The Cotman Collection | 175

The Cotman Letters 1838-1864

Archive: SDK Sydney Decimus Kitson Archive
Reference Number: SDK/1/3/1/5
Page: 175

  • Description

    Letter of John Sell Cotman to Dawson Turner, 12 August 1841


  • Transcription

    (12. 8. '41)
    (4) 175

    When I enter the precincts of my labours they flock around me like
    Bees. To be otherwise with them would be a perfect Hell to me. For
    Boys can & will torment those they disregard - and I would turn
    Shoeblack before I would attempt to teach black faces. Boys, too, are good
    critics. They know well when a Master attempts to do his duty, &
    appreciate him accordingly. Play with them, & do it not, and they
    instantly stamp you an ignorant ass & a fool. I placed at once the
    following notice in my Room - “Gentlemen, I depend upon your integrity
    & good sense not wilfully to deface the walls, furniture & works of
    , placed around you. It is not done upon the Continent. Let it be said,
    to your honour, it is not done in the Drawing Class room of Kings College.”
    John Sell Cotman - Master.”
    This was written & printed in colours, etc, in imitation of the old M.S.S.
    - which you know I am more than rather fond of - & placed in the vacant
    centre of a large & fine old engraving, some four feet high - the print {Small sketch}
    four feet - Thus, A, my notice, B, the engraving, full of good
    figures, Lions, & other bold ornaments of the best sort. The Boys
    responded to my expectations, and it answered completely, to the aston-
    ishment of all the Masters. Nor has my room been scarcely touched by
    a profane hand - & that only by the first & second class - mere children.
    This circumstance speaks wonders for England, and is (in my opinion) worthy of record.
    A circumstance occurred some three years back that might have
    turned out to me woefully. But it was by tact & promptness - & seeing the
    necessary result - most fortunately avoided, and extension of privilege
    ceded to me since that moment. The masters of each class do not
    visit my rooms, as they used to do, to see that all is quiet. Dr. Major
    & most August visitors opened my door, and, from the noise, were
    about to retire, with no pleasant recollections of the scene. I instantly
    took off my hat & respectfully motioned them to advance. They did
    so. I thus mentioned they intended at a moment the Boys were much
    excited by an honour obtained by a Master, and that I had given
    them permission to show this approbation of the event and, that
    once over, they would settle to this work & there excitement cease -
    and, without I had done so, the excitement wd. have lasted for the