Painting: The Letter of Introduction (1813) by David Wilkie (we’ve all been in this room)

Today is the anniversary of the death of Sir David Wilkie (18 November 1785 – 1 June 1841). A Scottish painter. When I think of Wilkie, I immediately think of the The Letter of Introduction.

The Letter of Introduction (1813)

David Wilkie (artist) The Letter of Introduction, 1813.

Readers reading series #11

The painting was completed in the same year that Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice was published (see below). And, to my eyes, there is a little bit of Mr Bennet receiving an unwanted interuption in his library here, “Marry them all, young man, but I beg you, leave me in peace!”.

What we do know is that the artist David Wilkie was inspired by an unpleasant experience. It was an occasion when he presented a letter of introduction to a potential patron who was not happy to receive it – he was given a strong ticking off and shown the door. In the painting, even the patron’s dog appears to be sniffing the poor artist suspiciously.

Most of us have been there, one way or another. Is there anything that has happened in your life that helps you identify with this painting? An interview? An application? Some sort of review? A request for more time? If you have managed to avoid any of this and have sailed through life untroubled, well done! Or perhaps you identify with the older gentleman? And like Mr Bennet you are prepared “to meet with folly and conceit in every other room in the house [but are] .. used to be free from them” in your library. Most of us know that feeling too, when you need peace and quiet but, alas “the sky grows dark with invitation cards” [Larkin].

Some other work by Wilkie below:

The Blind Fiddler, 1806

Painting 'The Blind Fiddler' 1806

Pitlessie Fair, 1804

David Wilkie Pitlessie_Fair (1804)

Reading the Will, 1820

Reading the Will (1820)

As usual I like to provide a little literary context. The year The Letter of Introduction was completed (1813), was the year Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, was born. It is also the year that William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair opens (the novel itself was published in 1847).

1813 was the year the following were published:


  •  Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice
  • Barbara Hofland – The Daughter-in-Law
  • Regina Maria Roche – The Monastery of St. Columb


  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Remorse
  • Jane M. Scott – The Forest Knight


  • Lord Byron – The Giaour
  • Mary Russell Mitford – Narrative Poems on the Female Character
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley – Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem


  • Humphry Davy – Elements Of Agricultural Chemistry In A Course Of Lectures
  • Robert Owen – A New View of Society
  • Arthur Schopenhauer – On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde)
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley – A Vindication of Natural Diet
  • Robert Southey – The Life of Nelson

BELOW: Readers reading on Pinterest (via The Long Victorian)

Painting The Letter of Introduction by David Wilkie

BELOW: Here’s a little extra – a music themed painting. A young person hesitating to play the piano in front of her family (1804) by Adele Romany French (1769-1846).

Painting A young person hesitating to play the piano in front of her family (1804) by Adele Romany French (1769-1846)

The ‘Readers reading’ series on this blog (this list last updated, 1st June 2017).

Readers reading #1. A Girl Reading In A Sailing Boat (1869) By Alfred Corbould.

Readers reading #2 The Bookworm (1850) Carl Spitzweg.

Readers reading #3 A Pleasant Corner (1865) – By John Callcott Horsley.

Readers reading #4 The Novel Reading (1841) – By Josef Danhauser.

Readers reading #5 The Poor Poet (1839) – By Carl Spitzweg.

Readers reading #6 The Travelling Companions (1862) – By Augustus Egg.

Readers reading #7 The Breakfast (c.1911) – By William McGregor Paxton.

Readers reading #8 Answering the Emigrant’s Letter (1850) – By James Collinson.

Readers reading #9 The Love Letter (1808) – By Willem Bartel van der Kooi.

Readers reading #10 The Day Dream (1880) – By Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Readers reading #11 The Letter of Introduction (1813) by David Wilkie.


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