W5018 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his sister Ruby
Jul 9 1903 Wednesday afternoon
To: Montreal, Quebec,
From: Whitehern, Hamilton, Ontario
My dearest Cal,
It was good of you to write me such an interesting letter all to myself, for of course I read your other letters now.1 We were very glad to hear you were having such an interesting little trip. You really saw a great deal in such a short time.2 I should like to see the art collection tho'. I'm quite sure that though I would appreciate the value of some of these old pictures I should fail to enjoy them. I never could see why an artist painted a cross-eyed girl. It needs special study to appreciate the ancient works of art I think. I would like to see the works of the finest modern artists. One should be able to enjoy them without a special study as it were of the history of painting. Sargent 3 belongs to our time and you liked him and we enjoy the work of our best Canadian painters & it would be interesting just to see whether you really enjoyed the paintings of the best. Half these people who exclaim over the ancient paintings never really cared for them a bit. Mrs. James was saying that fully half the pictures in the Royal Academy in London you wouldn't care to have in your house.
Mr. Moxon--I've suddenly forgotten how the uncle spells his name--is at the James' and his words come out with many pauses and ah-ahs and similar sounds.
The cherries are over. There weren't many. We couldn't get out any boys of any size to pick and the little gaffers picked some eight quarts from the lower branches with the aid of the step ladder. True to my old time nature I ascended the tree with rake & pail & basket and picked some eight quarts. But it took a good deal of stretching for the cherries weren't thick any place and I didn't undertake it again. Yesterday I weeded the asparagus bed & discovered the gooseberries were ripe, so as the family have gone back on gooseberry jam, in fact on jam in general--they say, "Now that you are away we really eat no fines at all." Rather rough on my appetite! Nelly James says her family tell her the same thing. So as this was the case we invited Helen Locke to pick some & we had a Bee last night & picked her a basket full, which she carted home on her wheel. This morning I picked a large basketful of blackberries. Where do you think those new bushes have sprung up? In the ancient chicken coop--nourishing ground? between the grape vines by the raspberries & in a row along by the back fence. They wanted something new. Well old boy the garden is beautiful. I wish you could see it--poppies, pink& red, [?] of lilies, larkspur, cornflowers of every color, sweet peas, roses almost gone, mignonette, coreopsis--that word is wrong never mind--and petunias. The catalpas have been beautiful but have gone. The blossoms weren't good or I would have sent you some. I thought of you.
Well old boy I'll have to run, Mama can tell the news. Thanks for the fiver. It is very acceptable. It was fine to think you had a pass. Oh you needn't feel selfish taking the day with such an opportunity. We sent you as a scout to look up the clan.4
With much love hoping you are well.
Your loving sister,
1 "Now" refers to the fact that Ruby is "now" at home and has access to all of Calvin's letters to other members of the family. The letters were always shared.
2 Calvin had made a trip to the old McQuesten homestead in New Hampshire.
3 John Singer Sargent, the son of an American doctor, was born in Florence, Italy in 1856 (died 1925). He studied painting in Italy and France and in 1884 caused a sensation at the Paris Salon with his painting of Madame Gautreau. Exhibited as Madame X people complained that the painting was provocatively erotic. He also painted scenes of the first world war. www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ARTsargent.htm - 18k
4 Calvin's salary was very small and it is very rare for Calvin to be sending money to anyone, however, Ruby had send him some money in a previous letter (W4981).