Art and Painting

Extracts of Letters discussing Art and Painting


[From Elizabeth Gwillim to her Mother, Esther Symonds, October 17, 1801

Page 8: I sit to write exactly opposite your picture with Hetty’s the two Thoburns & Nancy Green – I seem to be talking to you. 

[From Mary Symonds to her Mother, Esther Symonds, October 14, 1801

Page 12: The three little figures I have sent are an Ayah or Ladies Portuguese maid A little Moor Boy who is the sort of servant generally kept to wait on single Ladies at dinner, and Fanny Lackey [?] whose business is to put water in the Bedrooms and to sweep the floors of them 

 [From Mary Symonds to her Sister, Hester “Hetty” Symonds James, October 14, 1801

Page 1: I send 3 little figures which I fear my Mother will be disappointed to find of as small a size as they will require her best spectacles to discover their ornaments; the necklace bracelets and earring of the lowest servants are of the finest gold some of the better order of women are quite loaded with gold and jewels, but in these ornaments consist their whole wealth they call them joys some wear large rings in the nose and have their toes and fingers [word missing] with rings 

Page 2: If I had drawn the figures of a larger size you would perhaps have had some difficulty and expence in getting them through the India house or else I must have troubled some person to get them on shore and so have used that interest which would convey a better thing. If you chuse [sic] to keep the whole collection as I send them you must coppy [sic] them for my mother or else desire her to return them to you—I could wish you to shew them to G. Samuel and tell him that he shall have some houses and Choultries and pagodas very (3) soon that is to say we propose seting [sic] about them after the rains are over when for 2 or 3 months we shall be able to sit out of doors several hours in the day as the weather will be cool and clear. I hope now we are settled that I shall be able to send something for the curious by every opportunity.  


 [From Elizabeth Gwillim to her Mother, Esther Symonds, January 23, 1802

Page 7: This is a sketch of the insect [drawing of insect] 

Page 12: The Sea is a fine object on one side & on the others there are fine hills two ranges of hills, the first begins 7 miles from the Sea the houses are on the plain of this space & the Rice fields & towns intermixed – The roads are cut into so many directions & windings to the innumerable houses & villages that I have as yet not the least notion of the plan of it & the servants tell me “If my Mistress every day go out for one year she will every day see some new road”. – I therefore when I go out in the Carriage tell them to take us anywhere for a pretty ride & sweet scenes we see as can be on a (13flat country –  

Page 18: The Fort is very handsome from the Fortifications it has several handsome squares in it & the buildings are all in the same stile [sic] as the Garden houses, but higher but with flat roofs – The Church & some publick [sic] buildings rise above them. In a view it looks like prints one has seen of views of Grecian Cities, all Temples & no middling houses. — 

The Black town is the most curious in a view, it presents such a variety of objects: streets full of palaces such as I have described – English Porteguese [sic] & Armenian Church Christian – Churches – Hindoo – Pagodas & Moorish Mosques, & tombs – & when you go through the streets the various business carried on & the lower buildings which from the extent of the town are equally curious – … 

 The houses of the Natives make no shew [sic] but look neat enough where the streets are regular which is pretty much the case. The Streets are not paved but broad, the people walk on the middle way the sides are raised one two or three feet with steps up at every house but the space before every house is [word crossed out] appropriated to it & not intruded on by passengers- The roof of the house overhangs about 3 feet in the way of our pent houses & over shadows a solid raised part like a Balk on which the (19) people sit by day & where they frequently sleep at night – The door is small & low with a carving in wood over it & the wall of the house has no window to the street, but is painted according to the fancy of the owner- either with Tygers a Tyger [sic] hunt or dancing girls – flowers in borders or plain stripes. These paintings are in water colours painted on the white wash, just in the stile [sic] & with about as much skill as paintings are done on the walls of rooms in our farm houses to imitate paper. – 

Page 20: They are certainly beautiful buildings, but many regret that they have not the coolness of the native houses. I have drawn a plan on the back of this of a native house & have made rounds where the pillars are which are always used within to support it but not always on the outside.  

[plan on reverse not scanned] 

Page 21: I dare say you have thought me a very negligent correspondent but when I was on board ship I did a good deal of drawing of such things as we caught &c & I left Polly to write, when I came here I had to go about looking at houses & arranging it when I got one – 

Page 22: we have two kinds of ants which infest the houses a large black [drawing of ant] kind & a very small red sort [drawing of ant] these are only kept out by constant sweeping 

[From Elizabeth Gwillim to her Sister, Hester “Hetty” Symonds James, February 7, 1802

Page 1: Her picture & the miniatures hang over my dressing table where I write so I have all my friends before me see here we are pray [drawing of dressing table] look at us – I have made my poor mother a shocking face but it is a hasty piece & she must excuse it Nothing I brought out has been admired equal to my mothers picture  

Page 7: Our house is about near two miles from the Fort & the Fort is built close to the Sea The Walls &c are [words crossed out] very handsome with barracks under them at low water you can walk under them. The beach is like Borth Sands or Barmouth, but the Horses here have not strength enough to draw you a Carriage along the sand, you must either get out & walk or go in a Palenquin [sic]. The ground on which the Fort is built stands out a little to the sea & the shore hollows in, in a slight curve from the Fort to St: Thomé, a large town – & you see the one place from the other as Aberystwith [sic] appeard [sic] from the rock. 

Page 12: I have drawn a few birds & the Cochineal insect & plant but I have not [been] able for one thing or other to do any Landscape drawings yet. I hope I shall but the views are quite beyond my sketching powers – Visiting, & very unwell in the Monsoon & every time I go out I come home just tired as if I had been at an exhibition of pictures.  

[From Mary Symonds to her Sister, Hester “Hetty” Symonds James, Madras, February 11, 1802

Page 3: I intend writing to G. Samuel by this ship because I think he will be glad to hear from me tho he has not asked me to write his time is very precious and therfore [sic] I shall not expect to hear much from him. — 

Page 12: I shall send with this a drawing which Betsy has written a description of12 therfore [sic] I need not say any thing on the subject but that it is sad representation I shall also send the old Taylor who works in the house Betsy says he puts her in mind of some (13) the people described in the Arabian nights entertainment. I have painted a table and some other things about the house, and I have drawn some Butterflies and other insects but somehow or other I do not find much time to draw going out in the morning for exercise and in the evening for pleasure, with preparations for the latter take up a great deal of time. and I have a good many notes to answer every day.  

[From Elizabeth Gwillim, an addition to an earlier letter, n.d., perhaps 1802

Page 1: The eight other dancers come forward as in the figure dances on the stage – two of them of Masks & these two play various Buffoon tricks — This you are to think is part of a letter but written so long ago there is no more to be met with however I sent it to explain Mary’s drawing by her desire. – New Year’s day is kept with the same state as xmas day the servants make their presents, but this is a very expensive day to the Masters for between my own servants those of the Court & various people it cost me about 50 Pagodas in presents – You must learn to understand Indian money or else I can never talk to you – 8 Doodies make 1 fenam – 12 fenams 1 Rupee 3 ½ Rupees make one Pagoda – a Doodie is called 10 Cash but there is no such coin as a cash – 1 fenam is about two pence halfpenny a Rupee 2s/6 – a Pagoda sometimes 8s/. sometimes more or less. -  

[From Elizabeth Gwilim to her Sister, Hester “Hetty” Symonds James, March 18, 1802

Page 3: I send by the same gentleman a mother of pearl snuff box in which you will find a China thimble for you & another for Nancy Green – two pieces of Chrystal [sic] called here Vellum stone for cutting seals upon which are for George Samuel.  

Page 4: pray send the Vellum stones with the Waistcoat to G. S. & tell him I have got down one of his drawings & I am working away after his manner in back grounds to my birds – but if I work much I shall have no colours left – I have searched & enquired in all places for the Indian yellow, but there is no such a thing to be heard of & I cannot th[ink] it is of the substance he imagines it to be – I shou’d rather suppose it to be some preparation of turmerick [sic] which is the paint the natives use on their persons & I have seen a great deal equally fine in colour but not so finely ground & prepared. -  

Page 9: – I have written some long letters that I was obliged to write & am very busy with drawing Birds. — 

[From Mary Symonds to her Sister, Hester “Hetty” Symonds James, March 18 1802

Page 1: I must tell you how I spend a good deal of time; it is owing to a new acquirement which has brought me into great request here; (2) amongst my female friends; I am become a miniature painter (don’t laugh) I have finished one Lady’s portrait, have two more in hand, and twenty petitioners praying to be drawn; but I don’t undertake gentlemen for if I did I should not have breathing time. I thought to have sent you a specimen of my performances (in that way) by these ships, but I have not had time to do any of our own family, except myself; I drew myself first as a trial, and it was thought like, but I have had the misfortune to loose [sic] it. I believe it is stolen by some of the servents [sic], I shall be much obliged to you if you will send me a dozn [sic] of glasses for miniatures of different sizes and let them come by the first opportunity, our friend G. Samuel will tell you where to get them; I can buy plenty of Ivory here, and have got some charming brushes and white paint from China. Pray tell G.S. that I expect he will write to me and give me some information on this subject, and I desire he will let me into all the secrets he can find out about it, for I cannot get any instruction here. 

[From Elizabeth Gwillim to her Mother, Esther Symonds, July 16, 1802

Page 10: This tank has a curb stone round it & steps to the bottom of granite – it must have been an immense work as many of their tanks are. They are not flights of steps at intervals but the whole sides are steps from one end to the other. It is so deep that a little Temple or Pagoda which (11) is in the middle is now covered & will not appear till after a long dry season – at present about eight steps brings you to the edge of the water – The illumination of this large tank is the prittiest [sic] thing of the kind that can [drawing of steps: steps with a lamp on each; reflection in the water] be imagined I cannot describe the appearance without drawing it. One lamp is placed on each step up & down in a wave to the water’s edge – each lamp has a tremulous reflection in the water – The lamps are very strongly lighted & the reflection is like a pointed fringe of fire hanging in the water –