The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Howell, Charles Augustus
Record 23 of 397

System Number: 12862
Date: [18 February 1869][1]
Author: Charles Augustus Howell[2]
Place: [London]
Recipient: William Michael Rossetti[3]
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PLc[4]

My dear William,

Thanks for kind note and P[ost]. O[ffice]. O[rder]. I have bought Whistler's etchings and am going to publish the 'Thames[5]' (12 plates) at once. Publisher F. S. Ellis[6].

Will you write me a nice preface[7]? and perhaps two or three lines describing each plate? Some of the places being done away with (I think) by the Embankment[8], and each plate being of importance as a local record of Old London, etc., etc. What can you charge me for this, and when can I have it. If you say yes I will scrape up a set of the etchings and send them to you for reference and give you a month to write the thing in.

Let me know by return please that I may say in my circular for subscription Letter press etc etc by W. M. Rossetti. I have written to Gabriel[9] to see if he will design me the folio.

Ever affectly.


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1.  [18 February 1869]
Dated by W. M. Rossetti, according to Angeli (see below).

2.  Charles Augustus Howell
Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more]. There is no record in JW's ledgers of any such sale to Howell. D. G. Rossetti had written to Howell, 'I saw Whistler last night who said he understood from you that I would write about the etchings. I wish I could, old chap, but it is of real importance to me, I believe, not to write a word about art, or it would immediately be said that I did so anonymously and habitually, You'd better ask William.' ([15 February 1869?], #12857). It is possible that by telling each person in turn that others had agreed to participate, Howell hoped to put together an attractive package before concluding the deal.

3.  William Michael Rossetti
William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), civil servant and critic [more].

4.  PLc
Published in Angeli, Helen Rossetti, Pre-Raphaelite Twilight: The Story of Charles Augustus Howell, London, 1954, pp. 54-55.

5.  Thames
A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames, 1871 (the 'Thames Set') (K.38-44, 46, 52, 66, 68, 71, 74-76, 95) (excat 4).

6.  F. S. Ellis
Frederick Standridge Ellis (1830-1901), author, publisher and book-seller [more]. He published the 'Thames Set' in 1871.

7.  preface
No preface has been located, by Rossetti or any other writer. Angeli notes that 'It is pretty certain that D. G. R. did not design the folio, but not equally so whether William did or did not write the desired prefactory notes. The fact that a number of these Thames etchings at one time adorned the walls of our home points to the probability of his having done so.' (Angeli, op. cit., p. 55).

8.  Embankment
Few of the Thames etchings, apart perhaps from Early Morning, Battersea (K.75) and the last plate added to the set, Chelsea Bridge and Church (K.95), would have been affected by the Embankment, which was being extended along the north bank of the Thames at this time. The first embankment extended from Westminster to Vauxhall Bridge and was named the Albert, and opened in November 1869. However, the earlier etchings, such as Limehouse (K.40), Black Lion Wharf (K.42) and Thames Police (K.44), undoubtedly show the decaying wharves of 'Old London'.

9.  Gabriel
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), artist and poet [more]. No designs for the folio are known.