The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 2nd Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1878
Record 20 of 20

System Number: 06688
Date: [22 March 1880][1]
Author: JW
Place: Venice
Recipient: Helen Euphrosyne Whistler[2]
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W682
Document Type: ALS

My dear Nellie -

You are a brick! It is so nice of you to write me such a pleasant little letter[3] - for after all - notwithstanding the lot of discomforting news it contained, it read capitally way out here, and as a proof of my appreciation I am answering it the evening of its arrival - I do hope and trust that the Mother[4] will not be ill again - and dear me I have so meant every day to write - but I am worked to death - up in the morning without exageration [sic] by half past six and "at it again" - though let me tell you it is bitterly cold still in the early part of the day - But you see I have been so put back by the ice and snow that I try not to lose a moment now - Well then you can easily imagine how utterly done up I am by the end of the day - in the evening I am simply hoplessly [sic] [p. 2] stupified with sleep and and [sic] fatigue - Hence my 'behaviour' - which by the way, on reflection is not so bad as far as you and Willie[5] are concerned for unless I mistake greatly, you owe me a letter! - Strange isn't it! - My last[6] was to you though - or at any rate to Willie - and a good long one too - Now for the life of me, I don't quite know what to say about the Waddell[7] matter - I don't see my way clearly either - as to how things are - First - you say which of the three pictures are the two to be shown - and then you only speak of "the 3 girls[8], and the Boy or Girl in blue[9]" - does this mean 3 pictures, or are you uncertain as to the sex of my arrangement in Blue..

If 3 - then by all means show the Three Girls - and the Blue Girl - and not the Boy - Now I dont quite understand how you have these at all, for I certainly believed that I had moved both the 3 girls and the Blue Girl back from Wimpole Street to the White House [10] and left them there for the sale - They were not at the sale I know from what both Way and Elden[11] have written[.] Were they then sent back? - If so, and only with Waddell's permission, (and only with his could they have come away) what more can he have to say about it at all - On the other hand I understood Elden long ago to say that the 3 girls were cut off their stretcher and carried away by the trustees' people - And here is his last letter[12] just received - I enclose you the part referring to all this - According to him you see that the 3 Girls and the Blue Girl (Connie)[13] together with lobster[14] etc. etc - were carried off by auctioneers - and have been since missing - also according to him he and Way and the Doctor have talked it all over as a most mysterious disappearance - then how on earth can the missing 3 girls turn up at the Doctor's? Now see this Nellie - on one of the last days in the White House I painted a rough copy, or commencement of a copy, of the 3 girls[15] - on the same size canvas - this was sent over to Pellegrini's[16] and from there, John[17] took it first I suppose to Wimpole Street - Now if this be the 3 girls you have - then by no most certainly do they belong to no one but myself - as they were done after the settlement of my affairs - Willie can like a good fellow just run round the corner to Lewis[18] by 9. and see him at breakfast and talk it all over - However do send for Elden who knows all about it - Way also - but Elden is best - Doubtless Leyland[19] is at the bottom of the affair - but I don't see how, the sale being over, the[y] can try to recommence matters - On the other hand it is rather for me to press the matter - I want to know [p. 3] most certainly what have become of the Lobsters - the Ararat[20], &c. &c. Tell Way and Elden that I value them and Willie do ask Lewis - for me - Again if the original 3 girls be in your possession, then say that Waddell may have them if Lewis thinks so as also the blue Connie - If there be any other blue girl ( - Miss Franklin[21] for instance) then that is not their affair - surely Waddell said that all the scratched and destroyed stretchers &c &c &c were to be left out - and the best answer to all is that everything of the kind was sent by them or their permission to you after I had left the White House - In short do see with Elden what is to be done - and Nellie write us a line at once all about it - and I will tell you more in my next about myself and the lovely things I am going to bring back -

This must go at once - not a moment to lose so Goodbye, with best love to the Mother and yourselves and all -

Ever affectionately Yrs

Jim -

It was very nice in you to send me the cutting from the paper about Sara Bernhardt[22] but you can fancy the shock it gave me when I found nothing about my own delightful self!! -

Mind Elden - and Lewis - Lewis is delightful - good chance for Willie

This document is protected by copyright.


Mrs William Whistler
28. Wimpole Street -
Cavendish Square -
London -
[postmark:] VENEZIA / 22 / 3 - 80 / S S
[postmark:] LONDON. W / B 7 / PAID / 25 MR 80


1.  [22 March 1880]
Dated from postmark.

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

3.  letter
No letter from Helen Whistler to JW in Venice has been located.

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

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

6.  My last
No letters from JW in Venice to his brother have been located.

7.  Waddell
James Waddell (b. 1838), chartered accountant, of J. Waddell and Co. [more].

8.  3 girls,
The Three Girls (YMSM 88) was commissioned by F. R. Leyland in 1867 but destroyed at the time of the bankruptcy, leaving one fragment, the central figure, now known as Girl with Cherry Blossom (YMSM 90).

9.  Boy or Girl in blue
Possibly The Blue Girl: Portrait of Miss Elinor Leyland (YMSM 111).

10.  White House
JW's new house in Tite Street, the White House, was sold on 18 September 1879. His work was sold at Sotheby's auction rooms, London on 12 February 1880.

11.  Way and Elden
Letters from Thomas Way (1837-1915), lithographic printer [more], and from Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885), artist [more] (not located).

12.  his last letter
Elden had written in February (#01049).

13.  Blue Girl (Connie)
The Blue Girl: Portrait of Connie Gilchrist (YMSM 207).

14.  lobster
The Loves of the Lobsters (YMSM 209), showed F. R. Leyland as a lobster with prominent shirt frills. The picture was returned by T. Way to JW in 1896 and probably destroyed.

15.  copy, of the 3 girls
Pink and Grey: Three Figures (YMSM 89).

16.  Pellegrini's
Carlo Pellegrini (1839-1889), alias 'Ape', cartoonist for Vanity Fair, designer and lithographer [more].

17.  John
John Cossins, JW's valet [more].

18.  Lewis
Sir George Henry Lewis (1833-1911), society lawyer [more].

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

20.  Ararat
Mount Ararat (YMSM 210). It showed a Noah's Ark with figures wearing the frills affected by F. R. Leyland. It was returned by T. Way to JW in 1896, and probably destroyed. The only surviving caricature of Leyland is The Gold Scab (YMSM 208), which was acquired at some time after JW's bankruptcy by Captain Henry S. Hubbell, collector.

21.  blue girl ( - Miss Franklin
The Blue Girl: Maud Franklin (YMSM 112). This may have been the portrait of a woman in blue velvet, Arrangement in Blue and Green (YMSM 193), exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1878 (cat. no. 24).

22.  Sara Bernhardt
Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), née Henrietta Rosine Bernard, actress [more].