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Diaries] Whitwell, Janet.

World Tour with a Paint Brush, A. Unpublished manuscript journal.


[Travel] Whitwell, Mary Janet. MANUSCRIPT: World Tour with a Paintbrush. 1925.
44 manuscript leaves.
Together with:
Whitwell, Mary Janet. TYPESCRIPT: World Tour with a Paintbrush. 1925.
39 typescript leaves, with occasional pencil markings indicative of preparation for publication.
Unpublished Manuscript of a six month world voyage made by Mary Janet Whitwell, age 72, of
Yorkshire, less than four years before her death.
Having written and published three similar works after earlier travels, one can sense her
eagerness to put pen and paintbrush to one final pilgrimage, this time to spanning across the
globe. This, her final account, remains unpublished however, presumably due to illness or simply
weakness in her final years of life. Mary Janet Whitwell would pass away three and one half
years after returning home from this voyage.
Spry, adventurous, self-sufficient, and uncharacteristic for the time in which she lived, the
authoress of this grand adventure, and its written work, was 72 years of age, having also been
widowed for three years, when she decided to travel to the Far East for the first time as part of six
month world tour. She was particularly enamoured with China.
Beginning in January 1925, the world tour itinerary included India, Burma, Indonesia, China,
Korea, Japan, and crossing Canada from the Pacific Northwest Coast to the East, before returning
to England. Throughout the text she describes the places and things she chose to sketch, from city
views, flora, sunsets, antiquity, elaborate Eastern architecture, her guestroom, and so forth. Time
in India consumes approximately one third of the work or 13 pages from the typed account. Five
(5) pages describe Burma, 6 describe adventures in China, and 9 are devoted to Japan. The
remainder recount the voyages in between, and succinct accounts of countries visited for short
periods of time.
Travelling with a party of 14, consisting mostly of women whom occupy some most interesting
anecdotes, the first port of call was at Aden in Yemen, this also being her first artistic drawing.
As an artist, always curious for new experiences, she is taken with the finer details of things
observed, and usually opts for the genuine experience over the more popular ones.
In India they landed at Bombay, and journeyed to the Province of Baroda where they stayed in
the Guest House of the Maharajah Gaikwar for two days (Sayajirao Gaekwad III who is notably
remembered for positive social reform in his state). Touring cities in rickshaws and tongas (a
mule-drawn covered cart guided by a young boy), they continued to Ahmedhabad, Mount Abu,
and Ajmer, where Lord Curzon served as Viceroy of India until 1905. In Udaipur she visited the
City Palace built by Maharana Udai Singh in 1559, and a prison of 550 chained men - all
murderers, all in red caps. In Jaipur she went on an excursion in which she rode an elephant
whose face and ears were vibrantly painted in colours.
Settling at Agra for six days, the artist spent most of her time taking in and sketching the
intricately ornamented Taj Mahal and its gardens. British history was brought to life at the
sombre site of General Wheeler's entrenchment at Cawnpore, and is vividly narrated by her.
Taking particular interest in Lucknow, she describes the Palace of Light, the Palaces of the King
of Oudh, and the British Residency where hundreds perished from the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
Other cities seen include Delhi, Allahabad, Benares, and Calcutta.
On 21 February she is on a British India steamer en route for Burma (Myanmar) first to Rangoon
(Yangon), from where after sightseeing she would embark on a nine day riverboat tour to reach
Mandalay. Along the way, an excursion of "105 steep steps" to visit a pagoda offered a most
interesting cultural experience with gold leafs and a display of a tooth of Buddha. She also went
to Prome (now known as Pyay), and Pak ku. Far more interested in the lesser travelled locations,
indigenous culture winning her affections over popular world renown cities without exception,
little is mentioned of Mandalay, while her attention is piqued by her inland adventure. From a
brief visit to Penang, after her time in Burma, she concludes, "the Malays are very superstitious"
and also notes the presence of English and Chinese in this place.
Finally, after thirteen days at sea, Whitwell lands in Hong Kong, and shortly thereafter is touring
Canton by means of a sedan chair carried by three "coolies." Most interesting is her description of
the City of the Dead and its significance. From there the party returns to Hong Kong to
immediately board the American ship "President Wilson" which she was none too pleased with,
but which would see them to Shanghai in three days time. At Nanjing she delights in the ancient
Ming Dynasty tombs and the remnants of fortification of the Forbidden City.
Customs surrounding death seems to be a recurring theme of intrigue whilst in China. In Pekin
she visits its Forbidden City, numerous palaces and temples. Stops are made in Shanghai,
Tsientsin, and Mukden in Manchuria (only six years prior to the Mukden Incident).
In Korea, the writer visits Seoul and Fusan, and finds herself endeared to the people here as much
as she is to the Chinese. A tour of Japan, including Y ohama, T yo, Nikko, and Kamakura,
naturally encompasses many parks. In Miyaunoshita she was a spectator, in customary Japanese
fashion, of a theatrical production, donning Japanese over-the-shoe slippers, sitting on a cushion
on the floor, and sipping tea served by traditionally dressed young girls. The nine act performance
is summarized in her text.
"As I have not been to the Far East I am a little diffident about going quite so far alone, and not
knowing the ropes, so I decided to join a "select" party and be sheperded with the rest of the
flock.... I certainly have arranged any European trip I have done entirely myself and if I could not
speak the language of a country or write it, I have had an ordinary courier in wild out of the way
places; I always avoid the beaten track if I can, partly because I want to paint, and the most
interesting subjects for my brush are "up country" where the tourist never goes."
[Yemen] "I made one or two little sketches of Aden, which has high rocks behind it... Awful
threats were used as the Passport officers stayed a very short time and no one could land without
it being stamped."
[Bombay] "We visited the Hindu Ghat (or place for burning the dead)... Another gruesome spot
was a visit to the Towers of Silence. In these towers are placed the Parsee bodies to be eaten by
vultures. One tower is reserved for suicides we were told. The vultures soon pick all flesh from
the bones, in half an hour only the skeleton remains."
[Ajmer] "... drove to the wonderful remains of a Mosque, the Ashai-din-Ka-Jhopra, of which not
much remains but the beautiful columns said to have been built in two and a half days. These
were restored by Lord Curzon in the vincinity of the Mihrat."[The Adhai Din-ka-Jhonpra was a
Jain temple built in 1153 and converted to a mosque forty years thereafter]
"... a little diversion... Well! One lady has gone home filled with disgust... we rather think it was
the absence of mankind, barring a few old crocks... We don't know what she expected in a trip
like this which is distinctly to see the different countries, not to frivol in fashionable towns... this
tour has no luxury about it. Our shepherd seems to have crocked up and we see little of him - no
loss. As regards India we are all right, but what about China and Japan - Wait and see!"
[Agra] "A delightful hotel and run so well. I spent the next day sketching the Taj Mahal, the most
wonderful white marble tomb..."
[Burma] "We are charmed with Rangoon which has an air of prosperity... the Royal Lakes... the
Shwe Dagon Pagoda... Our trip up river lasts nine days to Mandalay... We stopped at villages to
land cargo... All the houses are built of wood and thatched; the people picturesque with their
bright coloured petticoats... We have to double up again as new people come on board. I do
dislike it... I go alone for the future."
[Canton] "a most curious old town full of very narrow dirty streets with long coloured strips
hanging over the streets, with large letters in gold... the Temple of Medicine... special healers in
the image of Buddha..Our next attraction was the City of the Dead... These coffins remain until a
suitable burial place is found, sometimes not for years."
[Shanghai] "... several temples all in disrepair, and again we saw a City of the Dead. White is
Chinese mourning... an astrologer finds a suitable place of burial, perhaps not for twenty years...
The afternoon we left Shanghai we were taken the Chinese quarter in rickshaws... streets were
extremely narrow... Here we saw the original willow-pattern garden... The temples in China seem
little used now. The Chinese are said not to be a religious people, and think more of their
ancestors that anything else."
[Nankin] "There is a large wall surrounded "The Forbidden City" which is now entirely
deserted, and part of the wall has been pulled down by the Government to build houses of it. The
only things left are the Ming Tombs which you reach by a long avenue of stone carved animals in
pairs... The tombs on the outside have a large column of granite sitting on the back of a turtle...
visited several tombs..."
[Pekin] "...had a very good journey through this somewhat dangerous country as regards
bandits. Every railway carriage had three armed guards... In the morning we wandered over to
the Temple of Heaven... After lunch a drive to the Forbidden City... Tuesday April 7th we visited
the Summer Palace... There we saw the green Cloud Temple where the remains of the President
were still lying... Pi-Yun-Sen."
"We had a thrilling journey through China for fear of bandits who had quite recently torn up the
line and done some shooting as well. Our train from Pekin to Mukden was guarded by fifty armed
soldiers and searchlights were playing all night, however nothing happened, and we all slept
[Korea] ".... liked Korea very much... stayed one night at Seoul.. the day was spent seeing
pagodas, parks, and the Queen's tomb... April 15th we reached Fusan[Busan] and ferried by
night to Shiminoseki..."
[Japan] "Miyajima...I made two sketches of the Great Torri temple gate... Kobe was our next
stop... At Nara are several temples and a fine park, full of deer and many fine trees, and a little
cherry blossom... I much prefer China to Japan... then from Nara we came to Kyoto... travelled
all day by train to Kuzu... "
"Miyaunoshita was much damaged by a landslide at the time of the great earthquake, and now is
being put into repair... "
"The women[of Japan] have of late begun to emancipate themselves but they still wear their
national dress; huge sashes and hair very elaborately dressed, done once a week, and they sleep
on blocks for pillows so as not to disturb the coiffeur. Every young woman has a baby on her
back... boy babies are dressed in quiet coloured kimonos with animals often patterned on them,
and the little girls gorgeous flowery kimonos. Clogs are much used.."
"I should much like to go back to China and Korea again... We have seen much..."
Mary Janet Whitwell, née Leatham, was born 26 October 1853 in Heath Wakefield, Yorkshire,
daughter of British banker, Liberal MP, and published poet, William Henry Leatham (1815-
1889). Mrs. Whitwell travelled in the family yacht, often independently from her husband,
recording her experiences in art and in text, publishing three accounts of these journeys. She
travelled alone in Corsica for ten days, taking a second journey there with a friend the following
year for six weeks. She died 14 March 1929 in Totteridge, Hertfordshire.
Mrs. Whitwell is the author of similar works titled:
'Spain, as We Found it in 1891" (published in 1892)
'Through Corsica with a Paint Brush" (published 1908)
'Through Bosnia and Herzegovina with a Paint Brush" (published 1909)
She also exhibited her paintings at the Society of Women Artists in 1922-1923.
This, the artist's world tour, was conceivably her last journey, as the manuscript was never
published and it pre-dates her death by only a short time.
She married Edward Robson Whitwell (1843-1922), a colliery owner, and together they had five
children. Her husband was also a notable mountaineer, the first to make the ascent of the Cimon
della Pala of the Dolomites mountain range in north-eastern Italy, in 1870 in fact. The peak was
considered unconquerable by locals and foreigners, deemed to be "a forest of crags" until
Whitwell's exceptional feat, which was illustrated in Elizabeth Fox Tuckett's "Alpine Journal."
Whitwell was also Francis Fox Tuckett's climbing partner in numerous expeditions in the
Dolomites and the Italian Alps. In Trentino, the names of Tuckett, Freshfield, John Ball, and
Edward Robson Whitwell are remembered as the pioneers who put the Dolomites on the map.

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