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The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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20th March 2003 - The Godfather

Only once in his life did Whistler act as godfather to a friend's child, and this was in the case of Rosalind Blanche Catherine Howell, the daughter of entrepreneur, art dealer and collector, Charles A. Howell. On the occasion of her first birthday, on 20 March 1878, JW wrote the following sweet note to his godchild:

"My dear Godchild - This to wish you very many happy returns of this your first birthday. It is unaccompanied by gold forks and spoons because of an impecuniosity attaching itself to your Godfather which he fervently trusts you may never experience - [butterfly signature]"

(GUL Whistler LB 11/46-7)

Whistler was referring to his impending bankruptcy and to the fact of his desperate attempts at that time to raise money to cope with the spiralling costs associated with the building of his 'White House'. Whether or not the young Rosalind Howell understood and sympathised with JW's predicament is a matter open to conjecture.