Letter to Fannie

August 21, 1870

Mss 12: S-g 1, Series A, S-s 2, Folder 13

 

                                                                                   Gibralter (sic) Spain

                                                                                   Aug 21st 1870

 

My dear Fannie

Now in the quiet of this Sunday evening I must sit down and try to give you a general idea of what has passed since I wrote you last.  I dropped a letter in the mail for you, just before we left Dover.

Tiffany has fallen asleep in his chair near me and his heavy breathing tells me the long walk we took has tired him as indeed it has me.  Let me see - when I last wrote you we were in London and about to leave for Dover.

We arrived on the 10th and found considerable there of interest, and made several sketches - one particularly, I made of the cliff with the fortifications that will make a fine large picture.  Tiffany did not do much as he spent the most of his time walking around looking for subjects.

We left Dover for Calais on the 11th in a small steamer, the wind was blowing a gale and we tumbled about horribly and by the time we reached Calais there were a great many sick ones on board, your humble servant among the number, however it did not prevent me from enjoying the spirited action of the fishing boats off the French coast.  I wish you could have been there; their sails are all sorts of colors and they are the very perfection of picturesque beauty.  The foam and spray broke completely over the long piers at Calais and as we were about to turn into a small opening between two piers a big wave broke over the port quarter and washed us most completely fortunately no one was washed overboard but it was wonder we got off so well.  We had short time to stay there, so we went out and made a little sketch of boats.

Tiffany speaks enough French to get along, so all went well until we reached Paris.  We drove to the Grand Hotel and found our rooms had been secured for us by a friend of Tiffanys.  All Paris was in a fearful state of excitement and we found if we remained there we might not get out at all, so that evening we went to some places of announcement - which I will tell you about sometime when I return. And the next day we rushed about and bought all our oil color materials.  We had already procured our water color materials in London and got our passports visa'd and numerous other things done and left Paris that night - the 12th.

The cars in England and on the Continent are very much inferior to ---- to travel in by night as there is no place to lie down at full length unless there are less than eight passengers and that seldom happens.  The cars are what are called English Coach Cars, and sometimes they crowd in more than eight and then they are frightfully close.  The next morning we passed many old towns with ruined buildings all moss grown and stained by time.  I felt like getting out and making sketches all the way.  At the time I wrote you I think I told you that we should probably spend Sunday in Bordeaux, then I did not think we should rush things so, instead of spending it there we went to Madrid.  After passing Bayonne we ran into the north of Spain and then the character of the landscape and indeed everything else changed completely.  We soon ran well into the Pyrenees and ran through long tunnels and over bridges built over mountain gorges.

We saw some very strange wild people through this region called the"Basques", they wear caps something like the Highlanders only finer in color and they have heavy sashes - ------ - around their waists.  They seemed to secure the wilder places for their homes - always on some steep mountain crag overlooking a stream.  Their houses seem made of a combination of sun dried bricks - stones and mud - their roofs are tiled and red and yellow in color in even.  I have never seen anything so fine in color artistically speaking as those houses.

Every once in a little while as darted from some tunnel or turned a curve - the road used by the peasants came in sight and along its shining white dusty surface we could see the quaint old lumbering carts, often times loaded with people dressed in bright showy colors.  Then every once in a few minutes we would see long trains of donkeys with their ----- loaded with melons &c(sic).

The two days ride to Madrid became very tedious and we were well nigh used up when we got there.

The railroad runs over a great deal of country like that between Omaha and Cheyenne - flat and uninteresting.  The nights drag slowly away crowded up as you are.  In the morning when the train stops for a wait you are aroused just as you have begun to sleep from utter meanness by the shrill cries of Agua - Agua - Agua.  You poke your head out of the window and see one or two wretched looking huts and the doleful cry  - always in a dismal drawling minor key - as if someone in deep distress proceeds from just such a forlorn creature as you would expect to see.

I was glad when we reached Madrid we had not heard a word of English or French spoken since we left the Pyrenees and at the depot we found a courier from one of the hotels and went there with him.  After noon we went to the Museum of Art and saw some glorious old pictures by ---illo? - Velasquez & Rubens and others.  I wished for you so much all the time.  The Titians of Mirch?? there were several ---- the most perfect things in color I have ever seen.  But I am running too much into details.  After taking a nap we went on that afternoon and reached Malaga on the evening of the 15th. We worked very hard at Malaga and  I saw several things to share you as a result, one particularly. of a part of an old church which I think you will like, If I ever come this way again I hope you will be with me I shall know just what to do.  We left Malaga and arrived here on the 19th. We thought it might be cooler here, but it is fearfully hot everywhere and if we get clear without getting fever or something of the sort we will be lucky.  We met with a little adventure coming through the Sierra Morena?? mountains which I will tell you about when I return, now don’t get curious - you shall know.  We are rather disappointed with Gibraltar - the rock itself is fine but the boats and craft have no color in them.  We have not seen a single boat with colored sails.  We intend to stay here until the last of this month and then if the weather will permit we shall go to Tangier - from what we can learn and judging from photographs, we can find splendid things there.  There are quite a number of Moors here with splendid costumes but it is almost impossible to get them to sit for us as models as they are nearly all merchants and are "well to do".  If there is anything particularly you wish me to write you about please let me know.

Now I have written the other two sheets of this letter in such a way that I think you will be able to read them to your Aunts if you wish to.  I hardly know what I have written.  I only know I have tried to avoid writing much you would be unwilling for them to see.

I must say, Fannie dear, that I have been homesick all day today and am very much so this evening.  I have had no letter since I left home - a month now and do not know a word of what has transpired.  Your photograph comforts me, I have it where I can take it out and look at it a long time before I retire for the night.  I have taken all the photographs of my friends and put them on the stand beside my bed, and yours is among the number so that Tiffany has no suspicion that I care more for that than any of the others.  He wonders why

I can work so hard (I have many more sketches and more carefully done than he has). He does not know what is at the bottom of it.  He has never known what it is to love a woman and what?  we are every day more to each other than we are at present.  I hope good will come of it.  I should have had many sad and weary hours since I left you if the memory of your tenderness had left me.   You can be my light - my star I will sail straight and unhesitating to my final haven, but if I lose my compass - God help me.  I will try to steer right but I don’t know  where I will bring up.  Good night my love - God bless and keep you ever.  Farewell.

 

Ever yours

Robert