John Singer Sargent -- Letters  (Frontpage)

From Sargent to Ben Castillo 1880

From:    Hotel Central,
            Jan. 4th, 1880

Unchanging friend and dauntless correspondent it is very creditable of you to have written to me after such a long hiatus. But instead of cursing so malignantly why don't you guess that I have been doing so much jog trotting on atrocious horses and mules that I can't sit down to write, and that the temperature in these tropical regions is such that one's fingers refuse to hold the pen. This is an exaggeration.

The other day on a ride from Ceuta to Teruan we essayed a most tremendous storm of hail and rain that made us shiver and set our half naked Arabs shaking in the most alarming way, but now the weather is beautiful and the A Street in Algierstemperature just what it ought to be, We have  rented a little Moorish house (which we don't yet know from any other house in town, the little white tortuous streets are so exactly alike) and we expect to enjoy a month or two in it very much. The patio open to the sky affords a studio light, and has a horseshoe arches arabesques, tiles and other traditional Moorish ornaments, The roof is a white terrace, one of the thousands that form this odd town, sloping  down to the sea. All that has been written and painted about  these African towns does not exaggerate the interest of at any rate, a first visit. Of course the poetic strain that writers launch forth in when they touch upon a certain degree of latitude and longitude -- is to a great extent conventional; but certainly the aspect of the place is striking, the costume grand and the Arabs often magnificent.

I regret that many a months spent in Spain in the rain and bad  weather that quite spoiled the trip as far as painting and enjoyment goes. When you carry out your plan of a visit of Spain, be sure to go in the spring; one loses too much by going there in December.

Best love to your people,

Your affectionate friend,

John S. Sargent

(H.F. Stewart, "Memoirs of Francis Jenkinson," p. 80; quaoted in Charteris; pp. 50-51)