The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 4th Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1880
Record 1 of 4

System Number: 06687
Date: [January/February 1880][1]
Author: JW
Place: [Venice]
Recipient: Helen Euphrosyne Whistler[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W681
Document Type: ALS

'No. 6[3]'

I hear that it is mild Spring over there with you my dear Nellie - while here the cold[4] is fiercer than ever - and I am just a little down on my back for the moment - The native doctor[5] has been here and I am to guargle [sic] a throat that I am sure Willie[6] would have stopped with nitrate of Silver - I have been working too hard, though keeping in tolerable health and spirits - but the cold has simply been quietly getting into my bones and so now I have to stay in for a couple of days - Every body seems to think that I have achieved wonderful results and that I might well rest for a while - but I am so impatient - However I am getting together things[7] that are certainly very jolly and must mean gold - As to the etchings[8] they are far away beyond the old ones - only I am barely able to touch a plate - litteraly [sic] - it is like ice - and for the last two months and more it [p. 2] has been the same thing - No winter like this known for at least thirty years, and at last I am getting very much depressed - By the way ask Willie if he tolerates 'Extract of Malt' - an English preparation which I have found really wonderful - for coughs and various - and very pleasant to take - I wish I had some of those throat pastes of his though - couldn't you send me a few in the next World[9] !! -.- Of course you had my letter for Sis[10]. and I wrote the other day to Way[11] - he will doubtless lend Willie the letter - so that altogether I don't think I am doing so badly in my new role of foreign correspondent - Now it is for all of you in your turn to write me lots of news and if you can find no scandal you must invent some - I wondered whether the Leyland[12] group would pass through Venice - Have you been to Mrs. Morris'[13] receptions? I have seen little accounts of pictures perpetrated by P. R.[14] 'Silver' twilight and so on - he cant keep quite out of my lines - What sort of thing [p. 3] is going on at the Grosvenor[15]? And 'Molly'[16]! - Aleco[17] you tell me is superb! when I come home perhaps he may require some of the lovelinesses I bring with me - However I doubt much if they will go a begging this time - But I am not well tonight and just a leetle blue - don't be alarmed though for the doctor seemed to make light of it - Tell us about your Christmas - You went down I know to the Mother's[18]. and how is she? - I went to a grand high mass in St Marc's and very swell it all was - but do you know I couldn't help feeling that the Peacock Room[19] is more beautiful in its effect! - and certainly the glory and delicacy of the ceiling is far more complete than the decorations of the golden domes make them - That was a pleasant frame of mind to be in you will acknowledge - and I am sure you are not surprised at it! - I really rather thought that Elden[20] owed me a letter - but when I next write it will I think be to him - Tell Ridley[21] when you see him that I hope he is keeping [p. 3] the printing press in good working order - for when I come back I shall retire to his studio to print all my proofs - Any more news of Howell[22]? - I have my own settling with him by and bye - meanwhile I leave him to think I believe that I owe him really the sum of money he engaged to pay for me - I fancy however there is another side to this - but attendons[23]! - I can't have understood you to say that Mrs. Leyland[24] is going to have a place in St. James' Street[25]! - What is it to be? - I know no end of neat bachelor boxes there - it isn't surely one of those - Has Willie seen Sutherland[26] lately? - he should tell him that of course I had expected all sorts of attentions on the part of the P. and O.[27] company resulting from instructions from head quarters - and am disappointed simply - . Has anybody ever heard of Horace Gee[28]? - is he wandering about with that disreputable old woman - or are they frozen up? - Goodbye Nellie - With best love to both and all -

Ever affectionately

J A McN Whistler -

You will be glad to hear that I am now pretty well out of my cold again and my throat is nearly well - That was good wasn't it about Leyland sitting as a demon on the White House[29]! - I mean the thing in the World[30]. - I have had such a very very nice letter from the faithful John[31]. dated Bombay! -

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [January/February 1880]
JW was in Venice from September 1879 to November 1880. This letter may have been written over a period. It is apparently the first written by JW to Helen Whistler after Christmas 1879. Several references, as for instance to the World and F. R. Leyland, are similar to passages in JW's letter to C. A. Howell on 26 January 1880 (#02860). However, it refers to 'Spring', and may date from a little later. It certainly comes before JW's letter to Helen Whistler on 22 March 1880 (#06688), and references to the Grosvenor Gallery might indicate an even later date, since that opened in May.

2.  Helen Whistler
Helen ('Nellie') Euphrosyne Whistler (1849-1917), née Ellen Ionides, JW's sister-in-law [more].

3.  No. 6
Written in the hand of Joseph Whistler Revillon (1886-1955), JW's great-nephew [more].

4.  cold
The weather was unusually severe, with snow falling as early as October.

5.  doctor
JW referred to the doctor in #06690.

6.  Willie
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

7.  things
When it was too cold to work on etchings, JW drew pastels (M. 725-828).

8.  etchings
JW had been commissioned by the Fine Art Society to make a set of etchings, which was published on his return as Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5).

9.  World
London society paper.

10.  Sis
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more]. JW wrote to her on 1 January 1880 (#01919).

11.  Way
Thomas Way (1837-1915), lithographic printer [more]. Way's letter to JW on 12 February 1880 (#06080) may have been written in reply to this letter, which has not been traced.

12.  Leyland
Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more].

13.  Mrs. Morris
Mrs P. R. Morris, née Evans, wife of the painter.

14.  P. R.
Philip Richard Morris (1833 or 1836-1902), painter [more]. The pictures have not been identified.

15.  Grosvenor
Grosvenor Gallery, IV summer exhibition opened May 1880.

16.  'Molly'
Evidently a nickname.

17.  Aleco
Alexander ('Aleco') Ionides (1840-1898), businessman [more].

18.  Mother's
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more].

19.  Peacock Room
Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178).

20.  Elden
Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885), artist [more].

21.  Ridley
Matthew White Ridley (1837-1888), painter and etcher [more].

22.  Howell
Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more].

23.  attendons
Fr., let us wait!

24.  Mrs. Leyland
Frances Leyland (1836-1910), née Dawson [more].

25.  St. James' Street
It was traditionally a male preserve, lined with gentlemen's clubs.

26.  Sutherland
Thomas Sutherland (1834-1922), Liberal MP, Chairman of the P. and O. line [more].

27.  P. and O.
Pacific and Orient Line.

28.  Horace Gee
Horace Jee, musician, JW's occasional secretary [more].

29.  Leyland sitting as a demon on the White House
A caricature of F. R. Leyland, The Gold Scab (YMSM 208). The White House, JW's house in Tite Street, was sold on 18 September 1879.

30.  World
London journal.

31.  John
John Cossins, JW's valet [more]. John's letter from Bombay is also referred to in JW's letter to C. A. Howell on 26 January 1880 (#02860).