoon.

[Ian, just seventeen, was made to fight several men at the brewery, he beat two—wrestling—the third was vast like one of his own vats so Ian clung on like a limpet, but was finally thrown. He stood up and one of the two Germans whom he had beaten came up and knocked him down from behind. My Father was furiously angry and indignant, but not altogether surprised—he always had an idea of German brutality.]

Sunday, Feb. 4th. Hawley. Papa is alone—we thought it as well he should remain in town as the weather is so bad and he could not have gone out; here the snow is too deep. [Gordon and Sheila were at Hawley.] It is quite settled: we shall not go abroad this year, we should neither of us like it; we hear that even in Switzerland the hotels are receiving English people very badly, so we Britishers are better in our own little island for the present. Little Prince Edward heads the Children’s Penny Fund.

Feb. 6th, 1900. We are glad you have decided to stay on. Papa thinks things will be better for us abroad soon; he says they will have to respect us again, and in some of the foreign magazines they say it would never do for anyone else to have the monopoly of South Africa but us as there would be no freedom. I say the foreigners will “suck” up to us again, but I am still afraid they will think our army not very formidable; but the War Office and Parliament seem to be waking up at last. Papa is delighted with the news this morning because there is none from Buller; he wants him to keep quiet and for Lord Roberts to come up and concentrate for going into the Free State. Here everything is quiet—things are in their normal state again and people are quietly waiting for news. Mr and Mrs J. P. B. are now Lord and Lady Robertson; he is now Lord of Appeal and a “great swell.” Won’t Mrs J. P. B. rejoice! You will be sorry to hear Sir Thomas Grainger-Stewart[8] is dead. The weather is bright and cold, but windy. Three people to lunch to-day to see the picture. I always feel people have a great treat when they see it.

Feb. 12th, 1900. Our poor war! At present everything is wrong; fancy Buller having crossed the Tugela again and their returning again. Papa says it is sickening and now he is so afraid that Lord Roberts and Kitchener have gone to the relief of Kimberley instead of going to the Orange Free State; he says, if so, there will be another mess as he is sure he cannot succeed that way.

Feb. 18th, 1900. Hawley. The one topic is the delightful news of the relief of Kimberley; we have all smiled ever since and the people in London are jubilant. We had Lloyd’s newspaper at lunch and Papa read out that French was promoted to be Major-General and Kekewich to be Colonel; Papa is very pleased, not so much, as he says, for the success as that he sees now there are some men out there with “brains,” which he has been afraid were much wanted.

As we are not going to Munich, Papa has arranged to share a rod with Mr Bryant at Aboyne for a fortnight; I am going too.

We have had an awful week of weather here, frost and snow, storms of rain and wind, and poor Dartford has been flooded four feet deep in the High Street and two feet along the road to the station—it reminded us of Venice.

Feb. 23rd, 1900. 13 p.p. We are glad the good news has reached you and, as Papa says, you can look up and down your boarding-house table without caring. We are so happy, but still very nervous and wondering whether we shall capture that old wretch Cronje; I believe he was very nasty at the Majuba affair; and fancy him asking for an armistice, saying he wants to bury his dead—we are convinced he only wanted to gain time for his reinforcements and to dig his trenches. We are so pleased Roberts says “Fight or Surrender.” Cronje is so very smart at moving his men about; Papa is very much afraid he will get to Bloemfontein first. People are not going over to Paris Exhibition and they will not lend pictures for it. They (the French) are having a room of “Old Masters,” and the English people will not lend, so they have had to get them from America—this is what Agnew says; they are to be hung in the Prince’s Pavilion. I am rather sorry for the Prince of Wales as he can’t very well get out of this, but I hope they won’t blow him up.

Feb. 25th, 1900. Hawley. The Russian news about the Czar saying he would remain absolutely neutral and not take advantage of our difficulties is splendid. I quite admire the young chap’s pluck in such a country; Papa also thinks it is ripping; we hope he will be able to stick to it and that his Ministers won’t be too powerful for him.

Feb. 27th, 1900. 13 p.p. There is nothing so exciting as our beautiful war news. I say to myself, Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! To have had to surrender must have hurt poor Cronje’s amour-propre seriously. Papa and I did not hear it until the afternoon, as, of course, we were in the studio; but I hear the excitement in the City was wonderful: flags flying and cheering, and the National Anthem being sung. Papa thinks the war will last two years.

March 4th, 1900. Hawley. We have had a most exciting time to-day. Cronje’s surrender, which Papa says is the most important, though the relief of Ladysmith is made the most of. What an anxious state of mind everyone has been in for four months. The reason we have not been at Hawley this week is because the Prince of Wales sent word he would come to-morrow morning if convenient to Papa. So, of course, it is quite convenient—we have to be ready to receive him at 11 o’clock.

Evidently there is great way being made for the younger generations, but it is very sad to see our old friends going. They do not seem old enough. Charlie Moxon is, I suppose, spending the afternoon with Papa as he was to come and see the picture to-day. Balloonists are very rarely mentioned, but Papa saw George Phillips’ name mentioned in a despatch the other day.

March 8th, 1900. 13 p.p. After all, Buller has not done much and has let the Boers away with all their guns; Papa is very angry with Buller and thinks he must be an awful fool; however, Ladysmith is relieved. The Munich Carnival with Buller in a cage came on a rather unlucky day for them. Prince Edward is sitting to Papa; he is still a dear little chap; he wears trousers now, a white knickerbocker suit, in which he looks much the nicest, but changes them for the picture. The Prince of Wales was here on Monday and is coming again; he evidently likes the picture very much, and he said he would send the little Prince; and he evidently went straight to York House about it, as we got a letter that evening saying he would come up from Windsor to sit to-day. Mr and Mrs Trower saw the picture and were most enthusiastic; they also evidently were taken by surprise, and Mrs Trower had a good laugh. That is what strikes me as so odd, but I think people are taken aback; I am enjoying myself immensely over it, and I like people to come and see it. [W. Q. O. also enjoyed the praise and was amused at the shocks, but was very shy and modest over it.] We are all so pleased the Queen is not going abroad; she is coming to town to-morrow to stay till Saturday for a special reason, it seems, but I think just to show herself and please the people. I think she must be excited over the war and wants to come and see how her people are getting on. It seems she is to drive from the station in semi-state and the Prince of Wales is to meet her; it is quite a joke as she never does this sort of little escapade. I hope the poor old lady will have fine weather and enjoy herself. On Friday, when she is in London, I propose for Papa and me to go down to Windsor for the afternoon; it would be such a good opportunity when all the things are about [to get a background for the picture], but the Duke of York will be coming one day and we do not know when.

It is all settled about going to Aboyne. Papa has been keeping fairly well and is bright and cheerful, though his poor arm gets very bad at night sometimes. I have told him he must not hold his palette so much.

Talking of loyalty, Mr Trower said yesterday he was never especially loyal, he thought; but yesterday, seeing Papa’s picture, made him feel very loyal, he said. It also had the same effect on Ada Jarvis, who said she was always a Jacobite before.

March 11th, 1900. Hawley. The Prince of Wales came to sit on Monday; letters and messages on Tuesday; Wednesday little Prince Edward came up from Windsor on purpose for his sitting and went back the same day. On Thursday the Queen arrived from Windsor and took a drive in the afternoon, so I telegraphed for Sheila and Miss Spackman and we went to the Pantheon (the Gilbey’s), where we had a splendid view of the most wonderful sight you could imagine—done on the spur of the moment, too; the whole street and the houses packed with people; flags, banners, everywhere people in processions carrying and waving Union Jacks. For a sober, steady-going race like the British it was marvellous; and the cheering! It was really finer in a way than the Jubilee—it was so spontaneous and from the heart. The Queen must have been very gratified. On Friday the same thing occurred in Portland Place, where we stood on the balcony. I sent for Grannie and Miss Hilbery, and as it happened the dowager Countess of Warwick came just before the Queen passed, so we asked her to come up on the balcony as well with her son and she was also very pleased. There were flags right across the street and at all the houses—Papa said it was a thing you could not see anywhere else in the world—the devotion of the people to their sovereign. The sentiment of the whole thing is very striking.

The weather is quite warm to-day; the trees are budding, the birds are singing and the snowdrops and crocuses are all looking bright and lovely. We are staying in town next Sunday as Mr Casella is coming to lunch and to see the picture.

March 14th, 1900. 13 p.p. We went to the Harleys’ dinner party last night, which was very successful. Papa took Lady Russell-Reynolds in to dinner, widow of the celebrated physician, and sat next to Mrs Harley. Mrs Alec Tweedie was also there. On Monday the Duke of York came to sit and he is coming again to-morrow; so we are very pleased as it lets Papa get on with his work. What a cheeky demand of old Kruger and Steyn for peace! We are pleased Lord Salisbury’s answer was decided.

March 19th, 1900. 13 p.p. We went down to Hawley on Saturday to dine at the Grubb’s [a neighbouring retired Colonel and his wife at Darenth Castle], and we had to come up on Sunday morning as Mr Casella was coming to lunch; he did come and was awfully pleased to see us and very excited over the picture. I cannot tell you all he said; you must imagine it, because you know how he loves and admires Papa; and, well, he put his arm round his neck and kissed him—you can imagine the pathetic scene; Papa and I were very much touched by it. Of course, he is a Frenchman, but he has lived in England most of his life and he has never done that before, so the picture must have affected him very much. After lunch Mr Schloeser came and was also delighted with the picture, but, of course, he is not an old friend like Mr Casella who also loves art for art’s sake. Mr Casella called one Sunday and found we were not here so he told Mrs Soley [housekeeper-cook] how dreadfully sorry he was not to see us as he loved us so much! While Mr Schloeser was here we got a letter from Marlborough House saying the Prince could come to-day or to-morrow, so we arranged for to-day. So he is with Papa just now; happily he came late—we were glad as Papa had one of his unseeing giddy turns, but he seemed a little better before the Prince’s arrival. I think the Prince rather likes sitting and wants to have his portrait very good. Papa has finished the Duke of York’s head and I think it is awfully good.

March 27th, 1900. 13 p.p. This is Papa’s birthday and your letters arrived for breakfast; he is pretty well. We still have great excitement over the picture, everyone is so surprised as well as pleased—we have lots of visitors every day.

April 1st, 1900. 13 p.p. The chief event of this week was the arrival of a very nice and pretty baby girl [the first grandchild]. Our baby is the picture which is still liked by everybody. To-day we had Lord Robertson and Sybil, who highly appreciated it; they are glad to see the Queen look so nice. Our war news has not been very good lately; Papa and the rest of us are getting anxious again. Wasn’t that a wretched arbitration business the other day—the only advantage, Papa thinks, it may be that it will shut up arbitration; we always lose by it unjustly.

By kind permission of Sir Walter Gilbey, Bart.

April 6th, 1900. Just now we have all been very excited over the Prince of Wales’s escape and the Queen’s grand reception in Ireland, and the war news is so bad that we are all very depressed again and I feel ready to cry with the excitement of the picture and the troubles of the war. A Scotch rest will do our nerves good—we are going to Aboyne.

Sunday, April 8th, 1900. 13 p.p. Yesterday we had an awful lot of people, amongst them Prince and Princess Edward of Saxe-Weimar; they were delighted with the picture and think the likeness so good; everybody else went into fits over it, so, of course, I was pleased. Last evening the men came to stretch it and put it into the frame, and it took them till eleven o’clock, and then they could not finish, so they came back this morning at seven o’clock. Papa thinks the frame is rather big, but I don’t—especially when it is in the R.A.

Isn’t the war news bad again; we are all cross and miserable. Heaps of people have been and everyone is delighted with the picture. [This was “Show Sunday,” when all friends were welcome or people with introductions, but not strangers, as with some if not most artists.]

April 15th, 1900. Huntley Arms Hotel, Aboyne. We arrived at Aberdeen last night and here this morning; then we had lunch and I drove with Papa down to the fishing place, where we expected to see Mr Bryant and the ghillie, and I had to leave Papa to walk down to them carrying his rod, which I did not quite like (him being alone); his cold is better, but it is showery and he has no mackintosh. The hills are covered with snow, but it does not seem very cold. There is no grass, it is all shrivelled up and dead, not like the grass at Hawley, which is bright and green and has been cut already; the almond blossom there is nearly over and the lilacs are all beginning to look green. But here, though it is bright, the trees all look wintry. Our sitting-room bow-window looks out on a kind of common where they play golf. We had a comfortable journey yesterday and travelled down with a lady who recognized us, a Mrs Mackinnon; she had met us at one of the Crombie’s at Banchory. She was very nice and had a nice daughter with her, and then there were two schoolboys, so we had a carriage full. We are reading a very interesting account of the poor last King of Bavaria; he seems to have been a very nice man and more eccentric than mad; Miss Corkran lent us the book. Heaps of people came on Sunday; of course, some of them expressed themselves, but I think most of them were so taken by surprise that they had nothing to say, but were awe-struck; I was quite amused. It was an awful job to get it framed and finished (which it was not). May and his men came on Saturday and again on Sunday, and there was the same business to go through on Monday, and as it had to be folded, we were very anxious lest it should be cracked. However, Charlie went down with it to the R.A., and poor old May had the pleasure of putting up the frame and taking it up in the lift himself at the R.A., safe and sound. But Papa will have a lot of work those three days [touching-up] at the Royal Academy.

The war news is bad. I see Gatacre is to come home; his career will be ruined, poor man, but Papa says he supposes Roberts feels he cannot trust him and is afraid of getting his communications cut. What a long time this war will take; it seems Roberts sent for another 4000 infantry, and we have not got them to send. Isn’t it beastly? And the men out there want their warm clothes and cannot move without. We are evidently a slow people.

Papa will try and come with me to meet you.

[1] Sir Charles Gold.

[2] An old school friend of my Mother’s.

[3] “Four Generations.”

[4] King George V.

[5] King Edward VII.

[6] The Germans took every opportunity of insulting us and our country either covertly or openly.

[7] Ian was working at a brewery.

[8] The Grays’ uncle.


As my Father remarks in one of his Amesbury letters, “Hilda has given an account of our adventures from her own point of view—not bad,” so I find I must continue to do so from lack of material to do otherwise; and can only hope it may continue to be “not bad.”

Country-house visiting is delightful and full of variety owing to the difference of scene, of people and manners and modes. In the telling, however, it is apt to become monotonous because of the impossibility of describing those differences in a reasonable space; each house would take a chapter to itself.

My Father seldom dated his letters and my memory for dates is inherited from my Mother’s memory—or lack of it—for keys. Consequently I cannot “place” this St. Fillan’s letter quite certainly. We were on our way back from one of our family holidays in Scotland, probably from Fearnan in 1894. My Father and I got out of the train at Stratheyre in the evening, leaving my Mother and Charlie to escort the rest of the family back to school—Charlie to an art school—Academy schools I think at that time.

At Stratheyre station we found the nearest hotel was three or four miles away and there was no trap of any sort to be had. It was dark and raining, we did not know the way, and as we had a considerable pile of luggage, walking was out of the question. After much friendly discussion a station loafer offered to fetch a cab out of apparently nowhere, and after a while produced a ramshackle wagonette. We waterproofed ourselves, loaded up and drove off in the pitch darkness. After a seemingly long drive, warm, in spite of the rain, we arrived safely at the Stratheyre Hotel, the wagonette, to our surprise, not having broken down.

The following morning we drove to St. Fillan’s Hotel, ten or twelve miles, a most lovely drive, which I enjoyed and my Father pretended to more than he really did—he disliked driving and the wagonette was uncomfortable. Besides, he was missing his wife, and a daughter’s attentions, however well meant and kindly received, were by no means the same thing.


St. Fillan’s.

My dear Old Lady,

Here we are waiting for you. We met the trap [from St. Fillan’s] and arrived all as arranged, but how we spent the interval is a long story which Hilda, I believe, has already told you. This is really a beautiful place, though not enough to prevent my missing you—perhaps it aggravates the case.

Moreover, it has rained steadily since you left.

Hilda and I sympathize with you in your struggles with the forces of nature as represented by endless staircases and unruly boys, but hope to find you at Perth rested and fit for Forfar.

Yours lovingly, as usual,


We met my Mother at Perth, and then went on to the Tullis’s near Forfar, where my Father played golf and had a couple of days’ fishing on the Esk. From there they went North to Aberdeen, and thence up the valley of Dee to Finzean, the highland home of Dr Farquharson, M.P., his brother the painter, his sister-in-law and her sister. In 1896 we all three went.

It is an old Scottish house with ancient yew hedges, right amongst the hills in the Farquharson country and altogether Highland; tartan curtains and stair-carpets, kilted hosts and a piper to wake one up in the morning by marching round and round the house playing lively Highland pibrochs—a delightful awakening. At dinner the piper came up the stairs playing, marched round the drawing-room—playing—while our host marshalled his guests; then, still playing, he marched downstairs followed by the dinner procession headed by our host; into the dining-room he marched, round and round and still playing, while people sought their places. When everyone was seated he marched round twice more and then retired, and as the pipes receded they grew beautiful, giving forth music. Conversation was once more resumed with perhaps an added zest and liveliness from having been completely overpowered by this very Highland entertainment.

My Mother and I were pleased, and my Father not displeased, that we possessed frocks, cloaks and rugs of our own Urquhart tartan, a very pretty one, dark green and dark blue check, with a red and double white line overcheck; he was much interested in the double white line as being the ancient correct pattern, not always used.

W. Q. O. dined with Dr Farquharson at the House of Commons a good many times, but of these dinners I have no record except that he enjoyed them; we all went to tea and strawberries on the Terrace. My parents dined with Mr Speaker Gully and attended a reception once.

A fellow guest at “Finzean” was Lord (then Mr) Bryce, a nice old man, but not apparently clever, engrossed, I suppose, in his thoughts.

Before going to Finzean we went to the Henri Rivières, London friends, who had taken “Inchmarlo,” near Banchory, for the fishing. Mrs Rivière was (and is) a niece of Sir Walter Gilbey, a lively, pretty woman. Mr Rivière was a Mauritius Frenchman descended from one of Napoleon’s generals, and was quite charming. He was a very keen salmon fisher, and never to be found anywhere but at the river. On our arrival my Father would go at once down to the Dee to greet him and “talk fish.” The non-fishers saw Mr Rivière at breakfast and dinner, but at no other time unless one went down to the river. W. Q. O.’s portrait of him is almost living.

“Inchmarlo” belonged to the Davidsons, of whom one was called “Flying George” with great derision—he was trying to invent a flying machine, and quite sure that someone would succeed even if he did not. My Father’s criticism of the idea was that no heavier-than-air machine could fly until a light but very powerful engine was invented.

The Rivières had “Inchmarlo” for some fishing years, then took “Murthly,” Millais’ old Tay fishing (where I was not invited, the house being small), and after that “Mountblairy” on the Deveron, which is like a South of England river, and finally settled at Park, on the Dee.

For years we visited these nice friends early every autumn. Mr Rivière had a little joke with me every year on our arrival asking after a non-existent “Mr Hilda,” and when at last I got engaged, shouted from the middle of the river to the bank, where my Father and I had gone to greet him, “Congratulations! When is Mr Hilda coming home?”

Deeside provided many delightful days, fishing the principal amusement—at Banchory Devenick with the Stewarts and at other places, and on the Don at Mr White’s and at Kildrummie. Mr White’s house was just above the Brig o’ Balgownie, the bridge Byron was afraid of crossing on horseback for fear of the old rhyme about the bridge falling if an only son on an only foal ever crossed it coming true; it crosses the river in a single span, a most beautiful arch that gave W. Q. O. almost as much pleasure as the fishing.

Another interesting place was Drum, where the present-day Irvines showed us the title-deed to the estate given to their ancestor by Robert Bruce—a carved ivory horn, which they kept in a glass case in the hall. The family crest is a holly tree, which still grows beside the ancient keep, whose walls are twelve feet thick.

Aberdeen town was just enjoying an artistic awakening, thanks in a great measure to the late Mr McDonald and to Mr (afterwards Sir James) Murray; and W. Q. O. was made much of whenever he passed through, and of course his wife and daughter shared in the pleasant times. The first time he stayed at Banchory House was when he was painting Sir David Stewart’s portrait; he started it there but did most of it in London, and being unable to get the red robes as often as he wanted them sent me out to get patterns of red stuff to make one. What a hunt I had! There seemed to be hardly any red stuff to be had and there was nothing satisfactory at all, so our artist had to put up with a very inferior red, and then worried himself that he was painting a bad red in the picture—quite unnecessarily, for it proved very beautiful, and the picture had a great success in Paris as well as in London.

The Nesses were London Scottish friends with whom we stayed yearly, one year at Glenbruach in the Trossachs, a visit made memorable to me because on Sunday everybody went to church except my Father and I, and we went a walk together to Loch Katrine. The day was lovely, the scene was perfect and we said in one breath, “This is God’s church,” and then walked silently.

This was in 1897; my Mother remained at Hawley to settle the young members of the family, and my Father and I travelled together, stopping the night in Glasgow to see my brother Quentin, who was learning engineering there. We then came on to Callender, where the Nesses met us, and all in the hurry and excitement my Father gave directions for our luggage to come by coach, and that was the last we saw of it for some days; it went to Loch Lomond, I believe. A house-party and no clothes but one’s travelling garments! However, I was quite used to it, and though I did not really mind, thought it would be more convenient if I looked after the luggage myself. My parents were rather doubtful, but I pointed out that I could not lose it more often than they did. They laughed and agreed; and for the future when our hosts remarked as usual on our arrival “We suppose you haven’t any luggage with you,” we could point to it triumphantly and say, “It is here”; and everybody laughed—a perpetual joke.


[p.m. Sept. 21st, 1897.]

My dear Old Pet,

I am afraid that I addressed my letter to Portland Place [instead of Hawley], but why I don’t know. You got one from Mrs Ness, posted at the same time as one of mine, which you did not receive.

They, the party, have all gone out in different directions, Hilda to Callender driving with Mr Ness, etc., and I am here alone with a bad cold. Have just come in from a walk, had lunch, and am now writing to catch the post.

What did you decide about Quentin, and when will you be here? If Quentin is coming you could be here a day earlier. If there is any alteration you must let us know so that you may be met at the station.

I am glad you escaped being hurt in that accident—the shafts, etc., “don’t matter.”

Here is the post so good-bye,

And much love,


Photo The French Gallery
SAINT HELENA, 1816, 1894.
Napoleon dictating the Account of his Campaigns to Comte de Las Casas.
By kind permission of the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

My Mother was driving herself, and the pony shied up a bank in a lane half a mile or less from home; she walked three miles in the wrong direction with Sheila, reached a village, got a cab and drove home. She was much chaffed by her family over this “adventure.”


My dear Old Pet,

I am sorry to hear that you have a cold. You have been over-working and worrying, and it is time you were here for a rest. Sheila is better, I suppose, and left in charge of Rose.

However, you can tell me all about things to-morrow.

To-day it is raining cats and dogs, especially cats. Hope you have a good day to-morrow for the drive [nine or ten miles]. Shall be delighted to see you, it is far too long since I did.

Meantime with much love,

Yours really,


My Mother duly came, bringing Quentin with her from Glasgow, and my Father now began to enjoy himself. I once told them that they were like a pair of lost ghosts when separated, and they were rather flattered than otherwise—I don’t know which was the worse ghost; their inseparability was recognized and provided for by all our friends.

From the Nesses we three went to Deeside again, Quentin returning to Glasgow.

The following year Mr Ness took Lethan, about six miles inland from Elgin, in the strange warm belt near the Moray Firth. It was hilly but not mountainous, and the house was in the middle of a dense wood, mostly great beeches, full of owls, that spent the night screaming and hooting in a most eerie way.

My Father had two days’ salmon fishing on the upper waters of the Spey, but it was a long way in those motorless days, and he mostly contented himself with golf and dawdling.

One day he came for a stroll with me through the woods and we came to an avenue of ancient yews, unharmed by storms in that sheltered spot, and of a perfect shape.

“Now I know,” exclaimed my Father, “where the Gothic architects got their fluted columns and groined roofs.”

For the trunks of the yews were fluted and their arching branches met overhead making a groined roof, and we walked in the aisle of a natural cathedral. We said some word of The Great Architect, and then strolled up and down the cathedral aisle “not built with hands” in silence and complete sympathy. No, not quite complete—I was content with his company but he was incomplete without his wife’s, though he could “thole” his daughter’s very sweetly.

A most sad incident occurred during this visit. When we arrived, a girl, whom we had met at Glenbruach, was lying ill of gastric catarrh, nothing serious apparently; but she grew worse, her Father was sent for and an Edinburgh specialist, but nothing could be done, and she died. Kind Mrs Ness would not let her guests go, hotels were full and next visits not yet due; she contrived to keep her guests amused and happy, and on the day of the funeral sent all the young ones and her two sons to the Inverness Highland games.

The following year we found the Nesses permanently settled at Braco Castle, a fine place south of the Grampians and north of the Ochill Hills, a moor on one side and cultivated fields on the other. We visited them there for years, always with great pleasure, usually meeting the same people—Colonel Browne (the son-in-law), who was in the Burma campaign, and wrote an interesting book on it, Walter Horsley, son of the R.A., the Whitelegge’s [Mrs (now Lady) Whitelegge was Horsley’s daughter], our old friends the MacWhirters, the Colin Hunters, the Lawson Waltons, and one of Peter Graham’s many musical daughters, Annie, who could play the violin well enough for even that critical man my Father to listen to with pleasure; she sends me the following little anecdote which I had forgotten.

At dinner one evening the conversation turned upon a man who had been unjustly condemned to a long period of imprisonment of which he had undergone two years before his innocence was discovered. Mrs Ness was very indignant and repeated, “Yet he was innocent” so many times that Mr Ness at last asked, “Well, would you rather he had been guilty?”

“Oh no!” she replied, “for though he was guilty he would have a good conscience, don’t you think so?” she added, turning to Mr Orchardson.

“Yes,” was the reply, “he had a good conscience and he had what was even more—a grievance.”

He then inveighed, as he often did, against the injustice of a “free pardon” to an innocent person, who had done nothing to be pardoned. To point out that it was only an expression, incorrect no doubt, but understood by everyone, did not at all allay his indignation, rather whetted it.

The idea that a grievance provided a pleasant occupation to otherwise occupationless people was a familiar one to his family; he often remarked, “A man with a grievance is a happy man,” and it was always apropos and quaintly humorous.


[Draft of part of a letter to Mr Ness]:

Yesterday morning you must have been prompt for when I looked up to see you take shelter in the chariot you had all disappeared into the Ewigkeit. I sent a wave of the hand in that direction where doubtless it may still be found. Meantime my much-prized snow-shoes are taking it easy among the golf-sticks at Castle Braco.

We are about starting for Hawley, no longer an invalid, thanks to Mrs Ness and yourself, together with the good living and fine air of Braco. In this my wife thinks as I think and joins me in kindest wishes.


[W. Q. Orchardson.]

My Father and Mother did not like very long journeys so we nearly always stayed a night in Glasgow, chosen as a stopping-place at first because Quentin was working there and, later, my youngest brother, Gordon, as well. Aberdeen was another stopping-place for a similar reason, another son, Ian, was there at the University.

In 1901 we stayed two or three days in Glasgow for the Exhibition, which was most interesting, but not very different from other exhibitions. I remember it chiefly for the amount of friends we met there, including that old friend of my Father’s, Mrs Ford, “Chattie” of the old Edinburgh days, whom he had not met since the afternoon she spent with him in St. John’s Wood Road. I well remember my Father’s delighted greeting, he had a specially soft corner for old friends.

Another time we went to the launch of the Alnwick Castle at Govan Yard in September 1901; Messrs. Beardmore sent the invitation through Sir Donald Currie. It was a pouring wet day and we drove in a closed cab through miles of deserted, sloshy, slummy streets; on arrival we were taken to the platform built below the bow of the ship and matters were explained to the little crowd assembled there, partly sheltered by umbrellas.

I remember in particular the piles of huge chains coiled in an orderly manner to regulate the speed of the ship as she went down the slipway. We were told that if the weight of the chains were miscalculated, or the coiling anything but perfect the launch would be a fiasco owing to the narrowness of the Clyde here—the engineer responsible was wandering about in a very anxious frame of mind.

When the explanations were finished I left my Father’s side where I had been listening (his questions were always intelligent whatever the subject and elicited interesting answers) and went to the edge of the platform. The signal was given, the few remaining props were knocked away by workmen far below, the champagne bottle swung at the end of its long ribbons just missing my head (I heard a shout) and broke on the bow; the ship began to move, the stays at the stern were broken like matchwood, and the Alnwick Castle slid into the Clyde, stopping just before reaching the opposite shore—the chains had done their work well and exactly, and the engineer once more breathed freely.

I turned to my Father, exclaiming, “Wasn’t that ripping, Titumy!” but he was as white as a sheet. “You were nearly killed, Lassie—that bottle—and I couldn’t reach you, and you took no notice of my warning shout.”

Luncheon and speeches followed in the designing loft; a most entertaining day.

One year my parents went to Glenapp Castle, near Ballantrae, from Braco. They stopped in Glasgow as usual en route and while there went, at the invitation of Mr Tullis, I think, to inspect the Municipal Buildings. My Father had a bad cold at the time so he did not quite enjoy wandering about a big draughty building. If I remember rightly, he thought the marble staircase the best part of the building.

Someone incautiously asked him what he thought of Sir George Reid’s resignation of the Presidency of the R.S.A., a matter that was being hotly argued at the time. My Father replied that as he did not know “all the facts he would not hazard an opinion.”

I often stayed with the Reids, and knowing my Father’s disapproval of the resignation I asked Sir George about it, who said that the constant fights at the Council meetings made his position impossible. Sir George was a quiet, kindly man with a deep sense of right and wrong, but far too gentle to rule what was evidently an obstreperous crowd.

I explained this to my Father, who thereupon agreed that Sir George was probably justified in his apparently strange action.

[p.m. Sept. 22nd, 1902.]

Banchory House,


My dear Old Lady,

How are you? We know nothing but what came in the letter Hilda received yesterday, and that was chiefly about Fruach.

We—that is Hilda and her Father—got into good quarters at Kildrummie; the Ogstons were very kind and very nice and the fishing [on the Don] was good. We would have stayed longer but that I had promised to come here till Tuesday, when we go to Mountblairy. Sir George Reid wanted us much to go to him, but I had already arranged with Stewart.

When are you coming? I miss you very much, curious, isn’t it?

Hilda is enjoying herself to any extent. I hope you and the boys are ditto. Give them my love and don’t forget that I am your devoted other half, and waiting,


[p.m. Sept. 23rd, 1902.]

Banchory House.

My dear Old Lady,

Just got your two letters forwarded from Kildrummie.

Very sorry for all your worries and sorry for myself to be without you and them. Enclosed is the cheque for X. Tell him that borrowing is a mistake—it never pays; a name for borrowing is more than difficult to get over, let him always write to me—or not put himself into a position of necessity. With all this objectionably good advice give him my love.

We are getting on very well. There are some other people here and of a good sort. Had a lively round of golf with Douglas yesterday and we start to-day for Mountblairy.

The important point, however, is when is it likely you will be able to come along? I miss you shockingly.

Good-bye, my dear old Lady.

I kiss you heartily,


[p.m. Sept. 26th, 1902.]


My dear Old Lady,

I get your letters with pleasure but would much prefer you yourself, so am glad to hear you will start on Wednesday. [Plans . . .] We are having lovely weather and no sport. No floods have cleaned the river [Deveron] this season! Rivière has been fishing daily for over seven weeks and has not got his first fish.

They—the Rivières—are awfully sorry you are not here. So am I, and more



[p.m. Sept. 26th, 1902.]


My dear Old Lady,

You are, I suppose, back at Portland Place and I hope you enjoyed Brighton and found Grannie well. But the thing is how are you and your side and your fall? All right, right and well, I hope.

You will be in Glasgow on Wednesday, you say, and Hilda and I go to Sir George Reid’s. They want us to stay here longer, but you will find us at the Reids, who are kindly anxious that our stay shall not be limited to two or three days. We shall see you, I suppose, on Friday—or Saturday at latest.

How about my health? Well, I have not been quite up to my mark, and at present am the victim of Old Tic—had it all day. Hope to be better to-morrow as it is assuaging itself. Hilda is enjoying herself and being very nice.

Am writing this before dressing lest I should not find time in the morning. Thanks for the stylo which you see I have got—it came in a packing-case about a foot long!

You had better wire me at Reid’s what train to meet so that I shall see you at the very first possible moment. We have been a shocking time apart.

Yours with all my heart,


The writing in this last letter is very shaky, as always when my Father was suffering from tic douloureux; he always had it in the left shoulder, and once when he was young he drew a red-hot poker across the place to ease the pain. He also tried an injection of opium once, but the after effects were so much worse than the tic that he was convinced that the doctor had given him an overdose. In any case, he never tried either of these remedies twice, but suffered the pain with fortitude. I have seen him pacing up and down, restlessly “to and froing” with great drops of perspiration streaming down his face. But if one spoke to him he always answered in his usual gentle voice and manner, and I never saw him in any way out of temper or impatient.

We met my Mother at Aberdeen and stayed with the Reids at their cottage—“St. Luke’s”—just outside the town. Sir George had built himself a studio there, and Lady Reid had taken charge of the garden. As the whole place was sheltered from the north and east winds by a high wooded bank and open to the south it was a delightful little sun trap, often quite warm when the rest of Aberdeen was shivering in a bitter north-easter. The house itself was covered with and warmed by a dense mass of ivy about two feet thick which was always dry inside next the walls whatever the weather might be like.

Golf at Balgownie links and a day’s fishing on the Dee were my Father’s amusements, besides a dinner or two to which he went with his wife. But his chief joy was being read to by his sweetheart and making love to her again—after a week’s separation. And how many years of married life?

One year we went to the Fairfax Rhodes’, who had a place near Kirriemuir. My Father went fishing in the Esk and I went over to see Barrie’s birthplace one day. I bought some trifle in a shop to have the opportunity of asking Kirriemuir’s opinion of him.

“I was at school wi’ James Barrie,” the shopman replied, “and we didna think muckle o’ him then; and noo he writes what a’body kens, an’ we still think little o’ him.”

An amusing case of a prophet not being honoured in his own country!

We stayed several times with the Orchars at Broughty Ferry (near Dundee, of which Mr. Orchar was provost for nine years or so). W. Q. O. went there nearly always when he was painting a Dundee portrait, but at times stayed with the people he was painting.

Amongst other people and places my parents visited were the Marquis of Huntly in 1896, where the hostess, the Marchioness, was served before her smaller-titled and titleless guests; Mr (now Sir) James Murray, M.P., Sir John Leng near Dundee, Glenapp Castle near Ballantrae, whose owner’s name escapes me, and others that I may or may not have heard of—the “key” memory again! At any rate, no record remains; as my parents were together my Father wrote no letters and my Mother’s letters were all destroyed naturally enough, besides, they gave no descriptions of anything or anybody. They went to Edinburgh once to an hotel, I think, and then once to the Reids at their Edinburgh house. Sir George had a great fund of quiet humour and, like most Scotch people, could tell a good story; Lady Reid was, if possible, even nicer than her husband, though that would be difficult, and spent much of her time reading aloud to him. As they knew most of the “big-wigs” of Edinburgh, as I irreverently called them, a stay at their house was extremely interesting.

Photo T. & R. Annan

From the Reids my parents went to Brownrigg near North Berwick, the home of my old friends, and at that time future “in laws,” the Grays. My parents already knew the sisters, one of whom had been my schoolfellow. My engagement dates this visit 1904.

Conversation turned on old Edinburgh days; another Gray, an uncle, at Cramond Brig, was mentioned, and it turned out that once W. Q. O. and one of his sisters were caught in a storm there as boy and girl and took refuge at a farm-house near by—the Grays. So small is Scotland.

1900 TO 1905

At the end of April my parents came home from Aboyne and Ian and I came home from Germany, where we had had a “rough passage” owing to the Boer War. What a glorious homecoming that was! To beautiful friendly England, to so “lovely” a Father and so dear a “little” Mother.

We went to the Private View a day or two later and I was so happy that I forgot to be shy and have now forgotten all about the pictures except that somehow I was disappointed in the “Four Generations.” I did not analyse the disappointment at the time, but looking back on it, fancy it must have been caused partly by the alteration in the Prince of Wales’s head and partly by the lighting.

After the R.A. banquet, where the usual interesting speeches were tinged with the sadness of the Boer War, and the opening day, my parents decided to go to North Wales, France not being at all friendly to English people.

We, the three of us, went first to Lake Vyrnwy. The train passed through gloomy Birmingham, where we were joined by Mr Charles Winn, who had suggested the trip, an old friend of many artists, Pettie included, a brass founder, and a grower of orchids and consequent friend of Joseph Chamberlain. The barrage forming the lake was interesting but the fishing disappointing, the few fish my Father caught having big heads and small bodies, a sign of starvation. An examination of the lake soon showed the reason why; the banks were entirely lined with big stones so that very little vegetation or animal life could flourish there, and trout do not as a rule feed in deep water.

A road encircled this artificial lake, and one day we drove round, about twelve miles. It was very pretty with rhododendrons and azaleas in full flower all the way, and Welsh mutton walking about with proper little woolly baa-lambs that only needed a green wooden stand with wheels to be ready for presentation to a proper little baby; hitherto we had supposed toy lambs to be unlike any lamb ever created, but now we knew better; they were the prettiest little things.

From Lake Vyrnwy we went a visit to the Vale of Llangollen to friends of Mr Winn, whose pottery we examined with much interest, the strangest thing being the way tiles are made; various coloured clays are packed in patterns into moulds and after being fired come out entirely different colours.

Another pretty drive and some more toy lambs decided us that N. Wales was pretty but very tame and gentle after the beautiful wild Scottish Highlands, where my Father loved too to hear again the kindly Scots tongue—he always spoke with a slight accent himself. What is it, I wonder, that makes a Scot’s voice sound so friendly?

On our return to Hawley my Father took up his life of work and fishing and golf, with a season ticket to London.

The neuritis in his left arm which had started in 1898 was gradually disappearing, he seldom wore a sling now, and was once more able to carry his palette, though he had to have a very light one. While his arm was very bad he had propped his palette on a music-stand, which he found very inconvenient, especially while he was doing the “Four Generations.” So big a picture requires to be viewed at a distance constantly, and the stationary palette involved much extra walking, for which he was totally unfitted. Constant pain and lack of sleep caused other troubles—indigestion and fainting attacks—and the wonder is that the picture was ever finished. By now my Father had to admit that he was delicate, though he would by no means admit to being old. In a note-book is the following reflections without any connection with anything else:

“Found her an old woman and garrulous; quite [interesting?] in its way, for though she is much older than I was, and I don’t know that I always feel younger than others, but I know that I feel younger than myself.”

As if to prove himself young he wrote a rhyme on the marriage of a Mr Day to a Miss Week about this time:

A Week is lost, a Day is gained

  The loss we’ll ne’er complain;

There’ll soon be little Days enough

  To make a Week again.

And then:

This is a world of disappointment.

He always kept going till he could no longer stand, and I have often seen him trying to play golf when he was so weak that his legs were visibly shaking under him—a triumph of mind over matter. But his hands, though he could sometimes hardly hold a pen, never shook with a brush in them, an even greater triumph in its results.

When the Queen died in January 1901 we were affected in the same way as the rest of the country. My Father, indeed, was more affected than most people, for he had recently seen the Royal Family rather intimately and, to his surprise, had liked them; a painter must needs be a very keen observer of character. The Prince of Wales, King Edward VII, he found to be a very clever, well-read man, though not intellectual, and brimful of knowledge of the world. Most people were very doubtful as to what sort of King he would make, but my Father predicted that he would make an excellent one, in which he proved correct, for after two or three years people began to say that Queen Victoria had lived ten years too long.

In April, having sent five works to the R.A., my Father went off with his wife to recruit in the South of France, stopping, of course, both going and coming, in Paris for the general joyous entertainment it afforded them and for the Salon, Monsieur Gauchez and the Jouanins.

The recent honour, in 1901, conferred on Orchardson made another reason for staying in Paris. Monsieur Gauchez had telegraphed first and then written to announce it. My Father replied as follows—I notice he wrote very foreign letters when writing to foreigners:

[Draft letter]:

It is with the utmost gratification that I receive through your kindness the news of the high distinction conferred on me by the Members of the Académie des Beaux Arts. Pray accept for L’Académie my very high appreciation and my warmest and most grateful acknowledgments of the great honour it has done me.

Permit me to subscribe myself dear and honoured Sir,

Your very sincere and gratified servant,


At the Gare de Lyons a curious little incident occurred. With much difficulty they secured a growling porter—“à bas les Anglais”—but not a cab would take them; my Mother tried blarney in her pretty French without effect, and then my Father had what can only be described as a brain wave.

“Anglais!” he exclaimed, “no, non, Ecossais!”

At once the cabby climbed down off his box, opened the door of his cab with a great flourish and said:

“Entrez madame! Entrez monsieur! A bas les Anglais—mais vive les Ecossais!”

After that, whenever my Father forgot to wear his ribbon of the Légion d’Honneur he had merely to say “Ecossais” to receive almost as much attention as the ribbon procured.

From Paris they went on to Monte Carlo, which they did not like, so went to Hyères. It will be noticed in the two following letters that my Father, the optimist, says his arm is better, while his wife says it is bad—temporarily let us hope.

[p.m. April 22nd, 1901.]

Grand Hôtel des Palmiers,


My dear Hilda,

I have just come in from a stroll among the palms for a top coat. Interrupted. I was about to say something about the weather and the palms when called away, since when Mother has lost the “indelible” pencil and I have only now thought of the common variety. The Boulevards here are of palms, which prevail until you near the country roads, when the eucalyptus takes up the running. This is the sort of thing I was going to tell you, but now I will tell you that we are starting for Avignon, and to-morrow for Paris where we mean to stay a day (perhaps two) to see the Salon, etc. Moreover, my arm is considerably better, and I am,

Your very affectionate Father,


[E. O.’s letter—extracts]:


April 22nd.

We have also been having beautiful weather, but with an east wind—or the Mistral as it is called here. To-day it is dull and blowy and looks as if it will rain. Father was going to play golf this morning, but did not feel well enough. We had tea outside yesterday for the first time, at another hotel—a much more French one—we always like that better; we see more of the people and their houses. This is a very comfortable hotel, but very English, carpets all over and English teacups, and crowds of English. We went for a lovely drive the other day; we want to go for one to-day, but Papa has a little cold and his arm is bad, so it is doubtful. We chiefly, except when we are at the golf club, walk about the old town which is most picturesque and awfully steep. There is an old fortification and a castle on top which overlooks the whole country all round; it is very hilly and reminds us of Scotland.

A year or two later my parents went to Hyères again, perhaps twice, but after that my Father was too delicate for long journeys and they gave up going to France and talking about going to Egypt—an old project with them. They were never away long and on coming back always started work, with its accompaniment of reading aloud, immediately.

When my Father was playing the “cheerful rôle of invalid,” or “was stepping back into the world again,” or “had cheated the doctors once more,” or had arrived at the stage of “my first getting-up from my last knock-down” (his own expressions), or when he was pretending “wellness” to himself and everyone else he would depute Charlie to “see to things” for him, even to the extent of reporting on his (W. Q. O.’s) work sent into the R.A.

My dear Father,

Your portrait looks very well indeed. I have seen to it and there is nothing wanting doing to it.

Mine are awful, picture well enough hung for a bad picture, but portrait on which depended my next year’s income skied to the very heavens. However, I am thankful for any mercies at the hands of D. and Co. as I have heard of so many poor fellows turned out altogether.

One of the best things in the Show is a portrait picture of a woman in a blue silk frock by George Henry—awfully good in the big room. Stott has the best thing for some years, but badly hung. Abbey very, very disappointing, indeed—in fact I was quite glad to hurry away from it. Sargent also to me disappointing, but I got sat on for saying so. David Farquharson awfully good. I really can’t remember much else except a crowd of spurious Abbeys. George Gascoigne has a good one and well hung.

Au revoir, C.

In a letter to my Mother, Charlie wrote:

“I know what Father thinks of red as a colour to treat. He will be glad to hear that I did the whole thing out of doors [a man in a hunting coat] with a real live background.”

A young painter always has a hard struggle to make ends meet and my Father having helped Charlie to a partnership in St. John’s Wood Art Schools, also put work in his way whenever possible.

[Dictated letter]:

Dear Mrs Yerburgh,

May I hope you will permit me to apologize and to express my regrets for the unconscionable delay in answering your note. I have been unwell and am neglecting very much all my correspondence.

With regard to the little picture you speak of I am afraid that I could not undertake it. I shall shortly be starting for Scotland to expedite my recovery, but perhaps you would like my son to undertake it—he is not going away. If so his address is Homeland, Shepperton.

Again sincerely apologising,

I am,

Yours very truly,

[W. Q. Orchardson].

On Charlie becoming a partner in the St. John’s Wood Art School, W. Q. O. presented a yearly medal—the chief prize of the school; Gilbert Bayes designed it.

Photo T. & R. Annan
THE RIVALS (Rivalry), 1895
By kind permission of Lord Invernairn.

[Draft letter]:

My dear Bayes,

A friend of mine, L[ady] M[oore] wants to put up a bas-relief of her husband in an institution he founded. I have got all the photos of him and she leaves me a free hand in the matter. Is this the sort of thing you would care to do? if so I should be very glad to see you on the subject.

I have long meant to ask your permission to acknowledge in the very slight way enclosed your great kindness in doing that beautiful medal for the school; it does not, of course, express my appreciation of the work or its value. The balance I accept from a fellow artist with great pleasure.

Other sons had to be started in the world, too, an expensive and difficult business.

[Draft letter]:

My son Quentin has just served his time in the engineering works, St. Rollox, Glasgow; is it possible that if you gave him a note of introduction to one of your people that a place, however small, might be found for him in one of your many [works, concerns?] He is tired of his holiday and anxious for work.

Forgive me if a knowledge of your kindliness leads me to bother you in this way and believe me to be, whatever your reply,

Yours very,

[Unsigned; his writing.]

This is probably to Sir Edward Carbutt, but it did not procure a job for Quentin (“the works were full”), who finally colonized, a family “failing”; two other younger brothers have also colonized since then (or should one say Dominionized now?) as well as myself.

Diary 1903.

Jan. 9th. First sitting for Mrs Siddons.

March 30th. R.A. Council—meetings.

April 9th. Llandissel.

April 18th. Return from Llandissel.

April 23rd, 24th, 25th. R.A. Hawley, 25th.

Corsham Court,


Dear Mr Orchardson,

This note is not to be answered. I had a good morning’s fishing with your rod yesterday, 2¼, 1½, 1¼.

Except in the teeth of a wind I could have no more perfect weapon of attack.

But to cut through a hard wind I would like another foot, a greater stiffness, which means weight and an aching wrist.

Yours very truly,


May 30th, 1903.

Dear Mr Orchardson,

I think I will risk a lecture from you when next we meet, and invest in a stronger backed rod for the broad Itchen.

I had quite splendid sport in Norway, wading, long casting, only fly. Three of us in 22 days killed 156 fish and I was not the least successful of the three. My 66 fish average 16¾ lbs.

My trip to Vienna has proved interesting. The pictures a real joy, especially the Rubens and a few of Andrea del Sarto, to say nothing of Titian and Vandyk.

Yours very truly,


October 25th, 1903.

[E. O. note: “written to Lord Methuen, 1905.” Draft letter]:

“In my answer to your letter from Norway I said that I would write to the engineer who sent the rods to my studio to choose from. I did not, however, write, deciding to keep the rod in question among my spare lot. I have waited till I should hear of your return to Corsham to send you my cheque. I take this liberty, subject of course to your not wishing the rod back, which as you gave it a fair trial I take for granted.

“Sport in Norway I hope fulfilled the full promise of its early start, and that you have had a good time.

“Here in Perthshire we have been very irregular. My best day [was] on the Tay (Murthly), three fish, and here on the Earn only one out among the floods.”

In the Spring of 1904 I underwent a small operation; I went to a private hospital and my Mother remained in London to be near me, which caused the following letter:

My very dear Old Lady,

Of course see to our pet Hilda, I can “thole’ ” anything that will do her comfort—even separation.

As to enclosed say sorry, but find I can’t.

Am busy, just laid down my palette to read your letter and write this.

Give Hilda all my love, it will not diminish what I have for you.


More than enough,


My Father had a very great belief in the innate beauty and honour of human nature; no amount of experience ever destroyed it, and a letter he received in April 1904 must have greatly enhanced it.

It appeared that at the death of his correspondent’s father, my Grandfather was called on to pay £40 (presumably a loan or bill) which he could ill afford, but he did so without complaining and only regretting the loss of his friend. Now the daughter sent a cheque for £80, “including a little interest,” and added that she had had much hesitation in troubling him and begging to be pardoned for so doing.

My Father, much touched, replied as follows:

[Draft letter]:

Your letter reached me in the country two days ago; it has caused me both pleasure and pain. My first thought was naturally to return your cheque as I could not hold you responsible for a supposed mistake of so long ago a date and of which I had never even heard. But respecting your high sense of honour and fearing to risk a hurt to your sensitiveness I took time to think out 2nd thoughts and even 3rd, but it is not necessarily true that 2nd thoughts are the best, and I am driven back on my first and straightest as the only possible. I feel (in fact, I know) that I put all this very crudely, but I trust your finer sense to read it truly and even to sympathize.

May I hope that you will kindly reassure me that I have not offended you in thus acting on “first thoughts”?

With all kind wishes to you and yours and you again,

Believe me,

Very truly yours,


Mrs. G. replied that she appreciated the first thought, but would like to send the cheque to “Mary Eliza or his brother Charlie”; and added: “I remember being told by our lawyer how much he admired the gracious way your Father met the claim and made the sacrifice.”

Three loving letters; he lived for Love and Art, and Love came first.

March 1904.

My dear Old Quiller,

I have just arrived and now Hilda and I are just going out to post our letters to send you all the best wishes you possibly can imagine for my dear old sweetheart who I hope will miss me and at the same time will not. Be sure and take care of yourself till my return at lunch-time on Monday.

Always your own loving


My dear Titumy,

Very many happy returns of your birthday. I can’t think of a better present to send you, than all my love; so failing anything better please accept that and believe that I am your truly loving daughter,


[p.m. March 28th, 1904.]


My very dear Hilda,

You could not have thought of a better birthday present if you had thought with a hundred heads. The love of those I love is all that I most care for in this or any other world, and you, as you know, have that of Titumy.

We all look for your coming home. The boys will soon be here and things be lively

Your very loving,


I once had an argument with my Father on the subject of being missed. I maintained that I wished not to be missed, or at least I thought one ought to wish so, otherwise one was wishing for people to suffer. But he said that that was such an unnatural wish that it argued selfishness.

Dinner time was conversation time, especially when my Father and Mother and I were alone, as often happened during these years at Hawley; and particularly when I had just come back from a long absence, had seldom been able to get hold of a newspaper and was tired of trivial conversation. Then I would turn on the tap, as it were, of questions and suggestions with wonderful results. If only I had written them down at the time!

However, with the aid of memory refreshed by newspaper articles, magazine interviews,[1] and the fact that memory never really dies, but is only quiescent and can be prodded into life again by long and deep thought, I am able to see again the three of us sitting at the table in the dark-panelled dining-room, my Mother at the end of the table, my Father at the side, myself opposite him; two fine gold and white pillars behind him, the rest of the room in semi-darkness, lighted only by a shaded lamp on the table, which I decorated with a garden of snowdrops or primroses, or later a beautiful Japanese bronze “bottle” vase with a spray of pyrus japonica in it; later still a bowl of roses. A Frenchman once said: “Une fleur de M Orchardson est un fort bon tableau,” and he, W. Q. O., took an interest in the table flowers, though he did not always see them till his attention was called to them, except roses, which always attracted his notice.

This vision brings hearing, and I hear my Father’s animated voice rising and falling in strange inflexions, sometimes bass and sometimes tenor, but mostly midway between. I hear his careful, vivid way of expressing himself, of using language properly; I hear my Mother’s occasional quiet comments, my own intent questions.

“What’s this new idea of solid oil colours—it sounds more like pastels?”

“Yes, that’s it, just oil crayons, a new royal road that will lead to anywhere rather than to art, an invention arising from the craving to do things easily. An American inventor came to this country some years ago with a scheme for spraying the paint on to the canvas. Such devices are merely the invention of the enemy, for there is no substitute for brains and work; and artifice is not art. It is the eye and brain that can select and mix the colour that makes the painter of genius or the common-or-garden duffer. No artist with the true spirit within him will adopt ready-made colours, and if he have not individuality and the true spirit, it matters not what devices he adopts.”

“There’s a fellah who puts on lumps of paint and then sculpts them! Then Sargent (and others of that ilk) puts on streaks of paint and does not, or even can’t finish them—magnificently effective in the distance—but not finished.”

He paused and I suggested that finishing highly might lead to niggling.

“No. Look at Rembrandt and Titian. Of course, the Pre-Raphaelites were too minute, but it was a good training, and see what it led to in Millais.”

“And Rossetti and Hunt?”

“Oh, no! Rossetti and Blake were both called painters by poets, but painters called them poets. It is much more difficult to paint than to write—look at all the failed painters who have taken to writing!” he added laughingly.

Quite characteristically he took no notice of Hunt.

“Is training so important?”

“Well, any training is good enough for a man who can do without it!” was the half-laughing answer.

You didn’t go to Paris for training. Was Lauder better? You know, all Lauder’s pupils are recognizable—easily.”

“Yes, Lauder’s enthusiasm and the atmosphere he threw around were invaluable, yet those of us who can paint would have painted—and been successful—in any case, though possibly in another manner.”

“What about Paris?”

“Oh! that’s simply very jolly, but not at all necessary. For one thing the French schools tend to destroy individuality; the English leave that alone. People say that there are too many masters at the Academy, but it is only the duffer who gets muddled. And who cares about the duffer? He is better out of it. Your real good man can take what is best—the cream, as it were, and keep his own individuality. It is only a clever student that can take advantage of advice—and he doesn’t need it.”

“I saw in the paper the other day that the Academy ought to elect etchers and engravers—I don’t see why.”

“No, their art is good as far as it goes, but it is incomplete; it lacks colour and is seldom original.”

“People are always criticizing the R.A.”

“Yes, and they have no right to do so at all. We are an entirely private and independent body. Why! when part of the Trafalgar Square galleries were offered to the Academy we refused them because we could not get them unless we agreed to have a representative of the Government always with us. So it was better to build our own galleries; independence cost us a lot, but was well worth it. Fancy a Government man always about!”

“There is one thing, though,” he went on reflectively, “that the Academy could do better—and that’s the Chantrey Bequest. They will insist on spending the whole of the money every year, instead of saving it up and buying something really worth while.”

“Do you like teaching at the R.A. schools?”

“In a way; it is interesting seeing the young chaps—the halflings, as Grandpapa used to call them—and how they come on. I told a young fellah one day that if he wanted to paint like that he had better do something else.”[2]

“What a curious thing fashion in art is! And fashion only corrupts art—just like a woman who chooses the latest fashion in hats, wholly indifferent as to whether it suits her or not.”

“People imitate each other, I suppose?”

“Yes, but in art all that is worthy of imitation is inimitable.”

One night I told him that I had been to the R.A. four times on purpose to see Sargent’s “Three Graces.” The first time I saw it I was so tremendously “struck” and impressed that I went a second time specially to enjoy it, but was disappointed, a third time confirmed the disappointment, and after a fourth time I did not want to see it again, I knew it all. Why?”

“Yes, that is Sargent, he makes a tremendous impression at first, but you see the whole thing at once, and there is nothing further left to see—it’s the lack of finish. The work is carried only so far, which is magnificent—but not far enough. Look at Titian, Rembrandt, Velasquez—their work strikes you—impresses you at once, but you can see it, must see it again and again, for there is always more to see—that is the test of final greatness.”

Your work is finished,” I said, with intent to make him blush; which he did like a boy. My Mother and I laughed, he looked so shy—he was delightfully young and modest.

I once told him when I was asking for money to go travelling, that I did not like asking for money as it seemed too much like asking for his life. He looked surprised, so I had to explain that I thought he painted with his heart’s blood.

“Yes, lassie, I do—with my heart’s blood,” he said thinkingly, soberly, then putting his arm round me and kissing me, he added cheerfully, “but that’s the way the world is made. I earn my living that way; and it is a pleasure to give you money—that’s what it’s for, to give you all. So never be afraid to ask.”

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of the Aberdeen Town Council.

This little scene took place in the white corridor at Hawley—how well I remember my Father’s appearance, his fine ascetic face, kind and beautiful, his thin and still upright figure, well set-off by his light grey-blue tweed suit.

To return to the dining-room.

One night conversation turned on old days, and he laughed as he thought of the Fitzroy Square ménage, “the Barracks,” and how he had painted out a man’s black eye so that he could go to a dance.

Then we came to Spenser Street, and he spoke of Pellegrini, the Italian caricaturist.

“I only knew him slightly—a curious chap. He paid me one of the greatest and quaintest compliments I ever had, one day before I knew him at all. He came up to me in the Academy suddenly and said, shaking his fist in my face: ‘Mr Orchardson, if I thought that by killing you I could paint like that, I would stab you in the heart.’ And he made a gesture as though he were actually stabbing me.”

“The picture worthy of a stab in the heart?”

“Oh, ‘Hard Hit,’ I think. He was a curious chap. When he lay dying a friend came to see him and noticing a pile of dirty shirts in a corner, and Pellegrini being half-asleep, he rang for the servant to come and clear them away to make the room a little tidy and more comfortable. But, just as she was picking them up, Pellegrini started up and weakly called out, ‘Don’t do that, don’t do that, don’t take away my sketches.’ He was very excited and was only calmed by the shirts being put down again—poor chap, the cuffs were covered with sketches.”

Spenser Street and queer compliments suggested tennis—a man was once introduced to “Mr Orchardson—the one who has the tennis court, you know.” “A curious sort of renown,” said my Father.

Talking about Munich one night, I mentioned Titian’s “Abraham sacrificing Isaac” and the Greek “Sleeping Faun” as being worth all the rest of the art in Munich put together. My Father knew Dresden but not Munich. Then I mentioned going round the modern gallery searching for colour—good drawing abounded, but all the colour was muddy. At last I spied good colour in the distance, and joyfully hastening towards it—found it was a familiar Tuke. On which my Father remarked that the Germans were never colourists, and had I seen any Menzels? On my answering yes, and that they were marvels of drawing, but also lacked colour, he said even engravings showed that greatest of all faults. Then he asked about Lenbach, who had been in London some years before and had come with an introduction to “Orchardson.” On my saying that his work was awfully good, but not original, being more like Old Masters than the Old Masters themselves, except a few perhaps, such as the General von Moltke, he commented that he had judged so from the prints he had seen and that it was probably the result of too much slavish copying in his youth, copying being a foolish method of learning, and one that was sure to lead to imitation. And “you cannot imitate the inimitable.”

Lenbach, so far as I remember, painted portraits only, which suggested the question, “Is it easy to make a portrait like?”

“Yes, it is no proof of great talent to catch a likeness,” said my Father, “anybody, any artist that is, can do that—it is merely a matter of seeing. The question is, can he make a picture? The artistic purpose of a picture should come first.”

And from there, no doubt, we turned to fishing.

W. Q. O.’s note-book:

1904. June 7th. Mrs Hirsh afternoon [fishing]. 3.30 Weir Mill. June 8th. Mrs Hirsh, Littlehampton, near Hungerford.

[p.m. July 31st, 1904.]

South Stoneham House,


nr. Southampton.

My dear Pet,

Arrived in a pouring rain and a cloud of women. The rain has cleared up, but the women, alas! and yet I am pining for one more.

Kind regards to your guest and to you all my love.

Yours very,


Another time, probably earlier—I forget—the three of us went down to Lord Swaythling’s, at that time Sir Samuel Montagu. We found the old Jewish customs, which were most carefully kept up, very interesting, but one could not help being reminded of Punch when the Christian butler doled out the hats for the long grace before and after meals; Lord Swaythling got my Father’s little hat balanced on the top of his big head, and my Father’s neat head suddenly disappeared inside Lord Swaythling’s gigantic topper.

My parents stayed there one Passover time which, they said, was even more interesting.

My Father went trout fishing there in the Itchen and also tried for salmon in a celebrated pool, but I think he got nothing as the pool was frequently netted.

My Father remained hopeful of the Darenth fishing for a long time, but had his best times away at Ramsbury and then on the Chess, besides various visits.

A Fly Fishers’ Club friend (Mr Paul Taylor) wrote in 1902 to ask whether he was making public the experiments at Hawley and if not, whether he, Mr Taylor, might do so? He was anxious to know also how the rainbows he put in our pond were thriving?

Mr Taylor often fished at Farningham and sometimes came down to our water and wrote often to W. Q. O.

If I remember rightly, the experiment had to do with the feeding of trout and the poisoning of them in the river and came to nothing. My Father daily fed the rainbows in the pond on minced liver and lights, but he spattered himself and all who came to watch the taming of the trout, so that he usually had the performance to himself except when an unsuspecting visitor accepted the invitation.

The pond was close beside the river, which fed it, and one year a big flood came, the pond overflowed and the trout disappeared. I find the following note in one of my Father’s notebooks:

“Rainbows in Rivers.

“In Germany they are said to practically disappear after their second year. This might suggest their being classed among the migratory salmonidæ; if so, might not a delay of a year or so in placing them in the river blunt their migratory instincts and place them in the category of the land-locked?”

The following draft letter was probably to Mr Basil Field, about 1901, at least the Fields came to Hawley about that time.

“When in town I often [find myself] at the [Fly-fishers’ Club] on the chance of meeting you, but have no luck and I fear that your week-ends are muchly taken up. If however you could find or make it possible and in your heart to bestow one of them on us we should appreciate it very greatly—Saturday to Monday. We always, when in town, come down on Friday afternoon, so that any week-end suits us. Won’t you say this very end as ever was? There are fish in the river—I spotted one not far short of two pound yesterday. The best time of course is after tea, so that if you came even in the afternoon the day is not lost. I say this week for choice, but any other that will suit you better will do. It is an unconscionable time since we met and I crave to see you in that easy chair opposite [in the studio] with a good pipe and a quiet talk. Unconscionable trains. South Eastern, Charing X 2.”


July 12th, 1901.

Dear Orchardson,

If I have not been lucky in finding trout fishing this year I have been very lucky in finding a good place to spend a happy Sunday and that place (I will tell you in confidence) is called Hawley House. The landlady is very nice and the landlord not a bad chap and please I want to come again. Saturday 20th or Saturday 27th would suit us, whichever (if either) suits you. Ask your “Missus” to write a line to mine and you and I need trouble ourselves no more till we meet—and then—we will compass the death of that trout under the bridge if we can.

If you don’t want us again so soon ’tis your own fault, you should not have made us feel so much at home and so happy.

With kind wishes for all,

Yours ever truly,

Basil Field.

At Hawley and all round the neighbourhood we made some pleasant friends and also met some oddities, about whom my Father remarked: “I always wondered where the English people came from that the French object to so much—now I know!”

I always consider, and suppose my Father taught me, that artist-folk are the equals of anybody from Princes down to Plumbers (perhaps one should say up to Plumbers now?). At any rate his manners to a charwoman were as charming as to a duchess; the only time his manner varied was when the woman was very beautiful or very witty, and then his own charm and wit were redoubled.

All people, however, do not understand equality. One day a poor “county lady” and a rich “city lady,” close neighbours who had never called on each other, called on my Mother at the same time. When the “city lady” had left the “county lady” turned to my Mother and said: “I had no idea a city lady could be so nice.”

It seems odd after such a remark that the “county lady” should become a great friend. But as my Father remarked when told of the incident, “After all, it is only because she is fifty years behind the times like everyone else round here. Strange to find the backwoods within seventeen miles of London.”

We had a good many week-end visitors at first before my Father grew too delicate. Old friends mostly, including the MacWhirters, the John Stevensons and Tom Graham, whose portrait of my Father hung in the dining-room. Mr. Graham had presented it to my Mother and wrote to W. Q. O.: “Mrs. Orchardson can look on the sketch as a monument of your patience and amiability.”

This portrait shows “Orchardson the Thinker”; many a time have I seen him sitting in just that attitude in his easy chair in the studio, with his back to the light to save his eyes; he would come into meals when called, but the same far-away expression remained on his face, and if one spoke to him he would answer politely but absentmindedly unless the subject was something very special. Then he would come back to the world for a few minutes, only to relapse into his own thoughts the moment the subject was finished.

The next phase would be his sketching portfolio with the kitchen paper and he would make a sketch of the light and shadow—the values. After that a new canvas would be set up, he would draw a few rough though careful charcoal lines, pencil for the face, in late years sometimes none, and then go straight ahead and finish the picture very carefully and very quickly.

The “Uffizi” Portrait, painted by himself for that gallery by invitation, shows him as a worker, the man of action, the keen observer, himself exactly as he was when working; the only mistake is that he should have had two mirrors instead of one, but he had not thought it worth while. When I expressed my regret that he should be handed down to posterity incorrectly, he actually and really apologized for his “careless laziness” and said that had he realized that it mattered and that anyone would mind he would have “seen to it,” especially as it was his “little daughter” that was minding.

The Thinker sometimes made little notes of his thoughts and scribbled them down on any scrap of paper. My Mother carefully preserved them all and I have spent many hours deciphering them and letters. Few are dated:

“Shall not live to paint my best picture.”

“It is that—that one which I have not yet painted. My reason? because it is that which is full of hope, to-morrow to the artist is better than yesterday.”

“Yesterday may have been good but to-morrow is better, it is pregnant with the unfulfilled.”


“This is a world of disappointments.

“Physical work done mostly on fat, starch and sugar.”


“Bring forward questions as to rules of hanging [at the R.A.].”

The R.A. was being discussed in the newspapers, as to whether it should open its doors on Sunday. Orchardson was a strong upholder of its privacy and objected strongly to its allowing such a discussion.

“I cannot understand why the A. should of its own motion seek to undermine its influence in its own affairs.”

“This unfortunate reference to the S.G. is the small end of [the wedge], or as Mr W. might prefer to say, it is the opening of a door.”

Orchardson was extraordinarily loyal to the R.A. and I find that “he was known to be a non-partisan member.”

“1904. A sketch is all very well in its way, but it cannot claim to be judged as if it were a picture.”

“Understand? I can’t give you brains to understand.”

“Ah! I am [?] it is so obvious.”


“Vehicle 3c add 1a or 4c for quicker drying petroleum, 5d for thinning. Sulphate of carbon. Treat stickiness with benzoline.”

Orchardson disliked mastic varnish and got Charlie to “do up” the “Lady Gilbey” with a mixture of megilp, poppy oil and turpentine with most satisfactory results.

“I have no position my sons can inherit.”

“The leader of a fashion in Art must set an easy pattern, that is one that is easy to follow, even perhaps to carry farther; one that does not go too far in itself—not far enough to discourage emulation.”

“We have to beware of the inscrutable law for which nothing and nobody seems responsible—fashion.” [This refers to all fashions, not only art.]

“There is nothing beautiful that is not true.”

“We cannot go beyond the achievements of our predecessors, because art is not like science, constantly advancing.”

“Art is capable of analysis, not of synthesis; i.e. a picture may be analysed, but no description can rebuild it correctly in the mind’s eye.”

“The comfort to the eye of green and blue—grass and sky—should not be dogmatically formulated as an a priori intention to suit the eye, while you have the possible alternative of the eye having been, from its earliest arrival at perceptivity, adapting itself with the steady aid of heredity to the prevailing colours of nature, a nature which was antecedent to the eye; this might agree with the theory of the adaptation of the organs to the necessity of their environment, these colours being the first to make any continuous impression.”

My Mother’s diary of 1883 records: “Quiller and I had a small argument on a dress we saw in Holborn restaurant where we were dining. I said it was blue on black ground, Quiller said it was white on blue ground. Which was right?”

These small arguments on colour, or rather on the names of the colours, continued. My Mother would say: “If I go to a shop and ask for such and such a colour I shall get what I want, but if you go and ask with your names you won’t get anything you want at all.”

To which my Father would reply that in that case shopmen did not know the names of colours and an artist did. Purple and allied colours and blues and greens were the chief bones of this friendly contention.

One day I had been photographing some trees for my Father—for “The Doves,” I fancy—and at lunch-time conversation turned on the uses of photography to an artist. My Father said photography was little use to a painter because the camera does not see as the eye sees, perspective, for instance, and besides it records only a fleeting moment; “in landscape, art is not ready-made but must be selected, the camera cannot select; and in a portrait the camera can give only the momentary expression of the face.”

“Ah, give me character—character I must have, good if possible, but bad rather than none at all. Moreover, lack of character is a fault which detracts from beauty.”

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of the Dundee Art Gallery.

My Father painted only about eighteen portraits of women and he made them all rather severe, though beautiful. Was it, I wonder, his wife’s influence altered his views of women, or did he choose his wife because she came up to his ideal? She was cheerful and gentle in her manner, yet in repose her face was both severe and sad; and though neither pretty nor beautiful, she was exceedingly good to look at and her face gave one—everyone—a pleasant feeling; her voice was very pleasant too, though not specially musical.

She was very small and looked very young when Charlie was first grown up, which led to an amusing contretemps. She, her husband and her six-foot son were out together, and having hailed a hansom, were discussing the most convenient way of sitting. Cabby settled it:

“You two gents sit be’ind and the little ’un in front.”

The “little ’un” was highly indignant, but the others “roared” with laughter and took the advice.

Yet not all the women my Father painted were beautiful in the accepted sense of the word. One in particular I remember was described as ugly by young men, yet because she had character she became a beauty in the portrait.

It is only natural for an artist to write notes on art, the wonder is my Father wrote so few; it is not so natural, however, for an artist to think deeply about religious matters. That he did I already knew from his remarks to me, but as he and my Mother differed, and as they both disapproved of “threeping” opinions down other people’s throats, religion was never mentioned en famille.

He admired the English Prayer Book immensely for its beauty both of thought and language, but he preferred the Presbyterian method of Church government because it allowed of more independence on the part of the congregation. He thought evening church too emotional, but his sympathies extended to all methods and creeds.

I remember a mission meeting at school, once when I was very small, a mission to the “Indian Heathen.” I came home and told my Father about it, of course using the word “heathen” as it had been used at school. Great was my surprise at being thoroughly snubbed for using the word in that connection, and so indignant was I at the injustice of being blamed for other people’s faults that I neglected to ask my usual “why”? However, my Mother explained matters afterwards by telling me that “Titumy” thought the word heathen ought not to be applied to anyone who believed in God, whatever His name might be.

Years afterwards we were talking about books and my Father mentioned that he had read the Bible right through as a “history of a very interesting people, not as a sacred book.” I remember just one thing he said to the effect that the expression “God of gods” and other similar expressions mean that the Jews believed in other people’s gods as well as their own, and merely considered their own God a greater and more powerful God than any other and did not believe in the One and Only God under whatsoever name.

The beauty of the English Bible led us to Shakespeare, and my Father began quoting and reciting long passages although he had not read it since he was a boy. He thought the idea that Shakespeare might be Bacon very foolish; he also thought annotators often wrong, but I only remember one instance that he mentioned. “I have had losses,” says Dogberry; some annotators put “leases,” it appears; as my Father said, anyone can boast of leases, but few would boast of losses, and the humour of “losses” is in keeping with the character, whereas “leases” is neither humorous nor in keeping.

He wrote down a few religious and moral thoughts in his usual manner on scraps of paper, backs of envelopes and in little notebooks, none connected with any other; yet if carefully put together there seems a connection:

“The Book of the emancipation—deliverance of man from sorrow, poverty, uncertainty and Death by acquaintance with God. We shall lay up gold and plenty of silver. We shall decree a thing and it shall be.”

“Start with these texts. Do [they] mean what they say?”

“God’s covenant with Abram gives them his descendants a special augmentation of that knowledge—‘which it is the purpose of the Bible to unfold.’ (God’s amendment to the ‘universal law of evolution.’) Does their ‘intelligent employment’ of this advantage justify itself in their renunciation of Christ? or in their mundane position?”

“If Jesus was not merely man but God, wherein lies His credit?”

“The uncaused cause of all other causes. The one effect without a cause and the cause of all effects.”

“Is not this Demiurge thus totally unnecessary?”

“And need the rest trouble you? There are but two things that may be looked for as certain, Death in this world and Justice in the Next, which means, do your best in this world and fear not the Next. Your best may not be much, but it is all that God has endowed you with, and that you can be responsible for. And only for your living can you be responsible conceivably.”

“The whole question and interest of another world after this lies in its connection with this. Is there a Heaven for us, a Purgatory or Hell or Extinction of this world or state of existence? We know a little [of this], of the next or future state we know absolutely nothing so far as evidence and thought can carry us, if even this is conceivable.”

In 1903 he was desperately ill at Hawley and his life was despaired of. On his recovery we met on the stairs one day as he was going into the garden and he stopped me and said:

“Oh, Hilda! I have faced death and find it to be nothing.”

He told my Uncle the same thing, so must have been thinking much on this subject. In a notebook of about that date I find the following thoughts:

“The passing day to other eyes the dawning morn.”

“The one conscious moment of existence. One short conscious step from one unconscious eternity to another.”

No date findable:

“Sweep as far as thought can reach towards the impenetrable and soar as high, your wings will never cease to brush the finite.”

“Nothing is material save the immaterial.”

“Mind and matter are not—co-existent in time and unity and do not find ultimately that unity in substance where Sir O. L. finds them, which suggests their separate entities and ultimate absorbtion.”

“The finite material world is a matter of no little importance in relation to the immaterial.”

“The view of life and pain and destiny as a problem tacitly concerning humanity alone and in which the rest of sentient creation is ignored is too narrow.”

“The vital spark thus animates all nature from Leviathan himself to the indiscriminate fateful microbe.”

“An everlasting force which cannot get rid of itself, which drives the brain to thought and the thought to interaction without end and without exhaustion. The mammoth dies, the force that moulds its gigantic frame is still at work in undiminished volume and power as is that which moves the microbe.”

“But why should man, an incarnation of the spirit of God, be made subject to Vanity not willingly as P. of T. says, that he may be delivered from the ‘bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of God’—it suggests the idea that he might as well have stayed at home, that is in God’s spirit, of which he is an inalienable part. [Man] does not carry with him a personal consciousness of incarnation, its lessons, its difficulties, its joys and sorrows. It is a drama in which the actor knows neither the first act—part, his Part in God. The second act, incarnation, through which he stumbles, and wonders perhaps uneasily if the curtain will ever rise on the third, and if it is to be simply a résumé of the first.”

I only once heard my Father speak in anger about a religious matter—righteous anger; he inveighed bitterly against the cruelty and wickedness of religious fanaticism.

He had the strictest possible views of honesty and honour in money and all other affairs of life. He admired one old French friend, Mr Casella, immensely because he had lost a fortune rather than run the risk of “robbing” (i.e. speculating) another man in the effort to retain it; as it happened the possibly-saving venture in question was a success.

“There is nothing wrong in doing a bill for three months if a man is sure in his own mind that he will be able to meet it at the end of that time; yet a habit once acquired of doing bills may and often does lead to a man’s doing one, knowing that in all probability he will be unable to pay when the time runs out. It is this, which happens daily, that I think a fraud.”

“What position can a man occupy who can’t pay his way? When he has made his position it is time enough to join the twaddle of ‘Art for Art’s sake.’ How is it possible to pay his way if he can’t—or won’t—live within his income? Is it strictly honourable to spend more knowingly, to run into debt on the chance of loss to his creditors?”

My Father and Mother were both absolutely truthful, and they both had the highest possible sense of honour and of duty.

“The C[onscience] is unfailingly eloquent on what it owes itself, but how about the duties it owes to the state—are they a negligible quantity?”

“If you change the word ‘lie’ into the two words ‘Term[inological] inex[actitude]’ you alter its meaning.”

My Mother told me that when she got engaged people told her that her betrothed was rather over-lively, given to drink and women, but that she did not believe it. Her belief was justified, for no more honourable man ever lived after marriage, and as for what went before there is no slightest record or indication of wrongdoing; he was recognised as fastidiously honourable; Chalmers remarked: “Orchardson won’t drink to please anybody,” and in an early letter Orchardson himself wrote that he could not go to a certain house because the temptation of a pretty housemaid lay in the way; which sounds more like honestly fleeing from temptation than weakly succumbing to it.

My Father was very forgetful about money, but not indifferent to it, or rather to what it could bring in the way of comfort and help to his wife and children. He never painted “pot-boilers,” and when Agnew remarked, “The public don’t want that sort of picture from you,” I can imagine his scathing reply. Yet had necessity not driven, his output would have been less than it actually was. He wrote in a little note-book, all by itself:

“When one is a predestined first, is it necessary to be a predetermined last?”

Like most Scots, my Father enjoyed an argument; having no one at home to argue with, he would amuse himself and us making very definite statements one day and the next he would refute every one of them. When taxed with changing his mind he would say laughingly, “Who never changed his opinion never corrected an error. The minority is nearly always right and I am usually in that minority.”

After that desperate illness in 1903 he never quite recovered, at least for any length of time, his old verve and élan; we all noticed, too, a curious thing about him—he would be looking thin and tired, a favourite visitor would come in, and instantly his dreamy eyes would wake up, he would become alert, lively and witty, and he would actually appear quite plump and pink-cheeked for the time being. When the visitor left, and the excitement calmed down, he would once more become his usual thin, worn self. The same thing happened when doctors came to see him so that they never realised his weakness. Strong was the mind that controlled the weak body!

He still walked upright and jauntily, though he no longer walked “with a poker down his back,” as Charlie once expressed it; his brown hair was thin now and still fine as a baby’s, his military moustache white, his fine hands thin, nervous and strongwilled; and his face beautiful—no, lovely, worthy to be loved.

That military moustache, upright carriage and jaunty walk caused him to receive a salute from the sentries every time he passed a barracks or any such place—much to his amusement and even enjoyment, for he quite appreciated the compliment to his appearance and carriage.

One day at dinner we were discussing beauty in general and noses in particular, and he told me he had often sat for the head of Christ as a young man in Edinburgh, and for a girl when he was a young boy. One day one friend was grumbling to another that he could not find a suitable nose for his picture.

“What ails ye at Orchardson’s nose?” said the other, and Orchardson was duly “roped in.”[3]

My Father laughed over this—he took his good looks for granted.


[E. O.’s letters]:

Aug. 22nd, 1904. Hawley. Papa went to town last evening to begin a portrait this morning, but it seems he was not well during the day. I am going to take Sheila up to town to-morrow, so then I shall see how he is getting on; to-morrow he is going to paint his portrait in the morning and then going to fish—he seems to like going to Chesham. The MacWhirters came down on Saturday and spent Sunday. . . . They will not see us again until we most likely meet them at Ness’s.

Aug. 25th, 1904. Hawley. I asked Dr. Gill to come and see Papa whose digestion, he says, has evidently got out of order, but with a week’s careful dieting, etc., he will be all right. Papa went up to town on Monday evening and returns to-day. He has begun a portrait of Mr. Colls, and went fishing yesterday. I went up to town yesterday. It is a marvellous day, one of those brilliant, sunshiny, hazy English days; I always think they are wonderful, cheerful and happy, yet depressing because they are so fine.

Nov. 21st, 1904. 13 p.p. Papa was very poorly, and when that is so, I do not seem to have much time for writing letters. Dr. Gill says he is picking up splendidly, and thinks he very likely overdid himself in Scotland. Now he is in a depressed condition, and the weather is cold and cheerless. I expect we shall remain here all the week. The Hunts have gone.

In the Spring of 1905 my Father was desperately ill again, no specific disease but a general disfunctioning of everything owing to the heart not functioning properly. He would not allow anyone but my Mother to attend to him at first, but as in 1903, he was again persuaded to let our old “Nursie”—Nurse Witherow—come and help her. Nursie was not merely a paid nurse, she was received into our household as an old and valued friend, and she waited on him with love in her heart as well as medicine in her hands, so that he found her attentions soothing—an important factor in such an illness.

Everyone loved him, the servants vied with each other in wishing to help, and great was the pride of Kemp and his son—coachman and gardener—when they were called in to carry “the master” from one bedroom to another for a change of scene when he was recovering. He was sitting in a carrying chair, looking bright, and gave them a cheerful greeting; they lifted him, expecting some weight, and he went sky-high like a feather and nearly overturned. Fortunately he was in no way upset either physically or mentally and rather enjoyed the “little joke,” and the two men carried him very carefully thereafter, but I think the little incident made us realise by what a small margin he had escaped death.

March, 1905.

Dear Mrs. Orchardson,

I have for some time past refrained from troubling you, but perhaps you will tell me how my very dear friend and master is. I have been hearing very disquieting rumours of his strength, and pray assure him of my affectionate good wishes.

I am, Yours sincerely,

T. Graham, R.A.

Photo Henry Dixon & Son
By kind permission of James Ogston, Esq.

April, 1905.

Dear Mrs. Orchardson,

We miss him very much—but the portrait[4] is superb, it is of course on main wall great room and will carry him on wings till next time. Charlie’s picture is well hung on low line in room 6 and looks very well indeed. C. Sims much the same. I am as usual. Johnson has one hung—above line. Tom Graham is out. And so with best wishes,


J. MacWhirter.

Mr. Basil Field wrote to him in April:

“Good friends are scarce, good artists rarer still, and the combination of the two almost unique—so, for the sake of your friends, in other words of everyone who knows you—keep up your pecker and pick up condition like a trout after the May Fly rise.”

Telegram to W. Q. Orchardson, April 16th, 1905.

“The opening ceremony[5] and public reception, the Banquet given in the Town Hall by the Lord Provost and magistrates all passed off splendidly. Aberdeen has now turned the corner artistically and I look forward to a great future. For all your past counsel, advice, and sympathy accept the warmest thanks of the City of Bon Accord. Yours, Murray.”

In June my Father was sufficiently recovered to go to Brighton. Hotels being too noisy and the food unsuitable for an invalid, our old friends the Rattrays recommended some rooms on the sea-front.

A funny little incident occurred that I cannot refrain from telling, although it is against myself, as it both rather shocked and amused my parents.

I went down first to see that the rooms were well aired and so on, and to be at the station with a cab so that there should be no waiting about for our invalid. The rooms were good. I went to the station, engaged a cab, and awaited the train. As it came in I examined each out-of-window head very carefully for my Mother, who was to be on the look-out. Not a sign of her. For ten minutes or more I hunted up and down that platform, and was at last standing still and supposing that my people had missed the train, when I heard my Mother’s voice behind me.

“Well, Hilda! don’t you know us to-day?” I swung round—and there they were! It appeared that I had stared at my Mother who had been looking out of the train, entirely without recognition; so now I examined her face and found that she had a new hat and that I could not remember her new style of hairdressing which she had adopted some years before!

My Mother was much amused, but my Father was really rather shocked at me not knowing my own Mother. What it is to have “bold brown eyes” and a dreaming mind behind them!

All the same my Father need not have been so shocked, for he once did much the same thing. One day he and my Mother were to meet at Charing Cross to go down to Hawley. My Mother was a little early and sat down on a bench to wait; by and by my Father came in and looked for his wife. He searched everywhere, all the benches too, including the one where his wife sat. At last he gave it up, and she, deciding she had teased him long enough, got up and went to him.

“Hallo, Nonnie! where have you been hiding?”

“Over there,” she replied, “on that bench that you have been staring at.”

“What! were you amongst those old ladies?”

“Yes,” said my Mother laughing, “and I was one of them. I am no longer the young girl you married and were looking for.”

“Well!” said my Father laughing, “I never realised it before.”

At Brighton my Father spent a good deal of time in a bath chair; at first I think it reminded him rather painfully of the time when he walked by Mr. Joseph’s chair a little before that friend died, but he never brooded over the irreparable and with returning health became quite cheerful again. My Grandmother, who lived at Brighton and with whom I was staying, of course exchanged visits with my parents and the intellectual occupation of “promenading” was the chief occupation of us all.

As soon as he was strong enough to think my Father pined for his studio, and we went back to Hawley and 13 p.p.

Apparently part of a letter, 1905:

“Though I have been working here for the last three or four weeks I am still playing the cheerful rôle of invalid and mooning my week-ends at Rickmansworth, where I spend about an hour and a half or so—all at once at the nearest point or the farthest to which I can drive in time for tea and back for dinner, fishing between “whiles”; the result being a brace at best or a half brace, or even and more often less.

“I have always the disappointment of not meeting you. I go again to-morrow for a whole week for recuperative [purposes] which I need and shall trust for better luck in meeting you.”

[E. O. to her Mother. July 8th, 1905]:

“Quiller gets on very well and is out in the garden a great deal and we have been out for a few drives. We went to Mr. Russell’s one day and he goes shopping with me; he sits in the carriage and reads his paper, so it suits us both and is much more comfortable than Polly [the pony and pony phaeton].”

Mr St. Quintin to my Mother in July 1905: “Although sorry that I shall not have you at Bois Mill this week, I feel that you have decided wisely. I thought that Mr Orchardson looked tired, perhaps oppressed with the heat only, he had been walking about the grounds with me.”

In July Mrs MacWhirter wrote to “save Mr Orchardson the shock of seeing it in the papers,” that she and Mr MacWhirter were thrown out of a cab—the horse fell—and that Mr MacWhirter got his thigh broken and was taken to Charing Cross Hospital.

We had two delightful visits from Sir George and Lady Reid.

The Red Lodge,

Palace Court,


July 23rd, 1905.

Dear Orchardson,

I hope our visit to Hawley on Friday afternoon did not tire you overmuch, and that the headache has long since gone. As we drove to the station along the busy, dusty, traction-engine-haunted road, with the hot air blowing in our faces, I understood why your thoughts turned longingly to the Moor of Rannoch.

I hope you will by and by feel strong enough to travel and see the north and the old familiar places again and hear the cry of the whaup on the brown moorland—nothing could do you more good, if only your strength was equal to the long journey.

How long ago it seems (and yet after all it is only just a little over forty years) since I first knew your work, and was charmed with a hand resting on a table, a brown leather glove beside it—in a portrait of “F. Borders, Esq.”! Do you remember it and him (a wood engraver, if I remember rightly?) It was some years later till we met, you were then living in Fitzroy Square with Pettie and Tom Graham. And what a delight and a pleasure your work has been to me ever since! Do you ever write? or could you persuade Mrs Orchardson to act as amanuensis? It might help to pass the tedium of convalescence if you were to jot down some of the things you have seen and heard in the course of your life. These jottings are always interesting (especially when one does not “blither” about oneself), and yours, I am sure, would be doubly—trebly so. Think of this, it would be an interest and an amusement when unable for other work.

My wife sends her love to you and to all at Hawley, in which I join.

Believe me, Yours ever truly,

Geo. Reid.

In July 1905, Orchardson received the special commemorative Diploma from “The Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, conferred in recognition of your interest and co-operation in the Universal Exhibition of 1904.” In April 1903, W. Q. O. was appointed one of the members of the Royal Commission for the “St. Louis International Exhibition.” He was invited to exhibit at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg, but as my letter to that institute remains unanswered, I am unable to say whether he did or not. An American newspaper cutting, without name or date, in my Mother’s collection, acclaims him the “greatest painter of the age,” not even putting their own Whistler and Sargent equal to still less above him. I often wonder who will last the longer, Orchardson or Sargent.

Hawley House,

nr. Dartford,

August 1905.

To Messrs. Agnew,

Dear Sirs,

Referring to yours of the 13th July, I have no sketches—I never have, “hardly ever”—but there are some canvases in the dining-room at Portland Place, which I am about to dismantle. If you care to look at them and make an offer for, say, the Pettie or any other except “Master Baby,” we can settle up.

The light in my studio at No. 13 has been spoiled by building operations in Duchess Street, so I am going to let the whole place.

Yours very truly,

[Dictated and signed.] W. Q. Orchardson.

[To someone unknown]:

“I have had little sport, you see as an invalid I can only do a short bit of the river, and only approach it by the walnut avenue or drive up to the farm in the afternoon to the middle water, and I do as little harm to the fish in the one case as in the other.

“Did I tell you about Londwater, where we lunched on Sunday and fished afterwards? They sent a man with a chair to place when we spotted a fish. I had it placed at a respectable distance and pitched nearer when necessary. Result, four brace and a half, smallest one pound and a quarter largest over. . . .” [Unfinished.]

[1] Some of these interviews are good, but they nearly all miss the liveliness and verve of my Father’s way of speaking; he spoke much more epigrammatically than either the “interviews” or I can reproduce.

[2] I can’t remember who this was, perhaps fortunately! Mr Croal Thompson (who reminded me of this remark) tells me the man is now famous.

[3] I was lately looking at the illustrations in a Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, woodcuts of about 1860 apparently (they are not dated), and was much surprised to recognize my Father as Christian all through. I pointed out the resemblance to my husband, who immediately agreed and said: “We’ve got a photograph exactly like that.”

[4] Howard Colls, Esq.

[5] Of the Aberdeen Art Gallery.


If my Father’s letters to other people were scanty those to my Mother were not, though they were short. The lovers were rarely apart, but when they were they wrote to each other every day and my Mother kept all her lover’s letters. I have left out those of no particular interest—domestic matters, damp sheets, missing shirts and so on—but the variety of endings is so remarkable that I have compiled them and give a list for the benefit of lovers. “Quiller” comes at the end of each—98 endings to 148 letters:

Yours as you only know.

Meanwhile till then and then and after I am yours.

Yours over much.

Your hurried but affectionate.

With more love than is good for you.

Yours as you know.

Sleep sound and dream of yours.

Good-bye much love and many what ye callums. Yours.

Think of me as yours.

Yours very very much.

Yours emphatically yours.

Yours as ever.

Consider Hilda, my amanuensis and me always more never less yours.

Yours most awfully,

Good night, and God bless you, Yours lovingly.

Your sweetheart.

Good-bye. Yours as much.

Yours very much.


With very very much love.

Yours yours yours.

Your Quiller.

Your anxious.

Yours with a long kiss and a longing sigh.

Is there a photo up here? I want to kiss it—with great love.

And moreover I am yours.

Your loving.

Yours with much love.

Your patient.

I am yours impatiently.

Rather hard that about the price! Never mind! I am for all that still Your Sweetheart.

Till to-morrow, with a kiss on account, Yours very.

Yours as much and more than ever you can think.

Yours with a big one.

Yours in a hurry.

Your lover.

Your affectionate.

Your very loving.

Yours very very.

Yours ever so much.

Yours altogether.

Yours as before.

Good-bye affectionately.

Good-bye, and very sorry to disappoint the dear old thing.

Yours “awefully.”

Yours all round.

And now my Sweetheart, good night and good night.

Yours more than possible.

Many kisses from your old sweetheart.

Now and ever your sweetheart.

With all my heart yours.

With all my love yours altogether.

Till then and after yours with a big one.

Yours in great haste, but none the less yours.

All yours.

Yours really.

Yours kissingly.

Yours with all his heart.

All my love to the dear Old Lady.

Good-bye my dear Old Lady, I kiss you heartily.

I am your devoted other half and waiting.

Here is the post, so good-bye and much love.

Yours more than enough.

Yours lovingly as usual.

With all his love.

Yours in love.

Yours so much.

Good-bye, and much love—always.

With all the love of Quiller.

Yours as always.

Yours in haste with much love.

Yours altogether.

As Sheila used to say, “Yours all round the neck.”

You are all the world to Quiller.

Yours and Yours only.

Yours “so” much.

Give all the rest my love, and however much you give it will take nothing from what there is for you, Believe me.

Yours though at a distance.

Love to them all and a big one for yourself, from—to use Quentin’s style.

Yours awfully tired of it [separation].

With all my love.

Always yours.

Moreover, remember me as yours.

Your affectionate Q. Orchardson, I mean Quiller.

Yours with an embracing love.

Moreover, I am very much yours.

Your affectionate etc.

Yours in everything.

Meantime, yours always.

Yours all love.

Yours with all love.

Yours with a much lighter heart—and no Tic——

With great love.

Your loving.

Think of your loving.

Yours with many kisses.

Still your sweetheart.

Photo Fred Hardie
By Tom Graham.
By kind permission of the Aberdeen Art Gallery.


When my Father died, and I at last took courage to try and write this book, I thought that I would go Home from South Africa, that I would sit at a desk with a note-book, and that my Mother would sit in an easy chair close by, telling me little tales of all sorts, but particularly of the pictures; and that my artist brother, Charlie, would drop in now and then and add to the collection. But alas, my Mother is dead of cancer (1917), my brother gave his life in the Great and Dreadful War (1917).

South Africa’s stranglehold is on me, and there seems no hope of my ever getting Home to consult old friends. Alas, again! Those old friends are growing scarce, so nothing remains but to tell the very little I know myself, or have been able to find out.

According to my Mother’s diary, my Father intended to paint Nelson, Beethoven, Tennyson’s “Enid,” “The Pope and Lady Mary,” “By Order of the Executors,” “Burning the Midnight Oil” and “The Burning of the Sarah Sands”; he began, but did not finish, “The Last Dance”; and began two of widows, who excited his sympathy, one to be called “Solitude”—a woman driving alone in a barouche—and another, “The Widow”—a woman in widow’s weeds sitting alone at a breakfast table.

According to a newspaper article, he made two drawings of Gladstone’s head and one of a “growler.” Almost his last work was a view of Brighton front by moonlight from his room.

When painting an historical subject my Father would go to immense trouble to get the details correct; he and his wife would hunt museums, libraries, curiosity shops, and even friends’ houses till he was satisfied. My Mother read aloud books concerning the period in question as well as the particular incident.

His last historical picture was exhibited in 1903, “Mrs Siddons”; after that he found his physical strength unequal to the task of research.

1874. The portrait of my Grandfather, Charles Moxon, was always considered very fine; my Father both loved and admired his subject, and never had any difficulty with the work.

Curiously enough the pendant to it, my Grandmother, was never a great success though extremely like; my Father was dissatisfied with it and had some trouble with the background. My Uncle (C.F. Moxon) tells me that the chessmen are so placed that the Queen could never have come from her proper square; that is possible, but they must have been so placed or W. Q. O. would not have so painted them—he was a very exact observer, and, I think, did not know chess. The Queen may have been accidentally moved and displaced.

1877. “Jessica” was commonly supposed to be a fancy portrait of my Mother and later of myself, but my Mother never sat for it at all, and I only for half an hour or so for the ear, many years later. It was painted from an Italian model, who must have been strangely like us.

1878. “Conditional neutrality” was a portrait of my brother Charlie at the age of four years; my Mother made the quaint little suit. He was placed on the throne and told to stand still, which he did, so energetically that his wriggles soon brought him to the edge of the throne and he fell off. He was picked up and replaced, only to fall off again in another five minutes, a performance which continued to the end of the daily sitting until the portrait was finished.

1879. I have often wondered what suggested “Hard Hit” to my Father; possibly the entire lack of any gambling instinct in himself—though I have known him to play poker for fun and a few shillings—made gambling in others appear noticeable and striking, and for the incident itself, the dramatic always appealed to him.

The title came about in a curious little way. He painted the figure of the rooked and ruined young man at the door from a model who was actually a gambler; one day W. Q. O. commented on his dejected appearance.

“I was hard hit last night, sir,” the man replied.

“Hard luck!” exclaimed my Father. “ ‘Hard Hit,’ the very thing for the title,” and so it remained.

On my remarking on the quantity of cards, my Father told me that he had at first bought only a dozen packs, but found that number insufficient, and finally he had fifty packs which he threw down at each corner of the table, so that in the picture 200 packs actually appear. It seems that gamblers have a new pack for each game, at any rate they did so at the period and in the society the picture depicts.

1880. My Father admired the Great Napoleon immensely, not, I suppose, for his morals, but for his power. W. Q. O. admired strength in any form, but particularly strength of character; the mention of power reminds me of a little tale he was fond of telling. A model was sitting to him, who had just been posing for Frith. “And I heard the old gentleman repeating earnestly to himself time and again,” said the model, “God give me power, more power.”

Said my Father as he told the tale, “Power. Yes, power is what is needed. . . . But I didn’t know before that Frith knew what he lacked. I respect him much more now.”

To return to “Napoleon on Board the Bellerophon.”

There were many dramatic moments in Napoleon’s life, but surely the most dramatic of them all was in the terrible farewell to France and ambition when he stood a stern figure, alone and sad, with the whispering gossip of faithful friends and followers behind and apart from him. Does not the solitude of the figure tell of the solitude of the mind? A fallen god thinking of the “might have been.”

Having seized his dramatic moment, only the carrying out of the idea remained, and Orchardson obtained a permit (through Mr Weigall) from the Admiral of the Port at Portsmouth, to paint on board the Victory (old Bellerophon being broken up) in Portsmouth Harbour; he received at the same time the offer of much hospitality and a permit to view the dockyard, from Admiral Foley, while he made his sketches.

On returning to London, the painting of the boards seemed likely to be a tedious job, so Mr Pettie suggested that Q. O. should get a perspective man to draw them in. Q. O. protested that it would be very little trouble, but was persuaded. The man came with the implements of his trade, and Q. O. went out and left him at it. At 10 p.m. or so he returned, went to his studio, looked at his picture, sent for the housemaid and demanded a scrubbing-brush and a pail of water, with which he scrubbed out the day’s work of the perspective man, then he drew the boards in himself easily and quickly. He told me the boards appeared to be almost standing on end when drawn according to rule because the eye does not see correctly; and a picture to be correct—right—must represent what the eye can see.

My Mother’s diary records that he engaged a man to paint some of the ropes. “Poor man,” she exclaims, “he has only done an inch in a whole day,” so W. Q. O. dismissed him and did the ropes himself in his usual rapid way. This, I believe, was the first and last time he ever attempted to employ mechanical or other aid.

W. Q. O. had some trouble finding a model for Napoleon, but one night, when he and my Mother were dining at Lady Downshire’s, her daughter was there—Mrs Louis Wingfield, who bore a striking resemblance to Napoleon. During the evening he managed to ask his wife if she thought Mrs Wingfield would be offended at being asked to sit. My Mother thought not, and immediately put the matter to the proof; Mrs Wingfield was delighted and remarked that her resemblance to Napoleon had often been noticed.

So the Great Man was represented by one of the sex he so despised.

All the figures in the picture are portraits, and many were the books my Mother read aloud to the artist in order to find exact descriptions and drawings.

W. Q. O. appreciated French criticism almost more than any other, so here is a little tale (that he never heard, I fancy) from the late Mr McKay, R.S.A., who sent it to me specially for this book:

“I had occasion some long time ago to make notes in writing on some of the pictures by Scottish Artists in the Tate Gallery. I had been thus engaged for some time before the Napoleon, enjoying the quiet which suits such a purpose (for there were few visitors), when I was aware of a lady and gentleman drawing nearer. They were conversing volubly in French in a rather high key, and from my slight knowledge of the language I could gather that sarcasm was the prevailing note in their comments. But when they came to the Napoleon a sudden silence fell on them, and I could hear the gentleman explaining the picture in a low voice; after which they sat down beside me, absorbed in the picture. Then after some five or ten minutes’ silence, the gentleman rose, made two or three steps forward and, facing the canvas, threw out his arms to their fullest extent, with the words: ‘C’est magnifique,’ which could be heard all over the room. The whole thing was so French, so dramatic, that I never see the picture or a reproduction of it without recalling the scene.”

The following note for the proposed personages in this picture is in one of my Father’s note-books:

“General Montholon. About thirty-two. Cavalry.

1 Gourgaud, ditto. Artillery.

9 Savary Duc de Rorigo. Tall, handsome, about forty-six. Minister of Police.

Count Bertrand X.—forty-four, five feet ten, slight make.

Las Cases, Councillor of State, five feet, slight.

Son, a boy of thirteen.

Maignaut, Surgeon.

Barry O’ Mearn.

General Basson, Aide.


On the engraving are written beneath the figures from left to right:

“Col. Planat, Genl. Montholon, Chirgn. Maigaul, Cte. Las Cases, Genl. Savory, Genl. Lallemand, Genl. Bertrand, Las Cases (fils).”

A third spelling, probably the correct one for the doctor’s name, given by his son in a letter to W. Q. O., is Maignault.

“Napoleon on Board the Bellerophon” was always much in demand as an illustration, which was a compliment, but the compliment from America was a funny one.

“I am writing a play . . . and I want your gracious permission to use your picture “Napoleon on Board the Bellerophon.” . . . I will have it copied in the best possible style, frame and all, and use it on the hoardings with your name in full underneath. . . .”

What more could an artist want? Frame and all!


My dear Mr Orchardson,

The portrait has arrived safe and sound. Thank you indeed most heartily for the exquisite picture although I feel it is LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE to thank you sufficiently.

Yours gratefully & truly,

Winchester Clowes.

This portrait of the beautiful Mrs Clowes was a gift, I believe, and was the foundation of a lifelong friendship. Mrs Clowes, whom my Father described as the “loveliest woman in London,” and my Mother exchanged promises of friendship to the children should either die young.


The Pigeons in “The Farmer’s Daughter” are “portraits” of some of our own pigeons at Ivyside. My Father delighted in them and taught them to feed out of our hands, and to perch on his arms and shoulders.

Mlle Lévillé was staying with us about this time, and he instructed her to hold out her arms with some corn in her hands at the morning game of feeding them. She did so, the pigeons circled round and settled on her—I do not know which my Father enjoyed most, the friendliness of his pigeons or the Frenchwoman’s childlike enjoyment. It was a little episode he often mentioned.

The handsome pigeon on the girl’s arm in the picture was the favourite, and I fancy that he and the above incident were the actual cause of the picture.

The barn is—or was—an old one at a farm near Birchington.


In “Voltaire” a dramatic moment is again the cause of the picture; Carlyle’s “Frederick the Great” provided the incident and the British Museum reading-room provided detailed information; my Father and Mother went there together without giving their name so as to avoid interruption.

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of James Ogston, Esq.

“The accomplished Duc de Sulli (year 1725, day not recorded) is giving in his hotel a dinner such as usual, and a bright, witty company is assembled; the brightest young fellow in France sure to be there; and with his electric coruscations illuminating everything and keeping ‘the table in a roar.’ To the delight of most, not to that of a certain splenetic, ill-given Duc de Rohan, grandee of high rank, great haughtiness, and very ill-behaviour in the World, who feels impatient at the notice taken of a mere civic individual Arouet Junior. ‘Quel est donc ce jeune homme qui parle si haut?’ (‘Who is this young man who talks so loud then?’) exclaims the proud, splenetic Duke. ‘Monseigneur,’ flashes the young man back on him in an electric manner, ‘It is one who does not drag a big name about with him; but who secures respect for the name he has!’ Figure that in the penetrating grandly clangorous voice (voix sombre et majestueuse) and the momentary flash of eyes that attended it. . . .

“About a week after M. Arouet Junior was again dining with the Duc de Sulliand a fine company as before. A servant whispers to him that somebody has called and wants him below. ‘Cannot come,’ answers Arouet, ‘how can I, so engaged?’ Servant returns, after a minute or two. ‘Pardon, Monsieur; I am to say that it is to do an act of beneficence that you are wanted below.’

“Arouet lays down his knife and fork; descends instantly to see what it is. A carriage is waiting in the court and hackney coach near it. ‘Would Monsieur have the extreme goodness to come to the door of the carriage in a case of necessity?’ At the door of the carriage hands seize the collar, hold him as in a vice; diabolic visage of Duc de Rohan is visible inside, who utters, looking to the hackney coach, some ‘Voila, now then!’ Whereupon the hackney coach opens, gives out three porters or hired bullies with the due implements; scandalous actuality of horse-whipping descends on the back of poor Arouet, who shrieks and execrates to no purpose nobody being near. ‘That will do,’ says Rohan at last, and the gallant ducal party drive off; young Arouet with torn frill and deranged hair, rushing upstairs again in such a mood as is easy to fancy. Everybody is sorry, inconsolable, everybody shocked; nobody volunteers to help in avenging. ‘Monseigneur de Sulli, is not such an atrocity done to one of your guests an insult to yourself?’ asks Voltaire. ‘Well, yes, perhaps, but——’ Monseigneur de Sulli shrugs his shoulders and proposes nothing.”

My Mother’s head appears partly more than once in this picture.

Sometime later Sir Lauder Brunton (the physician) asked permission to use “Voltaire” as an illustration to one of his books. He also sent a pamphlet, “The Method of Zadig,” in which the following occurs:

“It has always seemed to me that Orchardson’s wonderful picture of Voltaire complaining of the insult that had been offered him would have been rendered still finer by a very minute touch of white upon the eyeball, to indicate the glitter of anger.”

To this W. Q. O. wrote a marginal note. “The point is, is that glitter or simply reflection? Where does that glitter come from? If caused by anger or other passion it would indicate a power in the eye of emitting light; if not, then a difference of tension.”

Sir Lauder then wrote his thanks for the loan of the “Voltaire” photograph, and added, “I see I must apologize for my comments upon Voltaire’s eye because I see on examining the photograph with a magnifying lens that you have put a glitter, the absence of which I was deploring. If you will allow me I will get the engraver to enlarge the eye so as to show this.”


Feb. 28th, 1893.

Many years later my Father, my Mother and I were staying with the Alec Stevensons at Weybridge, and a son of Mr. Birket Foster came to dinner. During the evening a discussion on eyes occurred, and my Father expressed his opinion, as usual, that the “flashing” eyes and “glittering” eyes of novelists was nonsense as eyes can neither flash nor glitter; and that the whole expression in human eyes is due to movements of the eyelids. Mr Willie Birket Foster thereupon produced some drawings he had made. On one piece of paper he had simply drawn the iris and pupil of an eye; on other pieces he had drawn eyelids of different kinds, each with a hole in the paper in the place where the iris should have been. These he superimposed in turn on the one iris-and-pupil drawing, thus producing a laughing eye, an angry eye, and so on, according to the eyelid, the iris of course being the same in each case.

This was considered by the company in general, and my Father in particular, conclusive proof that eyes in themselves express nothing.

I have since noticed that blue eyes in a rage become a brighter blue than normally; and the blue iris certainly appears to emit a sparkle—I have looked most carefully; but was too late with my careful observation to tell him and ask his further opinion.

Mention of Birket Foster reminds me of a curious little fact. In 1867 (Ex. 1868), W. Q. O. painted a portrait of Mrs. Birket Foster; in 1871 or 2 Whistler painted one of his mother. In after years the Orchardson portrait was supposed by some people to have been imitated from the Whistler—presumably it was the other way round.


The “Mariage de Convenance” was begun on November 8th, 1883, according to my Mother’s diary, which records nothing further of the picture until:


March 27th. Quiller’s birthday, we get letters and cards from the children. . . . Mr. Gosse (art critic for the Pall Mall Gazette) called yesterday and considered the picture a great tragedy. Agnew and his son called, he thought it tremendously good and wanted to buy it. Quiller was obliged to tell him he had promised to let someone else see it. After lunch the Middletons came. Mrs. Middleton thinks it is the best Quiller has ever done, so do I in a great many things—the work, for instance; I believe the woman’s head is the finest thing that was ever done.

At five o’clock Deschamps calls with his buyer—Q. goes for a walk. We dine at the Trowers’, meet Sir Frederick and Lady Pollock and have a pleasant evening. Lady Pollock is a quaint old lady but nice, she actually thought Quiller was a young man to be married and was surprised to hear he had been married eleven years.

My Father was fifty-three years of age at this time, so it was rather surprising to hear that he looked too young to be married.

Mrs Middleton was my Mother’s godmother, and was a small spry woman with a wig of which the colour varied year by year; she was a great walker, and the last time I saw her, when she was nearing eighty years, she had just walked several miles across London from her house to my Grandmother’s; she was sitting bolt upright on a high-back chair; and on her head (she had taken off her bonnet) was a gorgeous red short wig—almost scarlet—with a straight fringe all round, bound with a black velvet “snood.” This quaint old lady was possessed of some pictures, one of which she left to my Mother—a Roberts.

The “Mariage de Covenance—After” was originally called “Ichabod,” but as it was not hung anywhere near the place where the picture to which it was a sequel had been hung my Father thought the connection not sufficiently apparent and changed the title. It was, by the way, very badly hung, and my Mother hints that jealousy was the cause.

Mr. Swabe, who bought “Voltaire,” wrote in 1885 that Mr. Marcus Huish of the Art Journal wanted to reproduce “Voltaire”: “The copyright as regards paintings is in such an unsatisfactory state that I always give the artist the benefit of it as long as the work does not leave my house, and I leave you therefore to make your own bargain with Mr Huish, but I should advise you not to move in the matter until approached by Mr Huish.”


Tate bought “Her first Dance,” and on the loan of it being asked for the Berlin Exhibition he wrote to my Father that he was quite willing on condition that if the picture should be lost or destroyed W. Q. O. should agree to make good the loss either by giving another picture of the same value or paying Fifteen hundred pounds in money.

My Father always said that Tate could not have chosen so many good pictures without “old Humphrey Roberts’ ” help, and that when he grew “cock-sure” and went without that help he chose badly.


W. Q. O. “very seldom, hardly ever, practically never,” as he himself once said of something else, accepted a commission for a picture except, of course, portraits. “The Salon of Madame Récamier,” however, was an exception, and my Mother’s diary records the occasion:


May 11th. We lunch at the Airds, having walked across the park [Hyde Park]. The Airds are nice homely people; he very much wants a picture of Quiller’s and has a beautiful place for one. We walk nearly all the way home. . . .

May 12th. Tea in the studio, and I read Mlle Lebrun aloud while Quiller thinks of his picture for Mr Aird; “Mme Necker” again presents itself.

May 16th. We go down to Watford to the McGregors, who have people to meet us at dinner.

May 17th. We stroll about and drive into Watford.

May 18th. A beautiful day; we stroll about the grounds, Quiller and I playing at lovers though we are such old married people.

May 19th. Back from Watford, having spent a very pleasant time.

May 20th. Down to Westgate, found the children all splendidly well and looking so nice. We stay with Papa and Mama.

May 21st and 22nd. Beautiful weather, enjoyed ourselves, then back to London.

May 23rd. Q. went to the Crystal Palace for the day—he is on the International Jury for pictures, he gets home at 7.45 and we spend the evening quietly. We finish Mme Lebrun and also read a short account of Mme Récamier, she is not a woman to be so much admired as I thought.

May 27th. Quiller works a little and I read J. Ampèré’s life to him, which contains a good deal about Mme Récamier. After lunch Q. goes to see Charlie Saunders (Tennis marker at Prince’s) play against the wonderful American [probably Pettit]. Saunders loses all the sets. Q. then plays tennis with Mr Trower.

May 28th. Quiller reads and thinks and wonders whether he is to do Mme Récamier or Mme Necker. I am obliged to go out in the morning, but after lunch we read and talk again; we go out about 4 o’clock to-day and try and get Mme Lenonnant’s Life of Mme Récamier but can’t manage it. We have tea out.

In the picture Fouché is talking to Mme Récamier herself, near them are Delille, Cuvier and Metternich. At the other side are Mme de Staël, Talleyrand, Lucien Bonaparte, Brillat Savarin, Talma, Bernadotte.

All the figures in the picture are portraits, I believe, these are, I know, Talleyrand being painted from a miniature by Isabey, lent by one of his descendants. The “model” for Mme de Staël, by the way, was our old friend Miss Henriette Cockran, a painter, and afterwards author of Celebrities and I and other books.

From a French paper: Duc de Montmorenci is given an arm-chair, ainsi nous voyons à ce trait que l’artist connaît à merveille cette époque, “in Society” les aristos taking precedence of the parvenus.

I met Mr (afterwards Sir John) Aird once or twice and I always rather wondered why he wanted a picture particularly—he was a contractor for the Assouan dam and other such works. The two following letters explain the matter, I think:

Llantysilion Hall, Llangollen,

Aug. 14th, 1884.

Dear Orchardson,

So sorry and dismayed that you have lost your old neighbours and my true and good friend and by the paper also [? ].

I see a resident with you is now the Duke of Wellington. So life journeys on with its sad side as with its happy pleasurable surroundings.

Here and to-day it is so, for I write this note in the garden and feel happy and contented and full of enjoyment. Yesterday on Tuesday we were on the moors and this morning have been visiting and spending money in the little village, and to-morrow if all is well we go to Bala.

The games here are many, we indulge in tennis, bowls, and when we are very wild do Aunt Sally.

I sent by parcels post a brace of grouse and do hope it will get so far as Westgate safe and sound and bring the good wishes to Mr and Mrs Orchardson which we send.

Now, my good friend, I am quite delighted to find you are working away to give me so much pleasure and to make me feel so proud.

What a room it will be and how glad I shall be to see my friends there and you, my good friend, when you wish me to hop down to Westgate do not hesitate to let me know; for I come.

This, however, only when you wish it (that pray remember). I shall try to read up French history for the time you name, to grasp, as I should earnestly try to do, the great power of your work. I must say in concluding this erratic and hurriedly written but sincere note how grateful I shall always feel to you for meeting my wish as you have done.

Always faithfully and truly,

John Aird.

W. Q. Orchardson, Esq., R.A.

14 Hyde Park Terrace.

Dear Mr Orchardson,

To-day in the midst of business I came to see you, and now here resting quietly at home I think not of the business cares but with true pleasure think and revel over the possession of your truly great work; one that will give enjoyment to all who see it as certainly as it will give enjoyment to the happy owner.

I wish I could have said to you to-day more what I feel, but I am keeping a store that many opportunities I trust will offer for me to fill the vacant [illegible] I left in my sincere expressions of gratitude to-day.

Believe me, I shall always entertain these feelings, for creating a work of which any man would be proud, and if possible still more valued because you have done this work with so much kind readiness and “feel” of friendship; for myself. I little thought a year ago I should ever feel interested in Madame Récamier, and now with me, as with so many in the past, she is indeed part of my life, and my respects will be paid as regularly and the pleasure of her company and society sought as much by me as by her most devoted admirers.

For all this you, my dear friend, are responsible, and you will indeed have to adjust any feeling that may arise with Mrs Aird.

We come on Tuesday at 12.30, and believe in my sincere thanks, for I shall always feel you have done me a great honour.

Most truly and faithfully,

John Aird.

In answer to my inquiries Sir Arthur Cope writes:

“I remember once going to Sir William’s studio when he was painting Mme Récamier, and it was a marvel to see him unerringly finish a head or two at different ends of the canvas, knowing exactly how he was going to bring them together. I said something to the effect that one saw dozens of competent pictures at the R.A. but few that one would like to possess, and he said, ‘Ah! my dear fellow, the value of a picture depends entirely upon how much art there is in it.’ ”


“Master Baby” is a portrait group of my Mother and my youngest brother, Gordon. My Mother was actually amusing the baby with a fan when W. Q. O. was struck by the grace of the woman’s figure and by the delightful liveliness of the baby’s. He sketched the figures in at once and finished the whole picture in a fortnight, so he told me, I believe, but surely he must have said six weeks.

My Father said he painted the baby because it had such a strikingly big mouth, but I expect he only found that out after he had begun the work. The baby would only play with the fan for five or ten minutes at a time, and then howled, so a Japanese doll was used as a lay figure, not a very good one, for it was the floppiest thing imaginable.

The general public liked the lively baby best, but painters said the painting and drawing of the black figure was the real marvel. A student once asked my Father what colour to use when painting black. To which he replied, “Oh! any colours you like except black.”

“Master Baby” was sent to the Grosvenor Gallery, where it was sold; but my Mother wept so bitterly that the dear Quiller got it back again, and it remained in his possession till he was very ill and unable to work much, when he sold it to Mr McCulloch.

After that the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh gave 4000 guineas for it.

Photo T. & R. Annan
By kind permission of the Edinburgh National Gallery.


“The First Cloud” is the last of the three modern tragedies painted by W. Q. O. at this time. It has often been asked if his own life was so unhappy that it suggested them. But I think, on the contrary, it was the extreme happiness of his married life that made him see the tragedy of unsuitable mating—the rich old man, finished, a horrid wreck, and the handsome sensuous young wife seeking that which an old rake cannot give her; then the husband’s despair when he finds his wife gone; “ichabod!” the glory has departed, for he knows he cannot recall her be he never so forgiving, and surely he must see, if only dimly, that he, too, has need of forgiveness; and lastly, the small cloud that precedes a big one and a great storm.

The figures in the “First Cloud” were represented by friends—a Mrs Hope, one of a family of extraordinarily handsome sisters, and Tom Graham—they did not know each other either then or afterwards. The likeness of Mr Graham was exact, apart from the surliness.

  ’Tis the little rift within the lute

That by and by doth make the music mute.

W. Q. O. disclaimed all intention of teaching, indeed, he did not approve of didactic art, but it seems to me that these pictures are sermons.


“Her Mother’s Voice” is sad, but it is not a tragedy for it suggests remembered happiness.

Did W. Q. O. sometimes fear to lose his wife?

Upon his widowed heart it falls,

Echoing a hallowed voice.

Mr Arthur Gilbey “sat” for the young man, a failed painter for the old one, and a musical friend for the girl, who played the whole time that she was sitting.


“The Young Duke” had a great success; of course, it was criticized; it is the critic’s job to pick holes, but that painters admired it is shown by the fact that the R.A. hanging committee displaced Leighton from his customary position in the “big room” (Gallery III) and put “Orchardson” there. Someone said, “It is the finest picture of the year,” to which an authority on art answered, “No, it is rather the finest picture of the age.”

[E. O. to C. Moxon]:

13 Portland Place,

April 26th, 1889.

My dear Papa,

We are both so happy, Quiller is pleased, too, and thinks the picture [“Young Duke”] doesn’t look very bad, and everybody else thinks it is wonderful, he says he has never had so much praise before. Leighton was awfully amiable to him, Quiller says, rather too much so; they all seem pleased Leighton has been moved. Quiller said to Fildes and Marcus Stone, “Don’t you think you have been very rash to put Leighton out?” but they said what else could they do, he (Quiller) ought not to have painted such a fine picture then—isn’t it nice? I know how pleased you will all be. Mr Pettie went and told Mr Seton about it and that one of his pictures was on the line and another one rather up, so on the strength of it all he must ask us all to dine with him and some of his belongings at the Lyric Club, we enjoyed it very much.

Poor Mr Pettie is very angry as his principal portrait of a lady is hung up quite high in some out-of-the-way room; one of his is in the large room next to Leighton’s, his, you know, is opposite Quiller’s, and on each side of Quiller’s are landscapes, Millais, which Quiller says is very fine, and on the other side a very good one of Hook’s. Fildes apologized for not being able to put something to go better with Quiller’s but they say it is so difficult to fit everything.

I will send you a plan marked as soon as I can. Quiller is very disappointed with Herkomer’s, of course Dicksee’s he did not expect to be much, but Sargent’s he is awfully disappointed with, as he always thought he would do well, but he says the more he finishes the worse it is, isn’t it a pity? . . .

Your affectionate little daughter,


[C. Moxon to e.o.]:

Beach Cliff,


Hurrah three times for the “Young Duke”!

My dear Nonnie,

Thank you for the nicest letter that could possibly be. Leighton had been there so long that we never thought of his being ousted, but it is quite right, and may be the forerunner of future arrangements. Quiller must now get five thousand, as the position has made the market value, at least a difference. I hope the picture will remain in England. Of course, Quiller has never before received what I considered his due, on this occasion it is full and complete. I dare say it will create a sensation, taking the place of honour from the President. It was wise of Leighton taking it as he did. I hope he did not much overdo it. I think the light equal but not better than the opposite wall, but the honour will be considered the greater, and having a Millais on one side and a Hook on the other seems to complete the whole thing, and I don’t think they can hurt the “Young Duke”; I don’t think any kind of picture could injure Quiller’s, but I should think he is pleased to have such good landscapes near him. As I cannot paint the pictures, I am glad to be the Father-in-law of the lad who can.

You like something useful for your birthday, so I send a purse, most likely the one you gave me, but between Father and daughter that is not of any consequence, as the love and kind remembrance is the same, and I never use purses now. I am sorry I cannot be with you to-day to enjoy Quiller’s success, but my heart is with you.

Love from all,

Your affectionate,


From a letter:

“Mr Orchardson, in common with many of his brethren, selects strangely purposeless subjects. This particular picture [“The Young Duke”] seems to have been inspired by no wish higher than that of giving full scope to elaborate painting of still life. Such are the impressions created by former works from his hand, that I would be surprised to learn that he had in this instance associated his subject with any human interest or fate.”

I once asked my Father if Art should be didactic, and if subject were important, and he told me—I do not remember his exact words but only the sense—“that fine art must be fine in subject as well as in manner, that a purposeless picture could not be fine in the full sense of the word; and that what most appealed to him personally was the dramatic moment.” Witness Napoleon, the fallen hero at the moment of his last farewell to France, the scene of his glory; the two “Mariage de Convenance,” “The First Cloud,” “The Social Eddy,” “The Challenge,” “The Queen of the Swords,” “The Enigma,” “Voltaire”—indeed, I cannot find one without human interest, often intense.

Truly the still life is beautiful—the roses are even sweet-scented, one would think, they are so real—but is not this beauty a comment on the lack of spiritual beauty in the human figures—the vapid duke, the wine-flushed friends and toadies celebrating his twenty-first birthday?

Another criticism was that the faces were well alike; I remarked on this to my Father, who said:

“They appear alike because of the wigs; look closely and you will see that they are all different.”

I looked and no two were alike.

My Mother’s notes:

“ ‘The Young Duke,’ Louis XIV period; background our own studio. All glass, plates, flower-bowl, etc., our own. Silver nef painted from smaller one lent by Henry Gilbey. Nefs were used for collecting alms for the church, this sanctified the feast. Arthur Gilbey sat for the Duke; Tuke and several other models for the rest. Table in centre from which the meal was served.”

Tuke had considerable histrionic gifts, and so was a favourite model, he could take any pose required—like Mrs Keene, another favourite. He had a very good opinion of himself, he had been half over the world as a sailor, could tell a good story and think a little. One day he remarked:

“It is wonderful how you bring out beauty in a commonplace cup and saucer,” indicating the one W. Q. O. was painting, and another time: “Mr Orchardson, I could make an honest living coming behind you and picking up the things you lose.”

“Honest!” laughed my Father.

French papers say “The Young Duke” is an English scene. The cloth for wine is correct for those days, the tables being only rough boards. Ruffled wigs were said to be insufficiently aristocratic—but it was the end of a banquet in wine-drinking days.


“On the North Foreland” is not exactly dramatic, but it has human interest; a young girl (myself) in the act of enjoying the world, “so new and all,” the sunny clouds, the sparkling sea, the gay little wind blowing her hat and her skirts in such a lively manner.

The scene is on the cliffs between Westgate and Epple Bay, where my Father often walked with us, and where I was often rendered serious and silent by the intensity of my enjoyment—which, I suppose, suggested the picture.

One day my Mother called to me to put on my “lilac dress” and go to “Titumy” (as she and I always called him), as he wanted to paint me. I hurried and was soon in the studio, full of excitement.

“What is it to be, and why do you want me?”

My Father told me “you will see,” and showed me where to stand and how, but I was shy and gawky, and consequently a very bad model. However, the head was soon finished. I remember my Father pulling my hair in a wind-blown fashion and complaining that it was too lank, and I complained of the awkward position I had to stand in.

“You are supposed to be leaning against the wind, you know,” he said, to which I replied, “That’s all very well, but there isn’t any wind in here and I shall fall over backwards.”

However, he only kept me leaning back for a few minutes at a time—it was marvellous how quickly he saw what he wanted and then said, “All right,” and I stood at ease while he worked. After a little he would say “Now try again,” and I would resume my difficult posture.

In a few days he got his sketching materials, and we went to the cliffs for the background and there I actually stood exactly as in the picture, with the wind almost blowing me over the cliff—just as Punch’s caricature suggests.

We had a little argument about the title; my Father said, “On the South Foreland,” and I at once said, “Oh! no, let it be North Foreland.” He said, “But you are dark, so South is more appropriate.”

“No! No!” I cried, “I am of the North, and I hate the South—hate it; the North is so much nicer and lovelier and better every way, I couldn’t bear to be associated with the South.”

My Father gave way, remarking sympathetically: “Well, if you feel like that! And the North is kindlier than the South.”

About this time, a little earlier I think, my Father started a picture of myself with two younger brothers rigging up a toy boat on the sea-shore, an absolutely charming thing; but unfortunately he went up to London for some other work and when he came down to Westgate again we had all “grown out of the picture” he said, so it was never more than half begun, just the three heads.

Orchardson on his election as R.A. had sent a temporary diploma picture, “Reveller”; it was not considered sufficiently representative of his work. After many reminders, the President and Council at last sent, in January 1888, a really cross letter, to which he replied as follows:

My dear Eaton,

I am in receipt of your note, in which you express with not undeserved severity the views taken by the President and Council of my continued failure to replace the picture they accepted only as a deposit by one more likely to be acceptable as a diploma work. While expressing my sincere apologies and regrets for this further delay, I would mention that I am engaged on a canvas which I hope to finish soon, and which I trust the President and Council may consider more satisfactory.

I am,

Yours very truly,

W. Q. Orchardson.

This picture was “On the North Foreland,” and was accepted as suitable, and is now hanging in the Diploma Gallery, where it shines like a gem.


The Uffizi Gallery invited Orchardson to paint his portrait. He did so, and it was marvellously good, but he made one mistake—he used only one mirror instead of two, so of course saw himself the wrong way round. I asked him why, and he said he supposed he had been lazy, and had not thought the matter important.


Of the “Sir Walter Gilbey,” I know nothing unfortunately, except that it was always in demand for exhibitions. Lady Gilbey was worried about her hair in her portrait, and asked her husband’s advice, which he gave very cheerfully:

“Buy anything you like, my dear, buy anything you like,” much to my parents’ amusement.


When a certain sitter came for his first sitting he was rather a fine-looking man with grey hair; when he returned his hair was black; he had, in the interval, married a young wife; it was somewhat disconcerting to the painter, who had to rearrange his ideas.


One day I went into the studio on my return from school, to greet my Father; he was just putting the finishing touches to a picture of a young man and a young woman sitting on a sofa together.

After examining it for some time I asked, “But whatever is it? Are they quarrelling? Or has he proposed or been refused? Or does he want to propose but feels afraid?”

“I don’t know,” answered my Father, “it might be any of these things, it is an enigma.”

“And the title?”

“Well—I suppose—yes—it had better be called ‘An Enigma.’ ”


Orchardson was again attracted by Napoleon, this time the fallen hero living his greatness over again, in the sadness of St. Helena.

In a reply to a remark about the cruelty of that imprisonment, my Father said, “Yes, it was cruelly carried out, but, after all, the exile to so distant an island was a very great compliment; moreover, it was the only thing to do, anywhere closer risked a second Elba. But a great man should have been treated greatly.”

The maps in the picture are the genuine ones; W. Q. O. hunted the British Museum, the South Kensington, and many shops, and was finally advised to try Stanford’s. Which he did, and Mr Stanford himself took him to a store-cellar and, climbing a ladder, produced a dusty bundle, which proved to be the very thing—Napoleon’s maps of his campaigns.

A friend of Mr Pettie’s sat for the figure of Napoleon, a Mr Gregory Jones from Iquiqui, who, my Father said, was so like Napoleon that it was almost difficult not to paint a portrait of the model.


In June 1893 my Father gave a ball in the studio for my “coming-out” party, some 350 people. Of course, I had a new frock for the occasion, and my Mother chose a white “grenadine,” or some such thing. I like neither white nor flummeries on myself, so what was my surprise some days later at being told by my Mother to put on my ball dress and go to the studio to be painted. Another surprise awaited me in the studio: my Father told me to stand up against a white screen he had put up.

“A white dress, a white background, and my dark head! How on earth are you going to do it?” I exclaimed.

“That’s exactly the problem,” answered my Father as he started work. “Turn your nut a bit more. Your head is just like a nut—I never knew before how like. One has to draw a thing to know what it is like. And do you know you are very like me in the drawing of your head? That’s a thing I never knew before. People who don’t draw, don’t see—at least, not properly.”

“How can you talk and work at the same time?” said I.

“Oh! it’s quite easy when you know how, and I wanted to make you look rather less solemn and severe. But we had better get the Old Lady to read to us.”

So my Mother read aloud without, however, altering the severity of my face apparently, for Punch put a dagger in my hand instead of a fan, and the caption underneath read, if I remember rightly, “Who is she going to kill next?”

After a few sittings we went to Scotland for the summer holidays, and when we came back my Father complained of my sunburn, and had to wait some months till I attained what he called a “London complexion.”


Sir James Dewar, the inventor or discoverer of cordite, liquid air, solid hydrogen, and other puzzles to the unscientific mind, sat next, a restless but charming personality who became a lifelong friend. He carried bits of cordite in his pocket, and brought jars of liquid air, and showed off all the wonders with the delight of a schoolboy. He invited W. Q. O. to his “workshop” in Albemarle Street, which interested him immensely; as did the evening séances to which he and my Mother were often invited.

Prof. Dewar wrote to ask for “P. V.” tickets for the Master of Peterhouse and Mrs Porter, his wife; he adds, “Have been hard at work and have found out a new fact about bodies cooled to the temperature of liquid air [?] they nearly all become luminous in the dark after the action of light, in other words, Phosphorescent.”


29 Hyde Park Gardens,

April 26th, 1887.

My dear Mr Orchardson,

In enclosing herewith cheque for my wife’s portrait, I must acknowledge myself still your debtor for the privilege of possessing so splendid an example of your handiwork. May I also add the expression of the hope that the friendship inaugurated by the painting of the picture may endure as long as the pleasure which its possession will afford me. I say so long, for I know that will be to the end of my days. My wife joins me in kindest regards to you and Mrs Orchardson and hoping soon to see you. Believe me.

Yours very truly,

Samuel Joseph.

[Dictated when blind.]

Dear Orchardson,

I hope that as soon as you get time, when the failing light of the afternoon drives you out for a walk, the kind thought that has so often directed your steps to Hyde Park Gardens will again give me the opportunity for one of those pleasant chats that I prize so much.

Yours ever,

Sam Joseph.

[Dictated when blind.]

Dear Orchardson,

Here have I been all the week looking forward to the pleasure of your visit and now I am deprived of it by that beastly influenza, and so, in effect, I have to pity you more even than myself.

I sincerely hope that you will very soon be all right again, and that you will let me know as soon as you feel able to come to us. Your news about the picture is very pleasant reading, and as roses grow on your canvas just as well in winter as in summer, I shall be no sufferer from the time you have fixed for their blooming.

Yours ever sincerely,

Sam Joseph.

Mr Joseph had a little gallery, and while he was ill one of his great pleasures was to sit there with his wife and discuss the pictures. After he became blind he continued this habit, and one day he said to Orchardson that the gallery was not complete without a work from his brush—the portraits of Mrs Joseph and “The Joseph Family” were hung in the drawing-room—and he wanted something with flowers in it.

My Father was deeply touched by this trust in his skill, this proof of friendship, and painted “In the conservatory.” When I saw it in the studio I remarked on the sadness of painting for a blind man, and then added some shy word in praise of the exquisite beauty of the little picture, and my Father answered:

“Yes, most sad, and, of course, one painted one’s best just because he would never see it. I painted that with my heart’s blood. But I think that as he knows my work well, perhaps he will see it quite clearly in his mind’s eye, with his wife’s detailed description, and her hand guiding his over the picture as she always does.”

Photo Henry Dixon & Son
By kind permission of the Royal Society.


Monsieur Léon Gauchez was a Belgian, six feet two inches and gaunt, who became a Parisian and editor of L’Art, his pseudonym being Paul Leroi; he was an enthusiastic admirer of Orchardson from early days, and became a devoted friend, often visiting London for the express purpose of seeing him. When Monsieur Gauchez was talking he pursed his lips and folded his arms across his chest energetically, exactly as in the portrait, which was so like as to seem almost living. His conversation was as interesting, as vivid, almost violent, as his letters, which I intended to publish, but unfortunately I cannot find the owners of the copyrights, so must paraphrase—a poor substitute.

Orchardson’s foreign reputation seems to have been made in Lille, in 1881, with “Hard Hit” and “Mrs Winchester Clowes,” and no doubt Monsieur Gauchez quickened the interest in the still rising painter by an article on him in L’Art.

About 1881, Monsieur Gauchez told my Father of an interesting criticism or appreciation spoken to him by an art friend. “Historical subjects,” he said, “should have in France not half the success of subjects taken from human passion as is ‘Hard Hit.’ I have no words to tell you exactly how great is your success in Lille. A friend of mine did judge admirably ‘Hard Hit’ in my presence when he said: ‘Cela n’est pas un tableau de genre. Le genre n’a jamais que des succès plus ou moins passagers. Ceci c’est de la Comédie Humaine, du drame humain prit sur le vif par un penseur profond qui est un merveilleux observateur qui scrute admirablement le cœur humain dans ses moindres replis et qui est en outre un vrai maître peintre.’ ”

Monsieur Gauchez wrote rather often, sometimes asking for a picture for the Salon or for permission to reproduce one, and my Father’s answers being difficult to get he frequently addressed himself to my Mother.

Monsieur Gauchez was expected in London in the summer of 1890, but his brother died, leaving him an unhappy man, the last of his “modest” name, as he himself called it. From a letter written at this time, it would appear that my Father had long promised to paint his portrait, but had forgotten about it or perhaps merely delayed. Monsieur Gauchez intended to pay for it, but my Father made it a gift, and when at last it was painted and given, the recipient’s delight and gratitude at the honour paid him by the man whom he considered the greatest artist of the day, were both touching and charming.

Monsieur Gauchez was evidently a man of very deep affections, for the following year he wrote most heartbrokenly of the death of his old friend the great artist Delauney; which would not concern W. Q. O. except sympathetically, but that Delauney’s last happiness was listening to Monsieur Gauchez translating a letter from him praising Delauney’s work. Delauney sent a message of thanks and pride.

In March 1892, Monsieur Gauchez wrote a very short note saying he was very sorry to be without an answer to his letter, as everything was prepared for W. Q. O.’s knighthood.

Apparently the unanswered letter was completely lost—we were moving from Westgate about this time—for the Legion of Honour was not conferred till 1895. Evidently, however, the explanation was satisfactory, for in June 1892 Monsieur Gauchez sent a present of Bourboule Water in order to have the pleasure of helping to cure his friend.

My Father was suffering from indigestion at this time and Monsieur Gauchez was very concerned. He dined with us several times on this visit to London and was as always very interesting, though his fluent English was difficult to understand—he did not learn English till he was sixty.


[Draft letter]:

My dear Gau[chez],

I am very much ashamed of my delay in replying to your kind letter and I do not know how adequately to apologize; but “Cherchez la femme,” here my wife, such a good private secretary she has utterly destroyed my letter-writing habits. I have, however, written you many in my mind, and these unencumbered by language are better than the pen and ink variety. Your letter received by my wife this morning gave us very great pleasure, in that it speaks of your convalescence, and we at once decided to be in Paris this season (Salon or no Salon), provided that you will consent not to be too like yourself, that is to say not too kind.

[Apparently to Monsieur Gauchez. Draft letter]:

I am grateful that I did not know of your serious illness till now, I hear of your happy recovery which I hope continues. Certainly I shall come over to P[aris] myself and have promised my wife that she shall share the pleasure I promise myself in seeing you again. We often speak of you and had intended to visit you last spring, but fate complicated matters just about that time so it will have to be next spring instead.

With my most affectionate regard,

I am yours very much,

In 1896 “Madame Récamier” was sent to the Paris Salon and Monsieur Gauchez offered his portrait to be admired, though he preferred obscurity for himself. The picture was a marvel he said, but the model not at all; wherein he did himself an injustice.

Mme Récamier was paid the compliment of being allowed to come late into the Salon, where it had an enormous success.

On my remarking to my Father that France as well as England noticed the yellow tinge in his pictures, he told me that “it was the effect of sunlight or even light.” He looked very thoughtful and people who know his work will remember that there is no yellow tinge in his later work.


On going to the studio to look at “Trouble,” I asked if it were disgrace or misfortune—the wife shows compassion.

My Father replied, “I think it is money trouble.”

“Has he been cheating?”

“No, just loss I should say.”

“But how can money, mere money, cause such trouble?”

“Well, he can’t give to his wife as usual—that would cause him distress.”

My Mother notes of this picture: “A scene, even two—in ‘Mammon & Co.,’ by Benson, illustrates this picture wonderfully.” The picture did not illustrate the book which (I think) was written afterwards.


The “Lord Peel” and the “Mrs Pattison” were hung pendant in the fourth room at the R.A.—I forget what was between them. Everyone was praising and admiring “Lord Peel,” the Speaker, the great man. But Agnew came up to W. Q. O. and, taking him by the arm, took him in front of the two pictures and said: “ ‘The Lord Peel’ is fine, certainly—magnificent, but that one,” pointing to “Mrs Pattison,” “that one is an Old Master.”

My modest Father blushed deeply as he told us this; he never repeated to us (except, of course, to his wife) any of the compliments he received, but his pleasure in this greatest of all compliment—“Old Master” and from a man who knew—overcame for once his shy reserve. And the pleasure was the greater in that Agnew confirmed his own opinion that the quiet old lady was a far finer work than the important Speaker.

An old M.P., looking at Lord Peel’s portrait at one of Mr Gully’s parties, said in an unconsciously awed whisper: “That’s exactly how the Speaker looked when he admonished the Cambrian Railway Directors.”


Old Sir Peter Russell lay dying and his still-young wife came with an introduction from Lady Moore, our neighbour and great friend, to beg the “kindest-hearted artist there is” to do a little drawing of her husband in bed, and thereafter paint a portrait “for her to love” when she was a widow. W. Q. O. demurred, he did not paint portraits from memory, but in the end gave way to a pretty woman’s tears.

So he went to the dying man’s bedside and made a sketch of the fine old head with the tousled picturesque grey hair. Two or three weeks later a note arrived to say that Sir Peter had completely recovered, but would like to go on with the in-memoriam portrait. So he came to sit, brushed and curled, and all the picturesqueness trimmed out of him.

However, the portrait was a success, at any rate, Lady Russell wrote some years later, when she was really a widow: “I am more than ever charmed and in love with your beautiful portrait of my husband—he sits there as in life, with that lovely gold frame around him. I always feel so very good after looking at it.”

Lady Russell was a dear, and beautifully dressed; she took me to Ranelagh and elsewhere.

Some years later a portrait was wanted of a certain Lord-Lieutenant, who, however, died before it could be executed; could the artist see his way to paint it from a photograph? W. Q. O. could not and told the following tale:

“I knew a man in Edinburgh who received a call from a fellow who wanted a portrait of his dead father.

“ ‘Have you a photograph or a drawing?’ asked the artist.

“ ‘No,’ said the visitor sadly, ‘that is just the trouble, we have nothing whatsoever and we want something.’

“ ‘But,’ said the artist, ‘how can I possibly paint a man I have never seen, without even knowing what he was like?’

“ ‘I can easily tell you that—he had fair hair, blue eyes and was a fine looking man.’

“The artist being hard up finally agreed, and when the portrait was finished sent for the owner to come and see it.

“The son’s face lighted up with pleasure as he looked at it for some time quite silently. Then he sighed and shook his head sadly, saying: ‘How like! How very like—but—how changed!’ ”

My Father got a little shock when his family asked if the change was for the better or the worse, then answered: “The story sayeth not.”


My Mother has the following note in “Do you remember?”

“Lord Kelvin, plain portrait with one of his own note-books of which he had hundreds. I called your fishing tackle play-things and Lady Kelvin called the balls he did his problems with his playthings; they were kept in little bags. You hesitated whether to use those or the note-book and decided on the note-book as the balls would not have been understood.”

I have already told of the wonderful eyes.


The “Lord Crawford” was not quite finished when it was wanted for presentation, but W. Q. O. let it go—the centenary would never occur again and he liked Lord Crawford.

Sept. 22nd, 1898. Balcarres, Fife.

Dear Mr Orchardson,

The portrait was presented yesterday amidst much rejoicing and we are all pleased with the picture. We hope that your final sittings may be arranged so that the picture shall be finished for the exhibition you select for it; meanwhile may I say quite frankly what we would like you to look at when Father is again with you. The right hand—is it not too small? The left is so well seen that you will readily set the other right if your eye permits of change. Then give him a watch-chain will you? curved so as to show that he is humble in stomach: he really is a very thin man.

The upper part of the head, every hair, forehead, nose, all remarkably true and strong; but we think the lower lip a trifle projecting: perhaps lowering the moustache (also true and capital) and raising the beard a hair’s-breadth would correct this soon. But you will see what we mean, and I think agree; forgiving also what may appear to be presumption—fancy if we undertook to instruct the surgeon while amputating a limb! But we want you to make the utmost of the first occasion upon which any British Painter has celebrated the Quincentenary of an Earldom! Shall we send the picture to Portland Place? I think F. will be passing through London about the 3rd week in November, returning in March, perhaps April. With many thanks,

Yours very truly,


July 12th, ’98. 2 Cavendish Square.

Dear Mr Orchardson,

The metal binding has come. Shall I bring it to-morrow morning early? (and have one peep at the picture?). So far as I can remember no portrait of a man loving one of these bindings has been done since Raphael painted Leo X—or was it Julius II.

Yours very truly,


My dear Maestro,

When you have finished with the precious book would you be so kind as to send a line to Quaritch, 15 Piccadilly—he will send a man for it and send it off home, carefully packed and insured. I am just off north and hope you have been having a good time.

Sincerely yours,


The “precious” book was one of the celebrated old metal-covered and jewelled books, belonging to the Crawford Library, which I believe is now more or less dispersed.


[E. O.’s Diary]:


“Walter Gilbey called on Monday to find Quiller, but he was on the jury for the first time in his life; he had something important to ask him. Sir Walter and I went down in his comfortable little brougham to find him, but found he had gone to the Fly-Fishers’ Club; but it was an opportunity to have a nice little chat with that kind Sir Walter.

“He called again next morning (Feb. 23rd, 1897) and his errand was to find out if Quiller would be willing to paint the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York for the Royal Agricultural Society. They had a long discussion about it as it seems the committee objected to money being spent on portraits, on account of the agricultural depression, but in the end they seemed quite ready for it, only evidently practically Sir Walter is at the head and root of it.

“This would be a splendid year to do so grand a picture and I have advised Quiller to do it if he thinks his health would stand it.

“Sir Walter says that the Queen won’t sit, but he ‘thinks he might manage it.’ ”

At that time few people knew of Queen Victoria’s extreme cleverness, fewer still suspected that she had much to do with government; she was loved and venerated more as the Great Mother than as the Ruler of “her people.” My Father, therefore, determined to paint her as the woman of intense family affections and not as the Great Queen. So he invented the little scene (which very likely actually occurred) of the small great-grandson presenting a bouquet to his great-grandmother, with the two Princes of the intervening generations looking on with fatherly and grandfatherly pride.

On Sir Writer Gilbey objecting that little Prince Edward was not a Past President of the Royal Agricultural Society, my Father laughingly replied: “No, but he can be a future one, you must elect him.”

When the little Prince came for his first sitting he was escorted by an equerry as well as a nurse; afterwards, finding no doubt the house a civilized one, and the artist a gentleman and not a wild Bohemian, he came with just an under-nurse, a girl from the Sandringham estate, with a very strong Norfolk accent.

My Father received Prince Edward at the front door and was himself received with a handshake en Prince; then the Prince suddenly became a little boy, put his hand confidingly in his host’s, and said in friendly fashion, “Which way do we go now?”

On reaching the studio he looked round him in surprise: “Oh! but,” said he, “you have a much bigger nursery than I have.”

The Duchess of York (now Queen Mary) had written through a lady-in-waiting that the child could stay for two hours, but that she was afraid he would not sit quietly for longer than an hour and would then require a rest. Luckily ten minutes or a quarter of an hour sufficed my Father for a good view, then “What about a rest now?” and the little boy would climb down from the “throne,” run to his nurse, clamber on her knee and have a good cuddle—just the same as any other little boy. “A dear little chap,” said my Mother; “a fine little fellah,” said my Father.

One day, after there had been a long interval between the sittings, he came in a knickerbocker sailor suit, “in which he looked very nice,” my Mother reports, but, of course, the change necessitated borrowing the frock, which, of course, caused more delay in an already delayed work.

The Duke of York (now King George V) came alone. I remember seeing him leave alone and walk across the street entirely unattended, to Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar’s opposite; a small, very well dressed and inconspicuous gentleman.

My Father found him shy at first, but fishing talk having been started, all went well; two enthusiastic fishermen always have plenty to say. One day my Father mentioned that he was going fishing and the Duke said: “You are lucky. For me there is nothing in prospect, but the laying of foundation stones,” from which my Father gathered that to be a private gentleman and not a King was the Duke’s real idea of happiness. However, the Duke went fishing at last and sent my Father a half a salmon from Balmoral.

When he returned to sit, my Father thanked him again, having already written, of course, and asked if he had had good sport.

The Duke replied, “Yes, and that was not a ghillie fish I sent you—I caught it myself,” and proceeded to give the story of the catching.

When Prince George was engaged to Princess May, Sir Walter Gilbey gave a big luncheon party in their honour and my parents were amongst the guests, likewise the Duchess of Teck and I do not know who else.

My Father had a talk with the Duchess whom he described as “the jolliest of old ladies, thumping her stick on the floor as she laughed uproariously.” Then he was presented to Princess May (now Queen Mary) and they walked round the garden together.

“And what was she like?”

“Well, she was most serious and solemn; she, of course, spoke first and I answered when spoken to, then the conversation became interesting and I forgot Court manners and we got on swimmingly; her face lighted up with a delightful smile. I think royalties rather enjoy being treated as human beings.”

To return to the studio. The Prince of Wales (afterwards King Edward VII) came next with an equerry, in the very plain, not to say shabby, single-horse brougham that he used to obtain privacy. Of course, my Father received him at the door and escorted him to the studio, the equerry following meekly. But the Prince soon thawed and conversation became lively, the host being allowed to sit, but the equerry being kept standing “like a flunkey” as my Father said.

My Father was very widely read, but he found the Prince his equal, except about art, and described him as a very clever even wise man of the world with suave manners and a hearty jolly laugh.

On leaving it was old Sir Stanley Clarke’s duty to open the studio door while my Father was talking to and escorting the Prince; but the Prince was in such a hurry and so quick in his movements that he got to the door first and opened it for himself, leaving the poor old equerry toiling apologetically in the rear.

The Princess of Wales came once, I think, to see the picture; on my asking my Father if she was really pretty he replied, “Yes, she is pretty—at least, very pretty for a princess.” Curiously enough, exactly the same remark he had made to little Chattie Clow in his youth.

[E. O.’s Diary]:

“The Prince of Wales wishes to show a sketch of it [the picture] to the Queen. Quiller had an interview with him the other day and said he never did sketches and old Walter Gilbey who had taken him [to Marlborough House] thought he was going to strike, so he put in his word and said it would be all right as when he wanted Quiller to do anything he always came to me. The Prince, it seems, went into fits [of laughter] and all ended well.”

Letter to the Glasgow Herald.

King’s Meadows,


Oct. 22nd, 1898.


My attention having been drawn to a paragraph in this morning’s issue of the Glasgow Herald in which are statements that I have been at Balmoral in connection with a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen and that I am going to Cimiez in furtherance of the same object, may I say that both statements are entirely inaccurate? I have been up Deeside near Banchory—Inchmarlo—for salmon fishing (a failure), but nowhere near Balmoral, nor am I, so far as I know, under command for Cimiez.

Of course, your correspondent may have access to sources of information not open to me, but in the meantime you will perhaps forgive my surprise and my troubling you on a matter which is after all of such little moment.

With many apologies,

I am, etc.,

W. Q. Orchardson.

Having lately refused the Presidency of the R.A. for the sake of privacy it was rather “hard lines” (a favourite expression of W. Q. O.’s) having that privacy violated.

If it was difficult to get the lesser lights to sit, it proved very nearly impossible to get the Big Light at all. However, the persuasions of the heir to the throne combined with those of a much-beloved son proved successful, and my Father not only obtained the sitting, but permission to see the Queen’s private rooms at Windsor. Of these he chose the long corridor, outside her dining-room, where she often sat, in a special chair with a rod to raise and lower it at will.

On making a sketch my Father found he had chosen a place where two white busts, of the Queen and the Duchess of Kent, came into view. His love of accuracy and the extreme difficulty of introducing them successfully caused him to include them in his picture.

The Four Generations.
By kind permission of the Owners, the Royal Agricultural Society.

I am sorry that copyright and my non-success in finding Lord Edward Pelham Clinton forbid me publishing his letters. They are very friendly and are full of a quaint Court secrecy quite unknown to us humbler mortals.

I could only get a very meagre description of the half-hour he had with the Queen from my Father; she had, he said, a pleasant voice, a dignified, aloof, but gracious manner, and beautiful hands of whose beauty she was quite conscious; the extreme smallness of the Queen’s stature impressed him—I fancy he had not before realized the truth of the Scots saying, “Guid gear gang’s in sma’ bouk”—“good material goes into small bulk.”

My Father received much kindness and hospitality from the officials at Windsor Castle while making his sketch, my Mother also when she went with him, as she usually did. He needed it, too, for he was suffering severely from neuritis the whole time he was painting this big picture, and at one time he almost thought he would have to give up, especially when the pain began to appear in his right arm as well. It was painful to watch the effort he made to keep going, but with his usual courage he managed to continue and finished the work in time for the 1900 Exhibition.

The picture was hung in the place of honour at the end of the Big Room (III), which, however, was not such a good light as the other two lesser places of honour at the sides. It did not look as well in the Academy as in the studio; lighting alters a picture very much, and I think perhaps Orchardson’s delicate colours required more light—I know he preferred either of the other two places.

[E. O.’s diary]:


Aug. 12th, 1900. The F.G. was in the studio the other day when I went up to town, and looked awfully fine—so much better than in the R.A., where it looked disappointing; you could only see it from one point of view.

My Father painted the Prince of Wales full face, with one eye slightly larger and the eyebrow a little more raised than the other. I have since seen a photograph in precisely the same position, and the portrait was an exact likeness. The Prince, however, did not like the slight defect to show and asked my Father to alter it. Of course, the subject had to obey orders, and much against his will altered the face to a profile view. The first head showed the Prince as he really was, wise, shrewd, humorous and exceedingly clever; the second head, in my opinion, lost this characterization, and though Orchardson could not paint a bad portrait yet this was by no means one of his best, though I think it had been before the alteration.

My Father was in great pain and tired; the difficulty of getting sittings, the difficulty of borrowing the Royal clothes—like other people the Royal folks wanted to wear them—and the constant “fussation” made my Father very glad when the picture was finished. But to his surprise that was by no means the end—copyright troubles then began.

Two, even three, events occurred in my Father’s life that I leave untouched out of consideration for people still alive. Two of these had an immense and deleterious effect on his happiness and consequently on his health, but his work does not appear to have been affected. No Life of Orchardson is complete without them.


The “Parting of the Ways” was painted at Hawley House in the drawing-room. The window overlooks the garden (perhaps I should say overlooked, for most of the house has since been burnt down); the roses were gathered in the garden; the carpet was W. Q. O.’s favourite Aubusson that “lived” in the drawing-room; I myself sat for part of the nose, eyes and mouth, and I made most of the frock, copying it from an old Empire one that had lost its freshness. What a hunt I had in London trying to get a net like the old one; apparently it was no longer made so I had to use an ordinary modern net, which never hung right, although I tried, and a dressmaker after me—the mesh was different.

One day my Father and I were wandering round the fascinating half-neglected garden and up and down the wilderness; looking at it from where I write now—the half arid Orange Free State and at a distance of twenty years—it seems to me a paradise. No garden ever grew before so many flowers all together as that memory garden of mine, spring flowers and summer flowers and autumn flowers all flowering together in one gorgeous blooming. And then the soft delicious greens and browns of winter.

And roses—my Father’s favourite flower—“perfect,” he said, “in form and colour and scent, the three qualities required to make a perfect flower.” We had a row of standard roses, each in its own little bed, on either side of the wide gravelled path that led from the house to the wilderness gates and past the old pigeon-house built in Bloody Mary’s time (1554, 1555 and 1556 are the various dates given).

My Father and I went through the old blue iron gates into the wilderness and sauntered along the mossy path, my Father pointing out the splendid remains of the old Spanish chestnuts and remarking on their beauty compared with horse-chestnuts, “which were like cabbages, too bunchy to be beautiful,” no drawing; then the old yews claimed his attention, and we remembered the avenues of ancient yews at Lethen where we had walked together. Copper beeches, he said, were unnatural and therefore ugly; oaks and Scotch firs he thought the finest of all trees, and the contrast of the graceful silver birch and the brilliant green of the rowans with the Scotch firs, grim and gaunt, “made” the beauty of Black Mount Forest where we had all spent happy days on our first holiday in Scotland.

Discussing natural beauties, we retraced our slow pleasant steps and came into the garden proper again and sauntered on till we came to a little tree-like bush, ten feet high or so, covered with flowers, white with purple splashes within, rather like a carnation from an artist’s point of view, though not from a botanist’s, I believe. The leaves were serrated, of a pale green, and the whole tree was of a most fairy-like grace and colour.

This little “carnation tree,” as we called it not knowing its real name, was one of my Father’s favourites, ranking next to the roses, I think. He always paused beside it, and now we paused together, in our usual friendly understanding silence.

“Titumy,” I said in my sudden way, “Titumy, do you know what I am thinking?”

“No,” said he, half smiling.

“Well,” I hurried on a little breathlessly for fear of shyness silencing me, “you know that little picture you are painting—it—it is just like this lovely carnation tree—in colour and grace and feeling. I always think of them together.”

My Father blushed and thanked me for the “pretty compliment,” but I hastily disclaimed any intention of paying compliments and said I was only telling the truth. At which he blushed again. And to this day I cannot see even an engraving of the “Parting of the Ways” and several other pictures of the Hawley time without seeing in my mind’s eye the beautiful “carnation tree” that my Father so admired.


The doves came from somewhere forgotten and I amused myself taming them to eat out of my hand as my Father had done with the pigeons at Ivyside. My Father stood near by and enjoyed the pretty creatures. But one day he was not there and my Mother came out of the studio and said, “Wait a minute—Titumy wants to paint you feeding the doves.”

“All right. What frock am I to put on?”

“He wants the one you have.”

“This ugly old thing,” I exclaimed, feeling rather put out at the idea of going down to posterity in my old gardening gown of a tiny shepherd’s-plaid check.

However, there was nothing to do but submit, which I did, feeling that artists had queer tastes. But the gown in the picture is charming and tones in with the soft grey of the doves; some effect of light, I suppose, changed the colour—or was it the magic in the painter’s vision?

On the second day of the sittings my Father asked me to stand at the doves’ perch with my arms up; but he decided that the scene on the lawn was the best and we went back there.


Once long ago when they were in Paris my Father and Mother were invited to a dinner-party which was held in the garden under the trees about sunset; my Father was much struck by the picturesqueness of the scene and immediately thought of a picture. For years such a picture simmered in his mind, he spoke of it occasionally, but it did not take shape until he went to Hyères in 1901. He admired the umbrella pines so much that he sent for sketching materials and made a sketch.

Then the dinner-party idea presented itself again and in searching for a dramatic scene Cæsar Borgia came to his mind, suggested possibly by the extremity of contrast between our own friendly and kindly Royal Family whom he had lately been painting and The Poisoner of other days. It will be remembered that Cæsar Borgia always invited his intended but unsuspecting victim to a banquet and then to drink wine with him. The man who was invited to drink knew well the fate awaiting him, a poisoned cup—or worse if he dared to insult his ruler by refusing.

In the picture the other guests have overturned their chairs in their haste to escape for the moment, and the Borgia is left quietly contemplating his victim.

My Mother wished the picture to be called “Cæsar Borgia” in order to explain it clearly, but my Father insisted that “The Borgia” was sufficient and that everyone knew all about him. He never reflected that few people knew “all about everything” in the remarkable way he did.

Though so beautiful, “The Borgia” was difficult to sell owing to the “awfulness” of the subject. One dealer wrote that he would like to buy it, but dared not as dealers are the slaves of the amateurs; he suggested that the Chantrey Fund might buy it and that then he could go and see it sometimes as it was in certain ways one of the most beautiful of all Orchardson’s pictures.

Another dealer, Mr Arthur Levi, whom my Father described in a letter of introduction as an “Art publisher, an Art enthusiast and a connoisseur,” must have had true insight, for in a letter he not merely describes the picture as superb, but adds, “It seems to me wonderful in its artistic expressiveness, as if it were the realization of an ideal which must long have occupied your soul until it took the shape we now see it in.”

Mr David Murray wrote that he had recommended “The Borgia” to Mr Wolff Harris when dining there.

Dear Mr Murray,

It is awfully good of you to take so much trouble for a friend. Mr Orchardson has really not yet thought about a price for the picture and is awfully busy at the R.A.; perhaps it had better be left till later on or till Mr Harris sees it?

So wrote my secretary Mother—my Father never would think of business, especially when he most needed the money—as now.


[E. O.’s diary]:

Nov. 3rd, 1896.

My Darling Papa,

Quiller is just starting a picture of Mrs Siddons; we have just begun reading her life; the subject is Mrs Siddons rehearsing the part of Lady Macbeth; it is going to be awfully good, though he had another beautiful drawing, but that was more, “Boadicea encouraging her soldiers.” It seemed a pity to sacrifice it but we cannot find a character in a play that would fit with the drawing.

The picture was not really begun, but only thought of till 1903. A school friend of my sister sat—or rather posed—for Mrs Siddons, a little Jewess of twelve or so, quite absurdly like Mrs Siddons in face and with quite a little talent for reciting. In fact, she spent most of the time she was posing in reciting Shakespeare—and yet her school reports proclaimed her the dullest child in school, which she certainly cannot have been.

On my asking my Father for a list of the people, he said: “Burke, Sheridan, Kemble, Macklin, Sir Joshua Reynolds (in whose studio the scene is placed), Northcote, Mrs Jordaans and Le Flâneur.” In reply to my enquiry why he had not put in a real portrait instead of the Flâneur he said that there was always a Flâneur present at such gatherings, one of those fashionable nobodies who think so much of themselves and are so soon forgotten—the picture would not have been true to life without him. Sir David Murray sat for Reynolds and was much flattered at the resemblance.


“A Portrait of a Lady” painted this year reminds me of old Sant, R.A. He was painting Patti, and my Father went to see the portrait in Mr Sant’s studio; he criticized the hard lines in the face, particularly the lips. Mr Sant agreed, but said he could not help himself, the hard lines being the paint lines on Patti’s face; Patti had been painted at seven years old, she told him. Years before he had had trouble with Thalberg, but had asked her to give it up, saying, “When you are sitting to me kindly let me do all the painting!”


W. Q. O. was often compared to Sargent after the latter became the fashion, so that the following quotation from The Times is of some interest: “The ‘Sir Samuel Montagu’ reaches the highest possible point in art, and some of them [the critics] do not hesitate to say that this is a point which Sargent has not and probably never will reach.”

Sir Samuel Montagu (afterwards Lord Swaythling) himself wrote that “Mr. L. de Rothschild thought that you had not flattered me, but I prefer truth to flattery.” The committee wrote desiring to express their sincere thanks for the great obligation conferred upon them by his kindness in painting Sir Samuel’s portrait; as he only got one hundred and fifty pounds for this picture, described by Agnew as an Old Master, it was most certainly a great favour.


[Draft letter. Answer to the Bishop of Oxford’s portrait committee]:

“I am delighted with your kindly appreciation of the Bishop’s portrait. You will see, however, that it still required a good deal of work and finding that I could not, without slighting, do this in time for the R.A. (which takes in members’ work on Wednesday), I gave up the idea of exhibiting it there this year at any rate. Between now and June I shall have ample time for deliberate finish, and shall hope for another sitting of the Bishop, who has been so very kind and considerate in the matter.

Yours very truly,

[E. O.’s note: Quiller’s draft letter to the Bishop of Oxford]:

July 4th, 1904.

Your letter just forwarded with the enclosure in which Mrs Church so kindly and delicately gives me the views of some of your Ch. friends on the subject of the portrait. They—the dissentients—would, I gather, have preferred to see you in the more obvious and agreeable aspect to which they naturally turn in their thoughts of you and to which they have been so much accustomed. In this I readily and cordially sympathize, but there are occasionally two sides to a question. In this case the question was, as it presented itself to me, whether I should see you on the brilliant side—the social and conversational—or the greater side when the weight and responsibilities of your great office dominated the man. Of course, I could not commit both aspects to the same canvas, and my decision, as I think you know, was not taken without thought; but once taken, I saw you as one who had his views and gave thought to his duties.

I am not quite in agreement with your friends, I should nevertheless, and, of course, be glad, to come as you suggest to Oxford and see the picture in its place. However, like yourself, I am much engaged at present but must hope that a little later on you will kindly let me know on what day I might make sure of the pleasure of meeting you there.

[To the Bishop of Oxford]:

Your kind letter has reached me here after having been to Hawley and, I fear, neglected there.

I need not say how pleased I shall be to meet you at Oxford and discuss the portrait; perhaps a fresh look at it may enable me to more appreciate the point of your friends’ criticisms. We shall be still more pleased to accept your kind hospitality at Cuddesdon. Shall we say the first day you mention (the 21st) to meet at Oxford and the 22nd to return from Cuddesdon?

I open this note to again apologize. I find it in my pocket after many days!

[Draft letter to the Bishop of Oxford]:

I am now recovering from a long illness (two years) and one of the first of my thoughts is your portrait. You will perhaps remember having promised to help me with a few sittings. It is not quite finished because I felt after seeing it at Christ Church I could so much improve it. This matter has worried my conscience most pertinaciously.


Lady Younghusband was one of the Magniacs, with whom we were friends at Westgate; my Father flirted—more or less—with the witty Miss Magniac and, I think, painted her brother, Mr Herbert Magniac; to complete the friendship I went fishing for eels with a younger sister, and worms threaded on worsted. We all lost sight of each other for years and then met again at Hawley where another brother, Mr Oswald Magniac, had a house near ours, but in Sutton-at-Hone. We all renewed our friendships and fishing was indulged in again, this time for trout and with Mr Magniac and my Father as exponents. One of the brothers, all young, called my Father his “boy friend” on account of his youthfulness.

Dear Mr Orchardson,

Do you recollect an old friend of dim ages ago? I venture to trouble you with a question as your knowledge is quite limitless! Does there exist such a thing as a young Artist (rising but not too risen) who would paint for me a portrait of my husband’s head and shoulders—not necessarily life size, but like! I don’t want any Impressionist people—who only leave on me a very unpleasant impression! Don’t think me very troublesome but regards to Mrs Orchardson.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Younghusband.

[Draft letter unsigned]:

Dear Lady You[nghusband,]

I have no adequate apology for my inadvertent delay in answering [your letter] and can only submit myself to your generosity. We have been moving lately from Hawley where I have been invalided for the last year and a half.

In the process I have fluttered about like a withered leaf and my correspondence is all naught.

As to the matter on which you ask my advice I have not seen a gallery or even a picture for the last two years, so am not quite up to date as to the last new young painter. I am quite sure, however, there are many who might worthily answer your purpose and are discoverable if you can give me a little time to make inquiries.

And then an idea—just gathering in my mind! What do you say to my making myself a young man for the occasion and dating the tariff back to those prehistoric times? I am a student of the awakening of Thibet, and such a subject as the man who there looked responsibility in the face and was not afeared, would indeed be one after my own heart.

Character, for me, is the one essential.

[Draft letter unsigned]:

Dear Lady Younghusband,

Your kind letter enclosing cheque has been on my track for some time, our movements having been somewhat incoherent. Many thanks, but do me the favour of believing that there is no hurry.

You are, I dare say, on the eve of starting for that romantic region where you are to reign as Lady Paramount and where I trust your happiness may be as assured as your success.


Mrs Mosscockle wrote at first that she was delighted with her portrait and sent some flowers as a small tribute to genius. Afterwards, however, she was not so pleased and sent the following letter:

Aug. 8th, 1909.

Clewer Park,


Dear Sir William,

The picture has arrived safely and I am going to ask you if you will set right a defect in the left eye, which has caused all my friends to consider it no likeness? My eyes are large and blue, and this one eye you have put half shut which gives an expression which I have not got, the other eye too has a touch of brown which is not in mine. Many people say my eyes are violet, so deep in the blue. Will you too alter that? The cheeks are too full, as mine are thin, and the face tapers more to the chin in the original than in the painting.

I know that you will take all in good part as I think the painting so exquisite in other respects, but as you will understand, if it is no likeness it would not be of interest to those who know me and who have thought so much of my good looks since I was only seventeen.

Yours sincerely,

R. T. Mosscockle.

Photo Fred Hardie
By kind permission of the Aberdeen Art Gallery.

My Father replied as follows, his writing being unusually strong:

13, Portland Place, W.,

Sept. 8th.

Dear Mrs Mosscockle,

Very many apologies for the inadvertent delay in answering your letter of last month. I grieve to think that you find so much amiss with the portrait. You are very likely to be right and I shall do myself the pleasure of looking it over at the earliest opportunity.

Yours very sincerely,

W. Q. Orchardson.

He died before that opportunity came.

The Bystander allows me to quote their most excellent critique:

“Sir W. Q. Orchardson . . . is the subtle psychologist. No shade of character is too fine for his acute analysis. His portrait of Mrs Mosscockle is the finest portrait in the Academy. Exquisite as it is in colour, distinguished as it is in design, I forget these things the moment I look upon the face. The pink and white and pale umber all fade. I see only Mrs Mosscockle. By what magic craft does Sir William arrest this haunting passage of life?”

I find the following in W. Q. O.’s handwriting:

“The criticisms of your friends you must not mind; they recall the story of the Greek painter who exhibited a picture in public with the request that those who found faults should mark them with a piece of chalk. In the evening he found the picture entirely covered with chalk marks. He wiped them all off and exhibited it again with the request that this time those who found any part that struck them as particularly good should mark that part with the piece of chalk. On the second evening he found the picture presented the same appearance as on the first.

“A critic who is asked if he sees anything wrong or can make a suggestion generally does both—his reputation demands it.

“All the same I shall be most happy to look at the portrait and consider it in the light of the said criticisms and suggestions which very possibly may have something in them and this I will do at the earliest opportunity.”


[Draft letter. From W. Q. O. to the Sir Lawrence Jenkins portrait committee]:

I have yours of the [?] and beg to thank your committee for the wide discretion they allow me in the matter of the portrait [a choice of red robes or black and with or without wig]. I am now making arrangements with Sir Lawrence for a first sitting for his portrait. The “usual practice” with regard to payment—your question—is half the amount after the first sitting and the remainder when finished; I personally have no “usual practice,” but leave the matter to suit the convenience of the client.

Sir Lawrence Jenkins wanted a replica of his portrait; W. Q. O. was unwilling to accede to this and disapproved of copies. I find the following amongst my Father’s notes:

“Moreover I have advised my son so often and so steadily against copying.

“We had no sooner parted in P. . . M . . . . . than my conscience set upon me tooth and nail. I have always expressed the strongest disapproval of the copying of pictures, it lends itself so entirely to the fraudulent practice of [illegible] and other hangers-on of the Arts.

“I suppose for every genuine Romney, among others, there are half a dozen spurious copies, all masquerading in British and American collections as originals.

“This is a state of things that I think ought to be denounced in every way, and though a copy under the artist’s own directions might not altogether be placed in the category I speak of, yet I fear to stultify myself after the strong expressions I have been using.

“During our talk I thought only of how to forward your wishes, but your parting reference to terms on coming out of M.H. made me realize that a business element was also involved.

“Now I should not like my son to think that I could recommend or advise him to do anything of which I have no shadow of doubt I would not do myself.

“Will you kindly forgive this continuance of our conversation? It follows your question as to the etiquette of the copyist, though in a hurried, incoherent and undigested way, for which pray accept my sincere apologies.”

In the end he gave in and allowed his son Charlie to do a copy under “the artist’s own directions,” and with his finishing touches; and Lady Jenkins wrote him a most grateful letter.


[Draft letter to the Editor of a Welsh paper; W. Q. O.’s handwriting]:

I find your letter of the —— but without the mark I generally put on answered letters; if I have neglected to answer it will you kindly accept my heartfelt apologies.

With regard to the wish you express I may say that I never paint a replica, though on the two or three occasions in my life that I have painted a sketch for a picture, I have sometimes finished them, and these might be, though only in a sense, considered replicas. With many regrets and again apologizing for this delay . . . [No end.]


“My son is my son till he takes him a wife,

My daughter’s my daughter all the days of my life.”

As my Father often quoted. Luckily he did not take this literally for his sons, though he did for his daughters; which is my excuse for mentioning myself again.

In 1904 I had the temerity to engage myself to a friend of my own, a Boer War officer twice mentioned in despatches, whom my strict parents had never seen, though they knew some of his sisters very well. I went to the studio in some trepidation to confess to my independence of thought, to South Africa and poverty, but of course was met with the utmost sympathy, which I had really expected; and was also met with an Early Victorian, not to say Turkish, lecture on the duties of wife and woman, which was much worse than anything that might have been anticipated. As I could not express disagreement without distressing the dear man, I fled as soon as I decently could.

Later on I asked my Father if he had written to my Hugh and he replied “no” apologetically and promised he would, with this result on his usual scrap of paper.

“I am not only pleased to have you as a [son-in-law] but am inclined to congratulate myself on the fact.

“It is very quaint that my first letter to you should have to begin with an apology for not writing sooner, but if you forgive me the delay I’ll try to forgive myself—not an easy matter, I can assure you.

“With the aid of photos . . .

“We have never met, but your sisters are very old friends and your Father, whom I went to see at Brownrigg, is a splendid spec[imen] of the kind of man I most respect.

“Col. Hill[1] speaks of you very warmly.”

Another letter in pencil and very shaky writing is dated by my Mother April 1st, 1905. I do not know that either letter went:

Hawley House,


My dear Hugh,

I am very sorry not to have written you before now, but had I felt any possible objection to you as a son-in-law this would certainly not have happened. Your friend—he talks like your friend—Col. Hill speaks very warmly of you and thinks you are the right man in the right place.

I fear I must stop, am too tired, but when you come over you must expect the very heartiest of welcomes.

Your very affectionate,

W. Q. Orchardson.

After my Father’s desperate illness in March 1905, I rather wondered if I ought to go so far away, but both he and my Mother were convinced that it was no part of a daughter’s duty to remain at home with her parents, except under very unusual circumstances which did not exist in this case.

So my betrothed came home from South Africa and came to us at Hawley where he at once made great friends with my Mother and sister, but found the “great man” a little awesome, though charming and friendly.

We were married in London on October 14th. My Father drove with me to the church and neither of us spoke except once, when I asked if it would be very shocking to put my veil up because it was stifling me. He agreed it would be “all right,” and something in his voice made me fear he would faint. So I kept a careful watch over him, and when he had agreed that he was the giver-away of the bride, I turned round and whisperingly directed him to a chair close by. It must have been rather quaint, the bride looking after someone else, but how much easier it is than looking after one’s own affairs—no self-consciousness or shyness to be bothered with.

A little reception to a few relations and my own special friends—my Father was too delicate for more—and I passed out of my Father’s daily life to my own new one.

But the next day we “dropped in” to luncheon. “My daughter’s my daughter all the days of my life,” said my Father, as he put his dear arms round me, and what Mother does not welcome a daughter? They were both very flattered and pleased by our visit, they said. A gay luncheon of laughter and hidden tears.

Then we went to Scotland, where I received the following reassuring letter from my Mother:

October 17th, 1905. 13 Portland Place.

. . . Papa is well though he was very tired, but I think you being happy makes him happy.

We had such a nice letter from Mr MacWhirter this morning. We propose to go and see him to-morrow . . .

Papa sends his love and “all that sort of thing” and wishes me to tell you he took Fruach[2] out this morning.

October 24th, 1905. Hawley House.

My dear Lassie,

I have your nice letter and rejoice. It reads as if you were quite happy and your happiness finds an echo here. We miss you very much, and so does Hawley. It is no longer quite the same and we shall move to Portland Place after your final visit; after all, dear old Hawley has served its chief purpose in giving you and all of us a country playground, and now that you are all dispersed except Sheila, Mother will feel it less dull in town, and by the time Sheila leaves school and gets “lengthened” she will also love her London.

Your sketch from the window of Oban is good and full of life; it recalls the Bay I know and admire. I have steamed up and down the Falls of Connel—levelled at high tide—up to the head of Etive. Did you go?

I have had to get up and let Fruach in, he comes to me for comfort and spends a good deal of his time getting it. I have told him that I am writing to you, and upon my word, he seems to know; at the very least he is interested in the word Hilda.

I am glad you are going to Braco, the Nesses will be both delighted and kind; give them of my very best, also the same to my old friend the junior at the place I have forgotten how to spell, and his wife. When do you return? and when do you go—is it yet decided?

Very much love to you both.

Your affectionate


Quolquhailzie—pronounced Kewhiley—was the unspellable Gaelic name.

My Father still retained his love of dogs, and after my marriage made a great pet of Fruach till some brute poisoned him in London. He bought this dog for me in the Highlands some years before, Scotch terriers being his favourites. At one time we had a beautiful greyhound at Hawley that matched the old garden, but it made itself such a nuisance chasing and killing other people’s cats, as well as our own, that it was given away.

My Father always said he could make friends with any dog, but had supposed a bull-dog would resist all blandishments and was unbribable, but one day when he was fishing he proved otherwise. He was walking along a narrow footpath by the river, looking for a likely fish, when suddenly he heard the rattle of a chain, and looking up, found himself confronted by a savage bull-dog, standing four-square in the path. He made a friendly remark, the dog growled in reply. What to do? To turn back was unthinkable, to go forward impossible.

“Ah! happy thought! Biscuits, bribery! But can a bull-dog be bribed?”

He pulled a luncheon biscuit out of his pocket, held it up for the dog’s inspection, then placed it on the path just within its reach. The dog nosed it, sniffed it, looked inquiringly at the donor, and finally picking it up, walked back to his kennel with an air of “Yes, all right, you have paid your way—pass on.”

My Father went safely by and thereafter every time he wanted to go that way, the same scene was enacted, the dog accepting a biscuit as toll, and allowing the giver to pass along the path it was supposed to guard.

Was the dog really bribed we wondered, or had it some vague notion that the briber had a right of way?

My Father detested lap dogs, especially fat ones. There was a man who made his living out of curing sick dogs, and made quite a name. He would not give the secret away, but at last he whispered confidentially, “I just tubs ’em for a couple o’ days or more and they comes out right as a trivet.”

How my Father laughed at the picture of the fat little wheezy, overfed dogs starving back to health under a tub!

1 Abbey Road,

St. John’s Wood.


My dear Orchardson,

I am home again, very lame but very happy. The nurse gave me all your kind messages.

First. I am very glad and much relieved that Hilda’s marriage went off so well and that you were able to be there and get through it so well. From their portraits in the Graphic this morning I can easily prophesy a happy future. Hilda is a great favourite of mine, and I wish her all good things in every way.

Second. I am glad you obeyed my command and did not come to the hospital. The long passages and dark lift and the pale faces would have distressed you, but now—I am wearying to see you, and any time—you feel well enough my nurse will rig me out and make me presentable. I am—but of course very lame. I had a short visit from Hugh Cameron, he was wonderfully well.

All good wishes to you and Mrs and the others—of course, especially including the young couple.

Always the same friend,

J. MacW.

[E. O.’s letters]:

Oct. 22nd, 1905. Leila [Gray] went to town with us and we had Mr St. Quintin to lunch, then Mr Field came in, then Lady Moore, and after that we went to see Mr MacWhirter. Papa was none the worse, and has worked several days this week; Mr Macdonald [manager of the guncotton works where we used to go boating] offered to sit this morning.

My Father was working at “The Last Dance” at this time, and having been unable to get suitable professional models had made use of the family and Mr Macdonald. The violinist is quite recognizably my brother Ian, the man walking out of the room is my husband, but the others I cannot recognize in the very small print in Masterpieces of Orchardson, and forget at this distance of time.

The family dispersed finally before the completion of the picture, so it was never finished. The azalea was painted at Hawley.

The central figure in the vivid green dress is wonderful, and the whole picture—what there is of it—is most beautiful, but very sad. It does not suggest the last dance of the ball, but “Die Ende vom Lied”—the last song of life—the end of this life and a new and unknown one beginning. “The artistic purpose comes first,” said my Father once, on my asking which was the most important part of a picture, no doubt meaning in the carrying out of the idea. And this idea? Was it suggested by his own failing life?

He was once asked as to the meaning of one of his pictures, and he answered laughingly, “I think you had better ask the Browning Society,” as Browning said, when someone asked him the meaning of one of his poems! He always laughed at the “Browning Society” in Browning’s own lifetime, but I never heard what he thought of the poet’s work. He met both Browning and Tennyson more than once; the former, he said, was just a cheerful old gentleman, with no suggestion of deep or any other poetry about him, and something of a cheerful gossip, but the latter dressed and looked and behaved the part of poet to perfection.

In November my Mother wrote that my Father had been working in the garden as often as the “awful” weather permitted, and that he was always staying out too long and getting cold and chilled, without taking harm, however. He always said that one should not allow one’s spirits to be affected by the weather, but, after all, the weather affects one’s body, and the body one’s spirits, especially in a delicate person. He was in that depressed condition that always follows convalescence, and could not make up his mind whether to stay at Hawley or go to town. He was despondent, too, over his work, the inability to get suitable models worrying him as always.

A pleasant honour, however, came at this time to cheer him. He had been a member of the Society of Portrait Painters since 1897, and now received the following letters from the Hon. John Collier and Sir L. Alma Tadema:

North House,

69 Eton Avenue, N.W.

Nov. 23rd, 1905.

Dear Mr Orchardson,

On behalf of the Society of Portrait Painters I have to ask you a great favour.

At a general meeting of the Society you were elected President by a unanimous vote.

May we venture to ask your acceptance of this post?

It will involve no trouble or responsibility. The Society is in a flourishing condition, and its affairs are admirably managed by Mr Glazebrook, our Hon. Secretary.

Glazebrook and I had intended to call on you instead of writing, but finding that you are not in London we could hardly venture to invade you in your country home without having your permission.

If you could see us on Monday afternoon we should like to lay the whole case before you. I trust that at any rate you will not decide against us until you have heard us plead our cause.

You have always been so kind in supporting the Society, that we have every hope that you will carry your kindness still further and consent to become our President. We shall all be very grateful if you will do so.

Believe me,

Yours sincerely,

John Collier,

Vice-President, Society of Portrait Painters.

Nov. 24th, 1905. 34 Grave End Road.

My dear Orchardson,

As you know already you have been unanimously elected President of the Society of Portrait Painters. The members believe so strongly in your fitness for the post that they are all looking forward to the great benefit the Society is to derive of your Presidency; please do not disappoint them, and accept our mandate and become our chief, for no chief can ever be more beloved than Orchardson will be as President of the Society of Portrait Painters,

Yours always,

L. Alma Tadema.

[Draft letter]:

My dear Sir Alma Tadema,

Nothing could be kinder than your letter and more appreciated, and for your personally expressed wish that I should accept the election that has taken place at the Society of Portrait Painters, I heartily thank you.

In considering the matter I shall have the question among others of even my physical fitness to take into account. You see I am just now recovering from a serious illness and am under advice to take things very quietly for some time yet. You may be sure, however, that your gratifying words will have a weighty influence in the formation of my decision.

Believe me, my dear Tadema,

With many thanks,

Yours very truly,

W. Q. Orchardson.

On November 26th my Mother wrote to me from Hawley:

“Papa is not sleeping very well just now as he does a lot of thinking. He is hesitating whether to accept the Presidency of the S.P.P., and the Vice-President (John Collier) and Mr Glazebrook (Secretary), are coming down to-morrow to see about it.

“I do not mind if he has nothing to do—if it is only honorary. I think perhaps it might cheer him up and make him feel he is still ‘on the tapis.’ But I don’t want to persuade him either way.”

The unanimous vote and Mr Collier’s promise to do all the work finally decided him and he accepted with very considerable pleasure.

In December my Mother reported: “The weather is foggy, damp and as wretched as it can be. Papa has been able to work but on Friday he did not feel so well. I had been up to town. I never know what he does to tire himself when I am away for a few hours.”

It was always the same, when his wife was away he wandered about in a state of lostness until she came home again; he tried to work, but never succeeded for long; he could not read much without hurting his eyes; fishing and golf were the only two things that made a wifeless condition bearable, and they were not always obtainable at a moment’s notice. Many a little jaunt did my Mother give up in order to stay with him.

Late in December my husband and I came home and spent a happy month, then we went off to South Africa. My Father and I said a cheerful good-bye in the Portland Place studio. I would not let him come to the door—“only three years, Titumy,” said I; “only three years, lassie,” said he—and I fled, leaving him standing in the middle of the studio. A little small treasure had been confided to my keeping and I did not dare allow myself to feel anything so deeply as to endanger that comforting hope. Only three years! More than twenty-three years have gone and I am still an exile in the same place, no longer a colony, “a second England,” but a half-loyal Dominion. I never saw either of my parents again—truly man proposes but God disposes.

My Father standing in the studio, fine, strong-willed, self-controlled—that was the last sight I had of him; it remains clear now as then. My Mother and I parted at the station—but that does not concern this book.

And now I rely on my Father’s few letters, and my Mother’s weekly ones which form to me an interesting diary, but her pleasant way of discussing my affairs makes them too diffuse for other people; she and I exchanged weekly letters till she died of cancer in 1917.

I am sorry to have to use so many letters, but read carefully and between the lines, they become interesting; and there is always the alternative of skipping and skimming.

In Cape Town I was desperately ill—“life despaired of for a couple of days and all that sort of thing” (to use one of my Father’s expressions), but it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good at all, and illness on the top of the parting produced five letters (undated) from my Father in nearly as many weeks, an unheard-of treat.

[In pencil.]

Friday. 13 p.p.

No stylo at hand.

My dearest Lassie,

Just a word of hope that your troubles of transit are over. The letters from you and that dear boy Hugh gave us some comfort as they suggested a happier run from Teneriffe.

All that is, however, over now, and we like to imagine you in your new surroundings which we wait to realize in your next letters. Time missed post not.

The love of your Father to you (both halves).

Portland Place.

My dear Hilda,

How is South Africa and how does it pump with your views? We—I have just been interrupted by Sir Francis Younghusband—you may remember him at Hawley. We got on to a long talk about other things and Thibet where he commanded the expedition and signed the Treaty. I am going to paint his portrait.

I trust you are all right now and enjoyed the last part of the voyage.

Your very loving,


We have had an anxious time about you dear Lassie, but are now looking forward to more comforting news.

Photo Fred Hollyer
By kind permission of T. R. Cowie, Esq. (owner), and the Fine Art Society.

Fruach’s doctor has been here this morning and is hopeful, though he is inclined to think it may be a case of poisoning. He, the vet., is kindly, so we have let him take his patient home when he will be more steadily attended to.

I feel more fit this morning and here is Younghusband.

Your loving,


My dearest Hilda,

Am not in high spirits this morning. I hope you are as is, I think, likely judging from your last cheery letter. How do you like Bloemfontein and the Riviera?[3] For, of course, you are there now and have been some time. And how is that best of all Hughs? Give him my love. We have not yet heard of Quentin.[4] My love to him also when he turns up.

Your affectionate,

W. Q. O.

In 1906, having sent in the “Sir Francis Younghusband” to the R.A. (his only picture, the “Last Dance” being unfinished), my Father and Mother went to Paignton and Torquay, where they tried a motorbus excursion, but got out of the bus in three minutes as my Father found himself too delicate to endure the shaking. They then went to Dulverton in Somerset for the fishing.

“Papa has just come in very happy—caught a fish but had no net with him, but he saw some more so he is going out again with his net.”

My Mother, and the rest of the family by the way, spoke of him as “Papa,” but I never did. The word “Father” seemed to suit him so much better—except when I wanted to use his pet name of “Titumy”—my Mother’s occasional name for him originally, mine only at last.


[E. O.’s letters (extracts)]:

Paignton, May 11th, 1906. “Here we are again, we did not care about Dulverton and it was so dull. Not a pennyworth of pins nearer than two miles off, the fishing all wading and four to the pound. So as we liked Paignton I thought Papa would be the better of a little sea air—Dulverton is relaxing. This is a bright little place with a landlady who can cook Papa’s little special dishes very well. He thought he might work a bit, so I brought his colours and two canvases back from London when I was up the other day.

“The House of Commons is at loggerheads over the Education Bill and Turkey is playing nice little tricks again in Egypt.

“Papa did not go to the R.A. banquet. [For the first time since his election, I think.]

“The Academy does not seem at all the same as thirty years ago, and I don’t think age has entirely to do with it, because the young men say the same thing and certainly the pictures are not sold there the way they used to be.

“It is 3.20 p.m. and I have just read Papa to sleep.”

May 17th. “We went to Dartmouth the other day and liked it so much we want to go again. Papa liked rowing about on the inland water, and we saw such a lot of interesting boats of all sorts; and the man we had, had been in the Navy and was interested in fishing. The weather has been remarkably hot, but now it is cold and blowy.

“The portrait of Sir F. Younghusband is much liked.

“Our landlady at Torquay and also her lodgers upstairs, when they heard Papa’s name, were all so pleased, they said, to sleep under the same roof! We had ‘fits,’ of course!

“What a difference in price between hotel and lodgings. And at the hotels we did not have all we wanted and too much of what we did not want. . . . I am telling you this to show how comfortable one can be on a little and how miserable on a lot!”

May 18th. “We went fishing from a rowing boat at Dartmouth to-day, sometimes sailing. We had the same nice boatman as the other day. Papa enjoyed it; he held his line, the rudder and the sail. I think it reminded him of his youth and Arbroath. We were neither of us seasick!”

[p.m. Paignton, May 31st, 1906.]

My dearest Hilda,

Your letters are to us the best of reading, they let in light on the life of the veldt and of the home—your home and “Mother” is happy as is your affectionate


May 25th. 13 Portland Place. We have got back at last, having had a very good six weeks away, and Papa really feels much stronger, but I have to remind him to take care and not overdo things. He got out his palette to-day and worked at his lady in the carriage—“Solitude,” I think we used to call it.

London is getting more and more turmoily—the amount of motorcars! And they are so noisy and smelly. Papa finds it all very fatiguing. We are subscribing to the Park Crescent Gardens again as I thought it would be nice for him to walk there and then sit down in the open air.

June 1st, 1906. 13 Portland Place. We went to Chesham for the day, to Bois Mill—Mr St. Quintin was very anxious for us to go—and Papa was also wanting to begin fishing again; we happily found out that the Great Central Railway goes there, and therefore no stairs, such a nice station, and so easily managed. Papa caught a fish, so did Mr St. Quintin; we brought home both and they were excellent. One was a rainbow; Mr St. Quintin put in some three-year-olds as an experiment to see if they would stay, but he had only had them six weeks or two months; they are disappearing, they always do it seems. Papa has a theory sometimes that they may go down to the sea and become something else. We got back in the evening about quarter to eight. Driving this afternoon it rained in torrents; luckily no one got wet, and Papa enjoyed his day out and was not too tired; as you know, he likes being out-of-doors and seems to get tired when he looks at his work and feels he has to do some, and thinks a new picture would be easier to do than to finish an old one, you remember he always thought that. Having been at home ten days he thinks he must go to Scotland soon, so I am going to write to Fearnan—so you see we still lead the same unsettled lives; and neither of the houses is let. The other day we called on Sir Walter Gilbey, who is wonderfully well again after his serious illness. They were comparing notes, and both are at their proper weights again. To-day we are going to lunch at Mr Humphrey Roberts’s.

I always warn Papa to be very careful in crossing the roads, but one day, some time ago, he said he was nearly knocked down by a hansom cab, but just took the horse’s bridle and moved aside; he is a cool customer under difficulties, but not otherwise.

An artist who did not know my Father personally, but only by repute, told me that he was considered by his friends as perfectly balanced and extremely cool-headed—even to the extent of having two heads as Tom Graham said. I, too, noticed this and also that the greater the difficulties he encountered, the clearer and cooler be became. He considered any loss of self-control in word or manner a sign of weakness. I have seen him angry and indignant, but never out of temper.

June 7th. Bois Mill, Chesham. We are going to stay the night at the Bedford Arms. It is, I think, the prettiest village I have ever seen—a real village with a pump and a green and Elizabethan cottages. The little inn we are going to seems very nice, and Papa is going to try the experiment for the first time of going up a short flight of stairs. It is now 3.30 and he is out fishing. A beautiful June day, and the cuckoo “going it.”

Later: “Papa very well after his fishing.”

June 15th, 1906. 13 Portland Place, W.

My dearest Hilda,

I was delighted to get your nice long letter, it is full of what we like to know, the how about your settling down, your fixing up, your entertaining and the gallant fight you make with your housewifeship. Moreover, we have always the comfort to know that by the time we hear of your difficulties you are three weeks to the good. I told Colonel Hill the other day when he was lunching with us of your varied entertainings at the “Great Kraal,” he was delighted and we had a general jolly talk. He is keen about the Horse question and considered Sir Walter Gilbey the great authority. So as he wanted to know him muchly I talked to Sir Walter. He (Sir Walter) called yesterday to tell me that he had sent an invitation to Col. Hill to go down to Elsenham on Monday, when he is showing his stud to Prince Christian, a good opportunity, for he has had all his horses sent in from the various shows all over the country.

As for myself, I get on slowly, though surprisingly! Have been out fishing last week! Caught a two-pound rainbow among others. We go on Monday to the Fields near Salisbury for a few days (with a rod), and the day before we lunch at a small and select to meet the famous old Garcia, one hundred and one years old!!! He could not have been young when I last saw him—forty years ago or thereabout.

Give my love to the “Gudeman” and to you the memory of


Mother is also writing at the 11th hour.

June 15th, 1906. Col. Hill (invited) and C. F. Johnson dropped in to lunch; they both seemed to be very happy and did not leave till 20 to 4.

Did I tell you Sir Walter Gilbey comes to take Papa out for drives very often in the morning and they go to the Park, and hang over the rails and do the fashionable and meet their friends and talk! talk! talk?

June 22nd. We went to the Fields last Monday—a very pretty place on the River Avon four miles from Salisbury. It is the first time Papa has been visiting, but they are so nice that he was anxious to go, and has enjoyed it very much. But he did not fish much as he got tired, and caught no fish, but had a good many rises.

We came back this morning and then lunched with Sir W. Gilbey to meet Col. Hill.

June 29th, 1906. 13 p.p. Three days of massage, but did not like it, so telephoned to Swedish masseur not to come. Papa has been getting out to-day the sketch of Voltaire, he thinks perhaps he might be able to finish that.

Bois Mill. July 4th, 1906. Here for the day. . . . Beautiful day. Fishing all morning. . . . No luck. . . . Yesterday I went to see Kitty Fildes married to a grandson of Sir John Whittaker Ellis. They had a large garden party at the marriage and Papa actually arrived at about 4 o’clock, and had a chair placed for him on the balcony by Fildes and held quite a reception!!! I think he enjoyed it and is certainly none the worse.

To-morrow is the Briton Rivière’s daughter’s wedding, and he is coming to the garden party there, so he is getting quite festive; and last Sunday after tea we called on the MacWhirters who are preparing to go to Scotland.

July 4th, 1906. Melbury Road.

My dear Orchardson,

I saw you but for a brief moment at my daughter’s wedding and had not the opportunity of saying all I felt at your kindness in coming so far to do her honour. But I assure you both my wife and I were deeply touched, you being invalided for so long, that you should show her so marked a friendship.

Always sincerely yours,

Luke Fildes.

July 6th, 1906. 13 p.p. Thursday I went to see Theo Rivière married, and in the afternoon Papa came up to the Rivière’s house, where he sat by Lady Tadema whom he found very nice; so you see how well and cheerful he is; of course, as usual he is up and down over his work and he keeps getting out another old picture to work on, but I don’t think he will do much, at least not till we settle down after Scotland.

July 7th, 1906. 13 Portland Place.

Saturday, 11.45.

My dearest Hilda,

We have been waiting for the post at 11 o’clock in the hope of a letter to answer by return. Alas! it has not come.

By the time you receive this you will have celebrated your birthday and that of another, and are now (both of you) as well and hearty “as can be expected.”

I send you some little “comforts” in the only practical form open to me at this distance.

You see I take your well-being for granted—I can’t and won’t think of you as otherwise.

With all my love,


July 20th, 13 p.p. This morning Papa has been painting Mr Humphrey Roberts’ portrait; the old chap is highly delighted, and I think it will be very good. This afternoon Mr MacWhirter came and sat a long time with Papa. Papa is going to Chesham to-morrow for the day, he is so well that I let him go by himself, and I am going to tidy his letters . . . We went to see Charlie last Wednesday; Papa liked the place very much, and thought the baby a nice little thing with a nice expression; unfortunately it was a very hot day.

August 2nd. Fearnan, Loch Tay. We arrived here yesterday on a rather damp day, and found the hotel exactly the same and received a warm handshaking welcome on the pier from MacPherson, the same pierman and the same boatman, and the old pier man of Ardtalnaig, they all look just the same. Papa thinks it is not so shut in with trees as it was, but to me it looks the same. During the night it poured, and it has been raining all the morning, so that is not lucky, but he is quite contented playing with his fishing “toys,” and as he was rather tired with the long journey, it is perhaps just as well that he has to stay indoors.

[Undated, about August 1906, Fearnan, Scotland.]

My dear Lassie,

We have not heard of you three since that graphic and exciting telegram, but though expectant we are determinedly not anxious. The Old Lady and Ian and Sheila and two hotel friends—ladies both—have gone for a drive to Rannoch and won’t be back till about seven I think.

Ian has spent his holidays—a fortnight—with us here, and leaves to-morrow, having had a very good time in spite of the weather, which has been somewhat cantankerous; he and Sheila have been out in the boat fishing on every fishing breeze—Sheila at the oars when drifting and managing like Fraser himself.

By the way, I shall give Fraser your message; he will be pleased. He was at the pier to receive us, which he did warmly. The Old Lady is in fact delighted that everyone seems to welcome the family and talk of old times as if it were yesterday. You evidently left a strong impression; they know all about your marriage and your new name, and where you have gone and “Ah, but she was a grand young leddie” is the unquestioned verdict.

I am in trouble—the post goes here at four, the Old Lady is away, and I have forgotten the number of your box, so I must trust to the universal knowledge of the Riviera.

Give my love to that best of boys, Hugh. Yours with all his heart,


Bun Ranoch Hotel, Kinloch Ranoch, Sept. 3rd. We arrived on Saturday, having had a ripping drive over the hills, on, I think, one of the hottest days Scotland can ever have had, and yesterday was the same thing, and we all felt we could do nothing. The Macdonalds (the farriers) have all been delighted to see us. This is a much more fashionable place than Fearnan. The fishing here is not good—Papa calls them sardines, but Sheila enjoys rowing the boat for him.

Ranoch, September 13th. Good weather lately, now stormy again . . . Sheila and I called on Papa’s old friend, Mr Cranstoun, who was delighted to see us, and talked reminiscences of their early youth, which, of course, pleased me very much. He has some early portraits that Papa painted of Mr Cranstoun’s brother and sister, and some of his student drawings; he also keeps a diary, and evidently dined with us at Hyndford House in 1876, with Grandpapa and Grannie. The fishing is not any good, and I think Papa is getting tired of it; he has a portrait which he is going to begin in October, of a Dundee man and he is in correspondence about another one just now, so that makes him cheerful.

13 p.p. Sept. 29th. “Lovely weather and warm . . . Papa was tired with his journey, but has been working the last two or three days, and really seems better, but he cannot bear the noisy motors of all kinds, and he thinks vulgarity is growing, so he does not enjoy his little walks much. On our way home we spent a night in Glasgow and saw Gordon. Mrs Stokes came to see us off at the station.”

13 p.p., Oct. 4th. “Mrs Stevens and Maud stayed here Monday night. Papa is having Peat [model] to sit and Mr Roberts the other days, so he is quite busy, but always rests in the afternoon; he thinks when Sheila comes home [leaves school] he won’t have so much of my company but I think he will have quite enough of it, as he will have the mornings and evenings and Sheila the afternoons.”

On October 11th they went to Rye to stay for a few days with some young newly married friends. They enjoyed themselves in a quiet way, my Mother wrote to me that “Papa is interested in spiders this morning, having nothing else to do.”


[E. O.’s letters]:

13 p.p., Oct. 26th, 1906. Mr Weinberg came to see about his portrait and was very funny over the transaction; however, he went away satisfied and is to sit in February or April. So Papa, you see, is going to be rather busy, which is a good thing from all points of view; he does not seem to get too tired with his two hours’ and sometimes more work in the morning.

Dr Carlaw Martin has a very fine strong head—he is editor of the Dundee Advertiser, and a very reasonable Radical.

Oct. 26th, 1906. Papa spent last Sunday morning at the Portrait Painters, judging the pictures with four others. He seemed to enjoy it. He is sending “Mrs Joseph” and “Mr Roberts.”

November 2nd, 1906. We had Mr Humphrey Roberts to lunch to-day, then Mr Norman Forbes Robertson and the Duke of Newcastle called with a little picture of Papa’s, painted in 1857 and signed, quite evidently his. Mr Robertson thought Papa had painted it from himself, but he says he painted it mostly from a friend. It is a young Italian painting a lady’s portrait (which is evidently his [W. Q. O.’s] sister), it is really very good colour and quite brilliant and very well preserved—it was very interesting. Papa is so well and quite renewing his youth, and painting two and three hours a day. Wonderful! Everyone says how well he looks. I am sure you would see a splendid difference in him; he walks quite firmly again, so this can keep you in a cheerful frame of mind. He has just gone to the Athenæum to have his chocolate, he takes a fourwheeler and walks back if it is fine.

Towards the end of his life many people brought or sent early pictures for identification and signature, some were authentic, “early indiscretions” or “evidences of a misspent youth,” as my Father called them, but some were not his at all.

The following draft letter is in answer to a blind man:

Nov. 8th, 1906.

Dear Sir,

I am in receipt of the two small landscapes. I am returning them and regret to say they are not my work. The mistake may arise from your not having seen them for twenty years, and possibly they are not the pictures you recollect. They are clever little pictures, but have no resemblance to anything of mine of any period; moreover, they possess no evidence of having been painted by a young man.

With many regrets,

Yours, very truly,

W. Q. Orchardson.

There had been talk for some time of turning Portland Place into a sort of boulevard, with trees, gardens and benches and taxing the houses to pay for it; as the benches would have been entirely occupied by dirty folk the house occupiers strongly objected, my Father amongst them, and he even went the length of going to vote at the Borough Councils, against the extravagant Progressives, of course. “Progress,” he used to say, “is all very well, but it should not be on the lines of making the industrious few pay for the lazy many. Success in life is due more to industry than to brains; brains, in fact, are no good without industry.”

Robbing industrious Peter to pay lazy Paul was as a red rag to a bull to a man who had made most of his own way in life.

My Mother wrote to me: “We really don’t want to save particularly, because with this Government in [the Campbell Bannerman Ministry] they are only making those who save pay for those who won’t, and we don’t see the fun of paying for people who won’t work for themselves.”

But for pain and trouble and unsuccess these two dear people were the kindest in the world.

At the end of November they went to rooms at Brighton, where they exchanged visits with “Grannie” and Sir Walter Gilbey, and my Father went frequent drives with the latter. He was also kept talking at draughty corners by a “silly old bore who talks and talks all about nothing.”

My dear Hilda,

I am wishing you and Hugh and Quiller! the best of all good wishes, including Xmas ones.

Personally, I am in bed in indifferent health, ditto apartments, and am about to get up. We are much interested in S. African affairs and the little sidelights your letters throw, though things look pretty bad, but I think I can see a little light ahead. As often happens, the stupidity of Governments (our Government especially) is followed by a slice of luck and dogged work.

I hope it will be a happy New Year for you all and many of them.

Your very affectionate father,


Photo Grove & Boulton
By kind permission of the Dowager Lady Swaythling.

17 Marine Parade, Brighton.

Nov. 30th, 1906.

My dear Hugh,

Just a hearty good handshake and wishing you well. Things will turn out all right. You are both young and of the sort that can face the ups and downs. Moreover, I know you can pull together.

I send you a little Xmas present and a big affectionate hug.

Your affect. Father,

W. Q. Orchardson.

Dec. 22nd. Saturday in bed! (1906).

13 Portland Place.

My dearest Hilda,

I am very much troubled about you and Hugh; my instinct, of course, is to come to the rescue. My long illness and some unexpected claims put me out of it for a while, a little while only, I hope, when I shall be able to back you in anything that may turn up.

I have had another letter from Col. Hill; he has been ill again, but is coming up here shortly to talk things over; he seems much in the dark about matters generally and anxious for information.

And now, my dear Lassie, you are going through a time of stress and trial which tries character; think, however, of the time when you will look back on it as a battle in which courage and conduct led to victory.

With all my love,


But having sold a picture he did “come to the rescue”—I never knew till now what it was he had sold—what a treasure for my Mother to part with! A little note of this date explains the matter; it is labelled by E. O.: “Written to Mr James MacCulloch about ‘Master Baby’ in 1906.”

“I have lately been approached by Th . . . on the subject of the B., but I remembered my promise to you that if ever I thought of parting with it I would let you know. It was not then in the market, now, however, I am willing to sell, and as I agree with most people that it is my best work, yours is the gallery where I would most gladly see it find a home. What do [you] say?”

In December they were arranging for a visit from Tom Graham, but the news of his death came instead.

[Draft letter]: 13 Portland Place.

My dear MacLachlan,

Many thanks for your kind and appreciative letter, it has quite a tonic effect on one and brings my usually reluctant pen to paper at once. The portrait of Dr. Martin will finish itself this week if there is any daylight (the last week there was none to speak of), and I shall forward it to your address at the Institute, if that is right; it has its frame so there will be no delay.

My dear old friend Tom Graham, how terrible, and how I regret seeing so little of him of late. His was an exceptional and fascinating personality and his art was pure gold, a mine into which, alas! he was never able to sink a shaft deep enough to bring up more than some splendid specimens of the ore within. [Unfinished.]

I believe my Father thought Tom Graham might well have been elected to the Academy, and I know that he thought his pictures were often rejected or badly hung without reason.

Mr. J. Farquharson reminds me of a saying of Orchardson’s on the subject of hanging: “The cruellest thing about a picture being badly hung is that it always looks as if it justified its place.”

Another time he said (again vide Mr Farquharson): “The last hope of a picture goes when the last bit of white canvas is covered.”

76 Fellows Rd.


Dear Orchardson,

Your picture keeps haunting me with wonder and admiration.

I can now see that—given a great genius—there is no end to variety in the best style of painting.


T. Graham.


My Father’s last years were very peaceful and happy. Money was rather scarce, but it was beyond his vision except when he actually needed it, and my Mother kept as many worries from him as possible.

“He was a constant habitué of the Athenæum when in London, and though of a rather retiring disposition he was usually surrounded by friends anxious to talk to him; he was endeared to a large circle of friends and acquaintances both by his cultivated mind and by his amiable personal qualities.”[5]

My Father was a really shy man though he did not appear so, but I could always tell when he was shy by his voice, which became alternately falsetto and deep base instead of its usual baritone.

1907 opened well with three portraits in view and another which, however, did not come off.


[Draft letter, partly in E. O.’s and partly in W. Q. O.’s handwriting]:

13 Portland Place, W.,

January 25th, 1907.

Dear Mr MacLauchlan,

Many thanks for your letter and the paper. . . . Mr Orchardson is vexed about the little notice in the paper you sent where the writer says he has reason to believe that Mr O. would be willing to undertake the C[ampbell] B[annerman] portrait. Mr Bone asked if he was going to do it, and Mr Orchardson said he knew nothing about that.

The writer might as well have said that he believed that any painter in Scotland would be willing to do it. [Unfinished.]

A resident Scotchman was finally chosen to do this portrait—Guthrie, I think.


[E. O.’s letters]:

Jan. 4th, 1907. “We drank your health [‘Hilda, Hugh and little Quiller’] on New Year’s Day in the special champagne Mr Roberts gave us, so with such good wine and the gift from such a kind old man we hope it will bring you luck.

“On Sunday two very nice Australian ladies called (Mrs Landor and Miss Broughton), cousins of Papa’s; the relationship took a long time to explain, but we saw a connection even in the shape of the faces. We invited them to lunch, and sent them away with photographs of Papa; they said they had an Aunt Nelly, lately dead, very like him—altogether a strange visit.

“Tallentyre’s Voltaire which we are reading is very interesting.

“Where is your farm? We want to look up your position on the map.”

My Father was very keen on maps, if a war were on he followed every movement of the armies on the best maps he could obtain, and whenever we went to a new place he would always buy an ordnance survey map of the district and study it most carefully.

Work in the morning, friends “dropping in” to luncheon, walk or cab to the Athenæum, and then a quiet dinner at home, with perhaps Charlie or some old friends in the evening—such was his life now as seen in my Mother’s letters, varied occasionally by his wife’s absence to see her mother, and of course by fishing whenever possible in health and weather.


[E. O.’s letters]:

Feb. 1st, 1907. 13 p.p. “It is still very cold. Papa is still going out very little but is remarkably well; he is resting as usual (3.30 p.m.), and wished me to tell you so and to send you his love and say that he had sent off his finished portrait of Mr Carlaw Martin yesterday and is therefore tired. I went to Brighton to Grannie’s and when I returned in the evening found he had had an awfully busy day—in the morning Peat [a model], then half an hour’s walk in the cold, and when he returned he found Mrs Pettie waiting for lunch, then Mr Heaton Armstrong, Mr MacCulloch and Mr Trower; also the men in between times packing and sending off his pictures. He said he had not had a minute’s peace, and of course had not had his usual rest, so he is very tired and did not think he could spare me often.

“The papers are full of church matters just now—French and English—so I spend a great deal of time before Papa gets up in the morning reading to him on that subject. We admire Dr Campbell; he seems to be very plucky.

“Father is busy painting his replica [finished sketch] of ‘Voltaire’ and the other day again turned out ‘The Lady in the Carriage.’ ”

[p.m. London, Feb. 23rd, 1907.]

Saturday in bed.

Not ill but rather on account of the post. I have been a troubled person lately about your affairs. . . . I do not like this new S.A. Constitution—give me an inkling how much it is likely to affect your affairs.

Your very loving,


[Undated draft letterscrap evidently to Mr St. Quintin]:

“Many thanks for your kind letter. Like you, I begin to smell April, and I feel it is so good of you to associate me with your thoughts of Bois Mill. I have spent many happy days there and would again.”

In April my Father sent a present of brown and rainbow trout to Mr St. Quintin, who accepted them on condition that W. Q. O. tried to catch them all by going to Bois Mill more frequently than hitherto. Fish had been going down stream, especially rainbows, and a grating was now put up to keep them at home.


[E. O.’s letters]:

April 18th. Papa still dreams a lot. Last night he dreamt that little Quiller was by his side. . . . So you will understand by this that he is rather interested.

It is gloomy, foggy weather. Yesterday after tea we started for a walk to the MacWhirters but we saw Tadema at his door so we went in there and saw the picture he had been at work on for three years; there are 2596 figures, he says. He is very proud of it from an archæological point of view, but the figures in front are modern types of English Jewesses, certainly not classical heads.

April 26th. Papa went to the R.A. this morning (for “touching-up”) and enjoyed himself very much. One of his portraits is in the big room; I think they might have hung the other pendant with it, but they have put it in the first room. He is very vexed at Charlie’s picture being out; he thought it good.

Politics still trouble and interest him and so do our old friends the enemy—Germany—who always seem to want war with us and I suppose will get it in time.

May 20th. The Woolwich men had a very big demonstration in Trafalgar Square—all the best men are leaving the country and the “unemployed” (i.e. unemployable) remain. But for all that London is being pulled down and rebuilt and lots of hotels and big flats going up.

We think we have let Hawley House so we are in the midst of lawyers and agreements. We have been having lovely roses from Hawley lately and I wish I could send you some (to South Africa), at which Papa and Sheila laugh heartily.

Mr Marston, late editor of The Fishing Gazette, very kindly promised me all the help in his power, including some letters from my Father, but, alas! he died before he could find them after a house-moving.

Fishing Gazette,

May 24th, 1907.

Dear Orchardson,

I hope you are well and have had some fishing. Did you see the Athenæum notice of the Academy? I could not help quoting it in the publisher’s circular. Anglers often wish for a “slightly longer line” when trying to reach a trout beyond their casting power. What does the critic mean by saying that you are the only Academician “liable” to produce portraits like Sargent’s “Mrs Sassoon” and “All in One Skin”? Does he insinuate you might by accident do it? . . .

Yours very truly,

R. B. Marston.

13 Portland Place.

My dear Marston,

Your kind note which has been following on my devious track is only in time to give me the chance of apology and thanks and “Many o’ them.”

The enclosure is amusing. The critic you refer to as being in doubt as to the propriety of doing all one’s work in the same skin may not know that it is the only one I have got. I have, I am sorry to say, no change, a fact which discloses the beggarly state of my integumental wardrobe.

Coming, however, to matters of more weight and moment, it is pleasant to hear of the good time you and your notable little party are having on the Itchen—you don’t mention the whereabouts. Was it your old place below Brambridge?

I had an adventure the other day with a rainbow (2 lbs. 14 ozs.), learning incidentally of a theory I had expressed tentatively—but that is another story.

Do you ever lunch? If so and you care to risk it, I should be very glad to see you here any day that is least inconvenient at 1.30. It is the only time of the day at which I am much of a certainty.


[E. O.’s letters]:

June 13th. Last week we went to stay with Mr. and Mrs. Gibson (née Joachim) at Chorley Wood. Papa drove over to the Bois Mill for fishing, and on Sunday we all went to have tea at the George Alexanders.

The Anderson Critchetts were having tea there, and we spent a very happy afternoon, though we had some very heavy thunder and rain.

Two old friends, Léon Gauchez and “Jimmie” Cranstoun, have just died, unfortunately Papa got both letters at the same time. However, he is busy with his work so is all right, but he is anxious to do too much work—he is in a hurry to get to Scotland, where we have taken rooms for August.

Monsieur Gauchez’s death was not unexpected; his last letter was to my Mother in April 1906, a charming letter, full of friendship for the family as well as love for the “illustrious” artist, rejoicing that justice had been done to the great artist, the real chief of the British school. My Father had just been elected by acclamation Honorary Member of the Society of Artists Français, the most important and powerful art society of that time.

At the end of the letter Monsieur Gauchez tells of his dream of happiness, that he may once more come to London to see his old friend and his family once more before his death. To my Mother he signs himself “Your most faithful and respectful servant,” but to my Father he wrote “the old, very old Léon Gauchez who remains and will remain till his last day your quite affectionate and devoted friend.”


[E. O.’s letters]:

47 Marine Parade,


June 21st. I thought I was going to write you such a cheerful long letter, but Papa is not well and I had to send for the doctor this morning. He has been so bright lately and though he was tired with his work, he was enjoying Brighton, the fresh air and a bath chair in the morning. I hope he will soon pick up again—as you know he has wonderful recuperative qualities.

June 27th. Papa is up to-day and on the sofa in our nice large sitting-room, our nurse whom we have liked very much leaves to-morrow. He is now beginning to be in a hurry to get back to his work, but I tell him he must learn to take things more quietly.

June 28th. The Birthday Honours include Papa’s name, and so at last he has his well-earned knighthood. We had a short letter from Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman the other day, asking if he would accept it if he put his name before the King, so he dictated a letter to me and signed it—but this was all a secret message.

Papa is really quite pleased, and I think it has made him better, though he had a bad night with pain. We are having an awful lot of telegrams—I hope the pleasure will do him heaps of good.

Sir William! your Father wishes me to say that his pain is gone and that he is looking forward to going up to town again to his work, so you see he is quite cheerful and enjoys the joke.

June 23rd, 1907. 47 Marine Parade,


Dear Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman,

I appreciate and would willingly accept the honour you propose, which will have for me an added importance from the fact that it would come through the initiative of my most distinguished fellow-countryman.

Please excuse a dictated letter (to my wife), but I have been suddenly laid up here with a relapse of my former illness.

[E. O.’s letters]:

July 5th. Portland Place. Since last writing we have lived in a state of excitement what with letters and telegrams and poor Papa not well, but I think he has enjoyed the splendid letters—I am keeping them all for you to read when you come home.

I am going to try and arrange for him to go to the Investiture with Sir James Blyth who is to be made a peer.

We came back here yesterday as Papa was anxious to get back to his studio. Unfortunately we have had to go to the first floor as the ground floor was let and he said he “felt like a prisoner doing his fourteen days.”

In announcing the Birthday Honours, at least one newspaper said: “Many would have preferred the O.M. for Orchardson.” He would much have preferred it himself, indeed, the Order of Merit was the only honour for which I ever heard him express admiration. But with his usual sweet temper he took and appreciated the late and lesser honour that came to him.

Out of the many letters of congratulation I choose the following:

70, Addison Rd.,

June 28th, ’07.

My dear Orchardson,

My warmest congratulations on the honour that has been bestowed on you none too soon. May I add how greatly I admire your portraits in the Academy, especially the one in the big room which has a distinction beyond any other in the Exhibition.

Yours very sincerely,

Edward T. Poynter.

69 Eton Avenue, N.W.,

June 28th, 1907.

My Dear Orchardson,

Hearty congratulations on the somewhat tardy acknowledgment of your great achievements as a painter. The honour will not add to your fame, but it will please your brother artists and especially the Society of which you are President.

Yours sincerely,

John Collier.

Royal Scottish Academy,


24th July, 1907.

Sir William Quiller Orchardson, R.A., H.R.S.A.

Dear Sir,

At a meeting of Council held yesterday I was desired by Sir James Guthrie and the other members of the Council to convey to you their heartiest congratulations on the distinguished honour recently conferred on you by his Majesty the King.

The announcement was received with enthusiasm in Art circles north of the Tweed, especially in your native city and by the members of the Academy of which you have so long been an honorary and honoured member. That you may be long spared to enjoy this honour—too long deferred—and to add to the work we all admire so much is, I am sure, the wish of every member of the Royal Scottish Academy.

I am,

Yours faithfully,

Wm. D. M. McKay, Secy.

1 Abbey Rd., N.W.,

June 28th.

My dear Friend,

We were so pleased to see your dear Man’s name among those to be honoured, this morning. I do hope he is feeling well enough to feel a little bit pleased himself. I have been down to Portland Place this morning to ask for news. . . . Much love to you both and we should be so glad to have a card with news.

Always yours affectionately,

Katherine MacWhirter.

By kind permission of Lady Dewar.

[On the same friendly paper]:

My dear Orchardson,

I do hope you are keeping a little better. I was distressed to hear of your illness again.

The honour is, of course, more than deserved. But I can only say as Lady Millais said, when he was baroneted, “Well, Everett, they should have done it long ago.”

At all times your

J. MacW.


82 Finchley Rd., N.W.,

June 28th, 1907.

My dear Orchardson,

With so many things topsy-turvy as they are just now it is, indeed, a pleasure to see even one thing set right, and your knighthood gave me that pleasure when I opened the paper this morning.

You may not care about it, but it will not be a matter of indifference to Lady Orchardson and your children that this recognition of your powers should have been officially registered (better late than never), but to all of us your friends and colleagues it is most grateful, as it shows that there is still balm in Gilead and that really good art has still its place in high quarters.

My wife sends her love to Lady Orchardson and joins with me in sincere congratulations.

Ever sincerely Yours,

Briton Rivière.

The one good deed of C.-B.’s Government—but perhaps this is entirely the King’s work.

Arts Club,

July 1st, 1907.

My dear Orchardson,

I sent you a brief wire of congratulation, but I must send you a written word to tell you how unfeignedly glad I was to hear the good news of the official recognition which should many years ago have been awarded to you. All your brother artists have for long hoped for it for you, and I am sure no artistic honours that have been conferred for many years will have given more pleasure to the profession than yours.

I send you and Lady Orchardson my best wishes for your health and happiness.

Always sincerely yours,

Luke Fildes.

Thanks for your telegram which we recd.

Pray do not think of replying to this. Rest and get well.

Brampton House,

Gt. Marlow, Bucks.

June 25th, 1907.

My dear Orchardson,

The hearts of all your brethren are light within them this morning. I for one feel that something like a national disgrace had been removed.

Please accept my heartiest and warmest congratulations, and believe me,

Yours very sincerely,

E. T. Gregory.

Yacht Van der Meer,

At sea off Fowey,

July 1st, 1907.

My dear Orchardson,

My belated congratulations are owing to my having been at sea and only by