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W4908 TO THOMAS B. MCQUESTEN from his sister Ruby
Apr 24 1903 Friday afternoon
To: Thomas Baker McQuesten Toronto, Ontario
From: [Ottawa Ladies' College]

My dear old Tom,

You'll be cramming your poor cranium with all kinds of learned lore, so I don't expect you to answer this. But I'm just sending you a little of that poor stuff necessary sometimes, as the brain cannot stalk along by itself, no matter how fine it be. It is just made out for the ordinary post I fancy as I never heard how the last one worked. 1

Well my old brain has been on a mixture of things lately frivolous and otherwise. On Monday night there was the Musical "Festival" here and it was very fine. The Oratorio of Hiawatha was given from the part with the death of Minnetaka beginning with "Oh! the bitter, bitter winter! "Oh! the cruel biting winter!" or something of that kind, and the orchestra started in with a weird wail. It is a most beautiful thing. I had heard it given before but not with such fine chorus and orchestra and really it is the finest thing in the Oratorio line I've ever heard. We had Mackenzie's "Dream of Jubal" too and the Coronation March.2

Then we had our feast of art on Wednesday afternoon. The Art Exhibition is held every three years and there was really a fine collection of pictures. I can recognize my old favorites now and it is very interesting to see a style of painting I like and that looks very familiar and find on looking at my catalogue it is the artist I guessed. Bell-Smith's were there, beautiful misty pictures with purple tints, of street scenes and churches and water.3 McGillvray Knowles has fine ones too particularly her water colors, and Colin Forbes, Manly and Hammond and Laura Muntz are my favorites. Of course there are others I like too but it is hard to really take them in though we did stay for more than two hours. Well those are our parts of soul. 4

You should only talk of such high things but I'm going to make your little mouth water with other kind of parts. I don't know whether your eyes watered at my description of the paintings and your ears tingled at the musical sounds described but certainly your mouth must be affected by this. On Friday afternoon last we--Miss Bennett and myself went over to 'The House' and had dinner with Dr. MacDonald, the deputy speaker. You've heard me speak of the old gentleman? There were just the three of us and the butler served us an elegant little dinner--soup, roast duck and jelly, hot roast tongue, peas, little white butter beans, potatoes. Then there was a very fine pudding, then peach pie, tea, fruit, nuts and raisons. We didn't do badly did we. Then we went upstairs to hear the speeches, but Dr. M. tho't there would be nothing good so in about twenty minutes, it was about nine o'clock by then, we were taken out and treated to ice cream and cake. Then we wandered back to his room & chatted till time to go home when we were left with a fine box of candy and told we'd be treated better every time we came.

And on Tuesday night, as the House was adjourned on account of Sir Oliver Mowat, we were invited by phone to go over, and we're again treated to ice cream and cake and a larger box of candy. The people here tell us to go often by all means. Poor little chappie, you're only a boy and men don't treat you to ice cream. But you'll have to treat yourself to keep up your spirits in these exams.

I'd send you a little extra but there is 2.50 for dentist bill & 3 for an old doctors bill before Xmas and various other sundries run away with treat money.

We've been having some pleasant Sat. afternoon, Field Naturalist Excursions. We've had perfect weather here lately only things are really so dry and there is so much dust that everything feels gritty even my clothes and hair. So we are really longing for rain as there is no growth.

Well my dear, I think I've done pretty well in the news line. David Ross started for Montreal where he was to wait for a couple of days before starting for the Old Country. He told his mother he might work his way to India before coming back.5 But it may have been only in fun. Take care of yourself and don't kill yourself studying.

With much love,

Your affectionate sister,


1 This is likely a reference to the money that Ruby sends regularly to her brother, Tom, to pay for his tuition at the University of Toronto. Later in the letter she apologizes for not sending something extra because she owes on doctor's bills. It is interesting to note the subtle way in which she chastises him for not acknowledging the last money that she sent to him. See also (W4440).

2 This is an indication of the music that Ruby enjoyed at the College.

3 Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith (1846-1923) was born in London, England and died in Toronto, Ontario. His earliest training was under his artist father. Then he attended the South Kensington School of Art under Alexander Hamilton until his family emigrated to Montreal, Quebec, in 1867. Later, he studied in Paris at the Academie Colarossi under Joseph-Paul Blanc, Gustave Courtois and Edmond-Louis Dupain. The artist arrived in London, Ontario in 1881 where he was appointed Art Director of Alma College (St.Thomas) and, the following year, Drawing Master at Central Public School. In 1888, he moved to Toronto where he was named principal of the western branch of the Toronto Art School. Bell-Smith was a founding member of the Society of Canadian Artists, the Ontario Society of Artists and the Western Art League. He was elected an Academician in the Royal Canadian Academy and played important roles in many local and national artistic associations. His work was very popular in his lifetime: he painted portrait, genre and landscape subjects in both oil and watercolour in the impressionistic, picturesque and sublime styles of the last century. Bell-Smith also won many international honors in his career and had the distinction of being the first artist represented in Museum London's permanent collection with his painting, "The Wave."
1868 First exhibited at the Art Association of Montreal and annually until 1923.
1871 Moved to the Hamilton branch of the Inglis firm. Married Anne Myra Dyde, daughter of Samuel Dyde, Hamilton, Ontario. Employed by L. Eckerson's Photographic and Art Gallery, Hamilton. Began free-lance work for the Canadian Illustrated News, a job which continued until 1879. Invited to become a member of the Ontario Society of Artists, Toronto.
1877 Taught for the next two years at the Ontario School of Art, Toronto.
1879 Returned to Hamilton to work for Eckerson and Bell-Smith, a photography firm. First exhibited at the Toronto Industrial Exposition and continued annually until 1903.
1895 Received permission to paint portrait of Queen Victoria and traveled to England. Returned to Canada to begin the Sir John Thompson Memorial pictures to commemorate the recent death of Canada's Prime Minister.
1897 Traveled to England to sketch Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.
1905 Elected president of the Ontario Society of Artists and continued until 1908.

4 Elizabeth A. McGillivray Knowles (1866-1928), Canadian Artist, landscape, figure.
Colin Forbes (1846-1925) North American artist noted for his portraits. (In another letter Ruby mentions his painting "Riling Clouds," see W4916).
Charles MacDonald Manly, Canadian artist.
Hammond, possibly John A. Hammond (1843-1939) Canadian, Landscape, marine, portrait. (
Laura Muntz Lyall (1860-1930), Impressionist painter, is probably the first Canadian woman artist to be recognized in France with her participation in the exhibitions of the Societe des artistes francais, 1894. She is also the first woman asked to exhibit with the Canadian Art Club, 1909.

5 David Ross is the young man to whom Ruby became engaged in 1906, but they never married. Ruby's mother, Mary, asked them to wait two years because David's prospects were poor, also Ruby's money was needed for the next two years for Tom's education, and by the time he graduated in 1907, Ruby was seriously ill, required sanatorium treatment and died in 1911 of Tuberculosis. For more on David Ross, see W5622, W5630. For more on Ruby, see her Biographical sketch by clicking on "Family" on the Home Page and then on her picture.

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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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