The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Mr Whistler's Etchings, The Fine Art Society, London, 1883
Record 14 of 54

System Number: 09430
Date: [5 February 1883][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Thomas Waldo Story[2]
Place: Rome
Repository: The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
Call Number: MAH 244
Document Type: ALS[3]

Now listen to me! - I am always wanting to talk to you my dear Old Waldino - and I am always meaning to write - so that things go on - go on - until how to say it all and where to begin!! - Well - Games you know! of course - Amazing! - Really I do believe "I am a devil" like Barnaby Rudge's raven[4]! - Oscar[5] too always says 'Jimmie you are a devil'! - Anyhow I have had inspiration after inspiration and I am free to acknowledge that they partake greatly of the dainty cruelty and wild [p. 2] wickedness of our friend the original 'Amazer'! -

Waldino it is simply superb, the game! - Only now is the moment for a rally - and so I am waiting for you - you must just pack your bag and turn up in Tite Street on Wednesday the 14th at about 2 o'clock - or Thursday morning by 10 - A. M. - but that is already late - No say Wednesday - in time for dinner if you like - but "don't be late"! - Write at once and say you are coming - that it is all right - and that I may rely on you - I mean you would never forgive yourself if you were absent - Besides are you not my most intimate chum - a very Pal - and the only one who besides myself really knows! So Waldo put aside the work which I know must be lovely - and run up to London for a week - and then you shall go back -

But don't let any thing prevent your coming - It will do us both such a lot of good to meet again just now - we have such a lot to say to each other - And with this all I have n't told you what it is about - Well great Shebang on Saturday 17. Feb - Opening of Show[6] and Private View - "Arrangement in White & Yellow". I do the Gallery in Bond Street - where I have won my battle and am on good terms with the Fine Art Society - having it all my own way of course - hurrah! - All the World there - Lady Archie[7] - the Prince[8] - and Various! - especially Various! - great glorification - and the Butterfly rampant and all over the place! [p. 3] I can't tell you how perfect - though you would instinctively know that there isn't a detail forgotten - Sparkling and dainty - dainty to a degree my dear Waldino - and all so sharp - White walls - of different whites - with yellow painted mouldings - not gilded! - Yellow velvet curtains - pale yellow matting - Yellow sofas and little chairs - lovely little table yellow - own design - with yellow pot and Tiger lilly [sic]! Forty odd superb etchings round the white walls in their exquisite white frames - with their little butterflies - large White butterfly on yellow curtain - and Yellow butterfly on white wall - and finally servant in yellow livery (!) handing Catalogue[9] in brown paper cover same size as Ruskin pamphlet!!! And such a catalogue! - The last inspiration! - Sublime simply - Never such a thing thought of - I take my dear Waldo, all this I have collected of the silly drivel of the wise fools who write, and I pepper & salt it about [p. 4] the Catalogue under the different etchings I exhibit! - in short I put their nose to the grindstone and turn the wheel with a whirr! - I just let it spin! - stopping at nothing - marginal notes like in the Paddon Papers[10] - I give 'em Hell! - quoting old Solomon[11] about the fool to my heart's content -

The whole thing is a joy - and indeed a masterpiece of Mischief! -

For instance -

"This is not[12] the Venice of a Maiden's fancies"
"Arry" - in the Spectator -

Then I have got two or three etchings by Hammerton[13] [sic] - and Arry's Doorway[14] - and I am thinking of exhibiting them as the "Works of those who judge our Work" - and then as the final [p. 5] tip I am having a lot of lovely little butterflies made in yellow satin and Velvet with their little sting in silver wire which will be worn as badges by the women Amazers!!! -

You must come of course - so now rouse up Waldo and rush over here at once - It would be so nice if you could be here some few days beforehand that we might shove on the Show together -

Can't you come at once - as well one day as another - Eldoni[15] at present is hopeless - domesticity and whisky having proved too much -

It was awful about the lovely figurines[16] being broken! we were all dreadfully disappointed -

Many kind things to Miss Broadwood[17] - and come at once

[butterfly signature]

13. Tite Street

This document is protected by copyright.


Signor Waldo Story -
Palazzo Barberini
Rome -
[stamp:] ONE PENNY / POSTAGE / [illegible]
[Postmark:] CHELSEA / 1 2 / FE 5 / 83
[postmark on verso:] ROMA / 8 / 2 83 / 7 M


1.  5 February 1883
Dated from postmark.

2.  Waldo Story
Thomas Waldo Story (1854-1915), sculptor [more].

3.  ALS
Published in Thorp, Nigel (Editor), Whistler on Art: Selected Letters and Writings 1849-1903 of James McNeill Whistler, Manchester, 1994, and Washington, 1995, pp. 74-76, no. 28.

4.  Barnaby Rudge's raven
A reference to the half-crazed, reckless youth of Charles Dickens' historical novel Barnaby Rudge (1849). Rudge becomes embroiled in Lord George Gordon Riots of 1780 and his fighting leads to his arrest and condemnation to death. Rudge had a pet raven who performed as quoted.

5.  Oscar
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde (1854-1900), writer, critic and playwright [more].

6.  Show
That is, Mr Whistler's Etchings, The Fine Art Society, London, 1883. The private view was on 17 February.

7.  Lady Archie
Janey Sevilla Campbell (ca 1846 - d.1923), née Callander, Lady Archibald Campbell [more].

8.  Prince
Albert Edward Saxe-Coburg (1841-1910), H.R.H. The Prince of Wales [more].

9.  Catalogue
Etchings & Drypoints. Venice. Second Series. In the catalogue, the titles of the works were accompanied by disparaging extracts from reviews. This caused a stir amongst such critics as Frederick Wedmore in the Academy (reproduced in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, p. 106).

10.  Paddon Papers
Whistler, James McNeill, Correspondence. Paddon Papers. The Owl and the Cabinet, London, [1882].

11.  Solomon
Solomon (b. 1033 BC), third king of Israel, son of David and Bathsheba: 'A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother', Proverbs 10, 1-2.

12.  This is not ... Spectator
Henry ('Arry') Quilter (1851-1907), advocate and art critic [more]; his remark is reproduced in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, p. 98.

13.  Hammerton
Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1834-1894), author, critic and artist [more]; his etchings are unidentified.

14.  Doorway
In the spring of 1880 Quilter and JW were both in Venice. One day, Quilter was at work drawing a particularly appealing old doorway when, all of a sudden, JW appeared in a gondola shouting 'you've got my doorway.' The subject was the the Palazzo Gussoni, which he etched as The Doorway (K.188). The full story is recorded in Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1, pp. 267-68.

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

16.  figurines
The 'little figures' (excat 15). JW and Story collaborated in producing small figurines of women but unfortunately they were broken in transit to Rome (see MacDonald, Margaret F. et al, Whistler, Women and Fashion, New Haven and London, 2003, pp. 153-54, repr. p. 153).

17.  Miss Broadwood
Ada Maud Story (1856-1932), née Broadwood [more].