The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 21st Autumn Exhibition of Pictures, Corporation of Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1891
Record 6 of 21

System Number: 06595
Date: [13 August 1891][1]
Author: JW
Place: Liverpool
Recipient: Beatrix Whistler[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W588
Document Type: ALS

[Liverpool coat of arms, and motto:] DEUS NOBIS HAEC OTIA FECIT


'3rd Aug.[3]' 189

Well Chinkie!

I dont know - things are perhaps beginning to be a tiny bit more droll[4]! Here I suppose you smell mischief! - Of course the Wam knows that if I find enjoyment it is likely to be on dangerous ground - Well I have been "hanging" - and I think that in a very delicate way I have hinted at the possibility of there being even something entertaining in Luke Fildes'[5] "Doctor[6]" if properly surrounded! - As the man in Balzac[7] said to the Countess, "Ce n'est pas le billiard qui tue, c'est les accessoires!"! - Well I just [p. 2] wish you and Bunnie[8] could see "The Doctor"!? -

And yet it is all quite correct - quite ceremoniously approached - And the method employed I trust not in any way other than pathetic! -

Of this however by and bye! - I have rushed out again for a moment to my own darling Wam - and must get back at once -

Have just telegraphed about the Goupils[9] -

What do you think of Crowdy's[10] letter? - I really believe it would gall them more if I do not deign to notice him at all - However Bunnie might look up the letter I once had from him offering his services, and send it down to me by tomorrow's post - Who knows - I might do well just to send that -

Chapman[11] is an ass - and an obstinate one - He will hear nothing - wants a thousand pounds for the picture - Of course what I must now do is to paint the new one, thats all - and therefore I had better for the present let the old story die out -

Dear me my own Chinkie what shall I do - it is so terribly hideous here - so ghastly dull! and our poor Honfleur - further and further away! - I have just been talking to Melville[12] - with whom all is straightened out - it had to be one thing or another - and it was absurd to stay all this while in the same house on impossible relations - so we had out the Ford[13] matter to my complete satisfaction and that is all over - Now therefore he is restored to the usual amenities and we "hang" peacefully together - Well then they are very desirous of course that I should send down the Fur Jacket - which Melville has been extolling to the skies - and so in talking it over with him aside, I arrived at the notion that perhaps after all the season in London is more or less a dead one for the dealers - and the chances of selling the work to the Counsul [sic] here are not at all hopeless - so he says - while Leiter[14] or other American could be getatable through the [p. 3] Liverpool success better than through paragraphs in the Pall Mall, of which I am tired to death - I think therefore I shall send to the Goupils for the picture. "Umph?" as Albert Moore[15] says? - By the way there is a very sweet and really most beautiful early Albert Moore in the Rathbone[16] dining room - "The Song of Solomon[17]" - simply charming! - What news is there Chinkie? - Tell me everything - and send on all the cuttings even! - How about the Widdys Windy[18]? and Henley's Fish[19]? - The Club[20] people are to give their dinner next Wednesday - by which time I hope to get through - and I suppose I shall have to say something!! - You will have to send me Good Luck! good Luck! -

The bad Bunnie left out the "little broom" - so I suppose the poor little coats will be quite rubbed out by the British Brush of the Rathbone Chateau! - Oh when are you going to take us away!!

Goodnight my dear sweet Trixie

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


Mrs. J. McNeill Whistler
21. Cheyne Walk
[postmark:] LIVERPOOL / 466 / 13 AU 91

[Liverpool coat of arms]


1.  [13 August 1891]
Dated from postmark.

2.  Beatrix Whistler
Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more]. JW uses 'Chinkie' and 'the Wam' as terms of endearment for Beatrix.

3.  3rd Aug
This incorrect date was added later in pencil by Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), JW's sister-in-law [more].

4.  droll
The inference to be drawn from the opening words is that JW had already expressed reservations to Beatrix, but no earlier letter to her from Liverpool has been traced.

5.  Luke Fildes'
Samuel Luke Fildes (1844-1927), genre and portrait painter [more]. See the response of R. A. M. Stevenson to JW's hanging of the show, #05594.

6.  Doctor
Henry Tate had commissioned S. L. Fildes, The Doctor (z222) for the opening of his new gallery on Millbank, at the cost of £3000: it became one of the most talked-about pictures of the year. It was shown in 21st Autumn Exhibition of Pictures, Corporation of Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1891 (cat. no. 853).

7.  Balzac
Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), author [more]. The source of the quotation has not been identified. JW's enjoyment of Balzac had been noted long before by his friend Alan S. Cole. In a diary entry for 7 December 1875, Cole mentions a dinner with JW at which the discussion had included a good number of Balzac's novels (Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1, p. 189).

8.  Bunnie
Ethel Whibley (1861-1920), née Philip, JW's sister-in-law [more].

9.  Goupils
Art dealers in London and Paris.

10.  Crowdy's
Wallace L. Crowdy (fl. 1885-1911), collector and writer on art [more].

11.  Chapman
Alfred Chapman (1839-1917), engineer and collector [more], had put Pink and Grey: Three Figures (YMSM 89) on the market, with the London dealers Dowdeswell, for £1000. Whistler saw it at Dowdeswells' on 27 July and wrote to the newspapers on 27 July 1891 to say that the painting was unfinished (#07892). He also sent a telegram to Chapman, offering to paint him a new picture in exchange (30 July 1891, #09041). A response to JW's published letter, from Wallace L. Crowdy, dated 31 July 1891, appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette on 1 August (#11431). JW immediately wrote a letter to the Pall Mall Gazette, which was printed the following Tuesday (#04391). JW may have spoken to Chapman in Liverpool: the reference to Crowdy here, almost a fortnight after the letters in the Pall Mall Gazette, suggests that the dispute may have been continued on in private.

12.  Melville
Arthur Melville (1855-1905), watercolour painter [more], was also serving on the Hanging Committee. The matter under discussion was the publication of Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, ed. Sheridan Ford, Paris, 1890. Melville had been drawn into the matter at a conversazione at the Grosvenor Gallery during a discussion between JW and the artist J. McLure Hamilton, to whom Ford's edition had been dedicated (Pennell 1908, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 103; see also Getscher, Robert H., and Paul G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Two Annotated Bibliographies, New York and London, 1986, A. 21-23, B. 65).

13.  Ford
Sheridan Ford (1860-1922), poet, critic, politician and writer on art [more].

14.  Leiter
Levi Ziegler Leiter (1834-1904), industrialist and collector [more].

15.  Albert Moore
Albert Joseph Moore (1841-1893), painter [more].

16.  Rathbone
JW was staying with the chairman of the Hanging Committee, Philip Henry Rathbone (1828-1895), collector [more].

17.  The Song of Solomon
This work is now known as A. Moore, The Shulamite (z223).

18.  Widdys Windy
Mrs Jane Holme, patron of Beatrix Whistler [more], had commissioned a stained glass window in memory of her daughter, B. Whistler, Holme Memorial Window (z224), which was erected in the parish church of Orton in Cumbria in March 1892 (see MacDonald, Margaret F., Beatrice Whistler Artist and Designer, Glasgow, 1997, repr. p. 43).

19.  Henley's Fish
Beatrix also designed woodcuts to illustrate Little Johannes, an allegorical fairy-tale by Frederick van Eeden, for William Heinemann, B. Whistler, Illustrations to F. van Eeden, 'Little Johannes' (z225). 'Henley's Fish' may refer to one of these, or to a separate commission to illustrate works by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), journalist, poet and writer [more], B. Whistler, Goldfish (z226) (see MacDonald, op. cit., repr. p. 38).

20.  Club
The Liverpool Artists' Club gave a dinner to the Hanging Committee on 19 August, at which JW replied to the toast given to the Hanging Committee. An account of the dinner is given in The Liverpool Review of Politics, Society, Literature and Art, vol. 21, 22 August 1891, p. 12.