A Secret Admirer 1906 Eleven Drawings. Pencil and Ink on paper. 770 x 570 mm (Maps); 800 x 100 x200 mm (Container)
Brantwood, Lake Coniston, Cumbria. 26th May 1906
My dearest friends Emily & Alice,
I hope that this letter finds you both well? I am myself in fine spirits staying here in the Lake District. The weather at the moment is very fine and I stomp about the country with much vigour. I couldn’t be happier staying in this breathtaking country right here in Brantwood. The legacy of John Ruskin permeates every hue and shade that the landscape has to offer. My fortune means that I am residing at the invitation of my old school friend Arthur Severn, who is married Joan — Ruskin’s cousin. I’m sorry to have taken so long to respond to your last missive, I have been traveling a great deal. Thank you very sincerely for your kind words about the quality of the maps that I sent you. And please don’t hesitate to make of them what you will and add your own stamp to them. I was more than happy to furnish them to such an interested party. I hope to one day see the additions that you have made to my drawings, and I hope the family might add the Lake District to its travels. I’m quite sure I could find you some very comfortable and pleasing accommodations. Thank you as well, for the photograph of us all at the last Church gathering, it is fine indeed and is a lovely commemoration. Might I ask you for some additional photographs, a portrait of you perhaps and Miss Alice? Please give my deepest regards to your father, I do hope his health has improved since last I saw him. Your most humble servant, Mr Cornelius Pike*.
[*Mr Cornelius Pike (1868-1933) an amateur cartographer, first met Bertha Emma Bryant and Alice Cockin at a Sunday school teacher’s conference in Matlock in 1904.]
A Secret Admirer was a created during a residency (Best’s Angels) at Haden Hill House Museum in 2017. Best’s Angels brought to life the story of Alice Cockin and Bertha Emma Bryant: two working class girls adopted into a life of privilege, occupying their time with painting, photography and travel. Previously, the women had just been a footnote in the house’s history. The artefact was created in response to Bryant’s diaries that document many of the family’s extended excursions, to various counties across Great Britain often for four or five weeks at a time. The eleven map-drawings—created by a fictitious character Mr. Cornelius Pike—map out the extent of the family’s travels. A Secret Admirer was the focal point of a permanent installation—An Artistic Revelation—created for Haden Hill House Museum, through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Sandwell Museum Services.
On permanent exhibition: Haden Hill House Museum, Birmingham (2017)