Juliette Gordon Low occasionally embellished her letters with sketches. When she was away at school, she drew dress patterns to show her mother her sartorial preferences. Sometimes she illustrated a topic for a friend, feeling that words were inadequate. On rare occasions, she painted directly on the letter. Here is one example, taken from a letter to her dear friend Mary Gale Carter. The painting is entitled “Queenstown Harbor.”
The letter is undated and incomplete, so I don’t know precisely when she wrote it. Nor can I say for certain which Queenstown this is. It looks like her beloved Scotland, but Queenstown, Scotland has no harbor. It could be Queenstown, Maryland, where she had many friends, but the hills don’t seem right. It is not Queenstown, Australia, as Juliette never traveled Down Under. Nor is it clear from the two extant pages of the letter precisely what that is in the middle of the harbor. A castle? A ship?
With her own unique sense of humor, Juliette penned viewing instructions in her letter to Mary:
“Half close eyes. Place sketch in Mary’s room, then view it from Grace’s room. This is the only way to produce the fine effects!!”
Just what these “fine effects” were, Juliette did not disclose. Grace was Mary’s sister–so apparently, Daisy, always humble, believed the sketch would show best from a far distant vantage point across the length of two bedrooms!
Here is the first page of the letter which contains Juliette’s lovely little painting. It is written on mourning paper (many of you will know that that’s what the black border signifies) so someone close to her had died within the year. That suggests to me that this letter was probably written in 1882, after her sister Alice’s death. Juliette would have been 21 or 22 years old, then, when she created this little landscape, about the time she embarked upon her first trip abroad.
Juliette Gordon Low to Mary Gale Carter Clarke, undated fragment, Clarke Family Papers, MS2200/22/7, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.