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Letter to Thomas Leslie, 1812 February 2

 Item — Box: 1, Folder: 2
Call Number: MSS 15, Series III

Scope and Contents

The letter is sent from No. 82, Great Titchfield Street, Fitzroy Square, addressed to Thomas Leslie at Number 48 South Sixth Street, Philadelphia. Charles writes a lengthy letter to his brother, telling him of his experiences in London during his artistic training. He acknowledges a recent letter from Thomas that arrived on the Anna Maria and makes some remarks and inquiries about mutual acquaintances, mentioning a captain who is sailing to America and a picture that Thomas is obtaining from Sully (i.e. Thomas Sully?), as well as a picture offered by Carpenter. He jokingly sends his love to a woman described as his "destined bride," suggesting that a woman in Philadelphia believes that they have formed an attachment that does not exist. Leslie writes of taking lodgings with "Mr [Samuel F.B.] Morse a son of the celebrated geographer." He writes of his deep friendship with Morse, with whom he lives "like brothers." Leslie goes on to describe his living arrangement and routine dining. He mentions dining "a few days ago with Mr [Benjamin] West" and a few other people; their party "consisted [mostly] of Americans." Leslie comments that West mentions a "tavern in Strawberry Alley" where "two of his early pictures" are and where he first "discovered a taste for painting." Leslie describes West's upcoming project of a "picture of Christ before Pilate," anticipating it to be "equal to any thing of Raphael's or Michael Angelo's." Leslie plans to draw a bust of West, which Morse has recently bought, and send it to Thomas.

Leslie goes on to mention that West has given him "a note of introduction to Fuseli at the Royal Academy." He notes, however, that he does not go often to the academy because, "the accommodations for students are so very bad...the figures [for drawing] are discoloured, the room so badly lighted that you can't see the outline distinctly, and generally very crowded with students..." He says that he and Morse often draw from casts at home, returning them for half price when they are through with them. Leslie writes of trying to visit the Horse Armoury (at the Tower of London), but being charged full price and then being denied permission to make sketches.

Leslie reports having gone to see "Mr Barker's panoramas, the seige [sic] of Flushing, and Bay of Messina they are so well painted as to be quite deception [sic], particularly the latter one, as they extend in a circular form all round the rooms and the spectators are placed in the center the effect is very astonishing, I actually put on my hat imagining myself to be in the open air." He comments that the painting is so effective that it was impossible to tell how far the canvas was from him, seeming even "thirty miles off" at one point.

Charles writes that he has not been much to the theater, as it is repetitive and he is tired of pantomimes. He writes that "Mrs Siddons is to quit the stage after this season," and is currently performing in Edinburgh. "When she returns," he vows, "I shall go almost every night, as I never expect to see such another woman."

Leslie mentions some new acquaintances in Turnham Green, including a family called the Collets and a Dr Rogers. He notes that a Mr Jennings in London, a "picture cleaner," remembers his father and has emigrated from Philadelphia himself. He also mentions a family called the Earles and a Miss Daghton, "daughter of the actor of that name," and sister to a painter who has won a prize at the academy. Leslie writes of a Mr Alston, "a young American artist of very fine talents," with whom he and Morse spend time.

Leslie writes of a "new play by Reynolds...called the 'Origin of the Sun.'" He mentions some current reviews of the play and assures Thomas that he will soon be able to see it "on the other side of the water."

Leslie notes British opinion of the way "Congress are proceeding," and mentions that he is glad of the "spirit" of his "countrymen." He plans to stay in London even if "any thing serious should take place," but fears being cut off from contact with his family and friends. He hopes that the current tension is "only talk" and will be resolved when "the Prince Regent comes to the full exercise of his powers" later in the month.

Leslie notes that he has already sent a letter "to Mama," with "sketches of Mrs Siddons & Kemble," and then includes a sketch for Thomas in this letter. The title is obscured, however. He mentions having also written to Betsy with "the notes of 'Soldier Rest'."

Leslie comments that "[t]here were six people hung here a few days ago and not one of them for murder," and remarks on the high crime rate in London. He asks Thomas to relay some messages and his affection to mutual friends and family members. He asks for Thomas to write him long letters and to include "every little thing that you can relate," as he is hungry for news of home and knows that Thomas does not have as many correspondents expecting letters as he himself, being abroad, does.


  • 1812 February 2


Physical Description

6 pages (2 folded leaves) ; 32 x 40 cm. Autograph letter, signed; written in pen and brown/black ink.

Conditions Governing Access

From the Collection:

The materials are open for research.

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Part of the Yale Center for British Art, Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

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