Wednesday, December 28, 2022

595. Ricketts and Shannon Playing

It may seem at times that Ricketts and Shannon did nothing but work seriously and hard in their studio, or build exhibitions, participate in art committees and devote themselves to art matters in general. But there was relaxation too: Ricketts loved concerts, Shannon who was not musically inclined preferred to stick to bike rides. Sometimes we catch glimpses of Ricketts and Shannon playing and only rarely of a joint game.

But around 1900 - we read in the diaries of Michael Field [Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper] - they were playing dominoes. The first time, the game takes place in one of the rooms in the Fields' house, as Bradley records:

And after tea in the grot, we fall cosily to dominoes, with white port to console the losers. Shannon is looking exquisite. His lids have the swell of full-orbed buds that must let loose their flowers next day. His gay, resolute face shines clear. His fellow is of a white flecked with wind & agitated. I watch & enjoy through the excitement of the game. I am wearing a little rose-chintz blouse. I am warm as its tints with pleasure. 

[Michael Field journal 1900, BL Add MS 46789, 177r, 22 December 1900.]

Group of 21 dominoes made of wood, with painted spots, from Burma [now Myanmar] (19th-20th C.)
© The Trustees of the British Museum [British Library, London]
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license

The second game takes place at Ricketts and Shannon's house, when the Fields (and Chow, their dog) seek safe shelter there because of a fire on their street. Edith Cooper wrote the report:

Michael fronts the Painter at the Door. “We are come for shelter – there is a gt. fire in our road; we have come away from it & ask you to let us stay by your fire & to guard our most precious possessions.” Most cordially, we are taken in to the drawing-room. Two chairs & a little table covered with the design of a finished game of dominos stand in the hearth. Above upon the mantel-shelf two oranges each absorbing a lump of sugar are ready – On a satinwood Table-top a little sugar-basin between the players gives the only note of luxury. The fire is bright; & we have come upon the artists like thieves in the night from our own game at cards to find them as simply occupied & putting our daintiness to shame.

With fear of their bulk we drop our wraps. At once sloe-gin & hot cognac are offered, the boxes & books placed in safety, the Chow regaled with all the milk that can be spared from the cats’ breakfast. Seriously, allayingly, they listen – Shannon suddenly composed, Ricketts a little anxious, Martha-like at moments, but unfailingly perfect in his care & entertainment. [….] Shannon goes back with Michael – I am left, still in the midst of furs, with Ricketts, who is specially delighted to see us, like Sarah Bernhardt, covered with rings. “And the Pendant?” he questioned Michael before she left. She gave ocular proof of its preciousness by taking it off & leaving it in a safe drawer.

[Michael Field journal 1901, BL Add MS 46790, 9v-10v: 7 January 1901.]