The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Hiffernan, Joanna
Record 50 of 50

System Number: 02246
Date: [1903?][1]
Author: Charles James Whistler Hanson[2]
Place: [London]
Recipient: [none]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler H342
Document Type: AD

(p. 1) Out of my Memory.

It was about this time that Whistler was painting the Peacok Peacock Room[3]. for Frederick Leyland. Before commencing the work W. made many visits to the Zoo to study the peacock in various positions and he made a large number of studies[4] of that in colour of that beautiful bird. I saw some of these studies years afterwards at the Studio in Tite Street but I do not know what eventually became wh what eventually happened to them. Doubtless some lucky museum has them in its collection. The Peacock Room was the dining room of Leyland's house at Fred. Leylands[5] house at Prince's Gate and I think the number of the house was 13 but Prince's Gate, South Kensington. I think the number of the 13 was the number of the house. I believe that Fred Leyland was a shipowner and years after the painting of the Peacock Room I have a dim recollection that W. told me that Leyland started [business?] business in the office of a firm in Liverpool subsequently "worked his way up" and eventually controlled the business and either started or improved a line of merchant vessels which subsequently became known at [sic] the Leyland Line. I think that Leyland had a country house near Liverpool and I have heard it spoken of as "Liberty Hall[6]" but whether that was its real name I I do not know I do not know if that was its real name. Whi W. was very friendly with the Leylands and used to stay at Liberty Hall. W. painted several portraits of the Leylands[7] but as these are all well known I need say no more about them.

I made several visits to Prince's Gate while W. was painting the Peacock Room and I saw him Several times I was taken to Princes Gate by Joanna[8] while he was W. was painting the Peacock Room and I remember that on one occasion W. was lying on his back on the top of some scaffolding and painting the ceiling. I, also, (p. 2) remember seeing him paint painting the tail of one of the Peaco peacocks. Two large peacocks peacocks were at one end side of the room and I used to look at them, admire their long tails and almost wonder why they did not fight.

It was about this time that I was taken to see him playing on the stage with Mrs. Leyla a play called I think "Twenty Minutes under an Umbrella[9]" in which the chief characters were played by W and Mrs. Leyland[10]. The play was in aid of some charity and was in a theatre but I cannot recal remember the name of the theatre. At the end of the performance there was great applause so I conclude the performance was a success. I think there was more than one performance but of this I cannot be sure. I believe this was the only occasion in which W. took a personal part in a personal performance at a theatre.

I saw Mrs Leyland several times and always remember her as a charming and beautiful lady.

(p. 3) It is considered a great blessing to have a good memory but sometimes one's memories are not always pleasant and then one wishes that one could forget. I happened to have a memory in which events of various kinds are stored in my mind in what I may describe as a series of photographs and often often by recalling an incident and examining the mental picture carefully I can see details which I at first [illegible] did not observe.

My first mental picture is not a pleasant one. I am held in a woman's arms and looking down into a grave in which a small coffin is resting with some flowers on it. There are only four or about five people present, a clergyman[,] two men and two women. The woman holding me is shaken with sobs and holds me convulsively. I do not understand, and begin to cry. The vision fades.

I have been looking at the burial of my foster brother[11], from from subsequent enquiries I know I was not two years I must have been about under two years old.

It appears that my mother[12] could not nurse me and I went was sent to be handnursed to a woman who had a boy of her own and this little fellow it was the burial of this little fellow that I remember so vividly.

The woman who nursed me was I think called Mrs Doubleday[13] or was it [Tenplay?] I and & I lived at with her and I lived with her at [Woodrich?] until I was nearly two years old when the second picture of the past comes to my mind.

I am sitting on the grass on near a doorway of a small house a pavement of flat stones near a small house. * * I cannot say if[14]:. I have a red and blue I am dressed in a frock plaid frock of red and blue black, in which the red predominates and I am very pleased with the colours bright red. The sun is shining and I am very happy as I have a beautiful

(p. 4) I am playing with a beautiful horse with a red saddle on its back, long mane and a beautiful long tail flowing tail. The horse and I are great friends and I move him to and fro on his wheels which while making sounds to him while talking to him. and if he does not understand Two women, Joanna & Mrs S.[15] come on the scen scene and one of them and they lift me up and caress me much to my discomfort as I have to part company with my horse. My foster mother appears on this [s?] and there is a lot of talk. even. Eventually a bundle is made of my wardrobe and I leave the abode of my foster mother. I am taken ion a long journey on and eventually reach my future home at Barnes.

(p. 5) I used to be very fond of taking short walks by myself and so long as I said where I was going and promised to be back by a certain time no great objection was made to my ramblings.

One of my favourite calls was upon Thomas Carlyle[16] at Upper Cheyne Row. I can distinctly recall my walk to the house, knocking at the door and being admitted by a woman and taken in to see the Sage. I used in his room on the ground floor. I cannot recollect any kind of conversation - if such could have occurred between a sage of seventy and a child of seven - but I do remember I used to very gravely shake hands with him and then sit on a footstol footstool near the fireplace. I used to watch him write or read and I was always as quiet as a mouse. If my [visit?] visit was about tea time cakes - very nice ones tot too - bread & butter and milk was brought in to specially for me. I used to like visiting the house For some quite unaccountable reason I used to like these visits, and I suppose I was made welcome as I remained very quiet and sat looking at some pictures in books or else sat watching Carlyle without speaking. When I had stayed long enough possibly an hour or so I would get up off the stool and shake hands with him. Sometimes I would say "Goodbye" but often more often I left in silence - after shaking hands. These visits were made at not no set time a day always in the afternoon but at no set day and possibly weeks would intervene between calls. I remember on one occasion it must have been in the winter time as the fire was burning that a tall dark man came in while I was sitting on a footstool by the fire. The visitor said a few words to Carlyle and then sat in a chair on one side of the fireplace (p. 6) while Carlyle sat on the opposite side - and I while I was on the footstool between them. To the best of my recollection not one word was During the remainder of my visit - possibly half an hour or more hardly a word was spoken by the two men. and when I got up and from the stool, said Good bye to both, and left - they both contemplated - and he were happy in each other each others Company. I learned afterwards that Carlyle's visitor was Many years afterwards I recognised from a picture that Carlyle's silent visitor as was Lord Tennyson[17] the Poet Laureate.

(p. 7) Another place where person I used to call on as a small boy was at the great sculptor Sir Joseph Boehm[18]'s at his Studio in The Avenue, Fulham Row. I used to like this studio because it was full of carved statues stone stone statues of people and horses and it was very interesting to see Sir Joseph working with on the stone and carving the bust a portrait. Sometimes a figure or portrait was modelled in clay rapidly and without effort and I used to consider Sir Joseph a kind of magician who could turn clay into animals and I should not have been very much surprised if these animals had become alive. In this studio I was allowed to sit and watch the work. I was always silent very quiet and did not fidget but watch carefully Sir Joseph told me if I wanted to stay I must sit still and not fidget. Sitting still did not worry me as I had been well trained. So I often was allowed to stay for an hour or so at a time and Sitting still had no terrors for me as I had so often sat for Whistler so I was allowed to stay in Sir Joseph's studio for an hour or so at a time. On one occasion during one of these calls a very grand lady accompanied with another visited the studio. A lot of animated conversation occurred but I cannot recollect a word of it but it seemed that the lady was greatly interested in some special sculpture (perhaps a bust of herself). After a time I also, attracted attention possibly because I was sitting still and then after Sir Joseph presents me to the Princess* *Princess Louise[19], afterwards Marchioness of Lorne who gave me some very fine sweeties and who was greatly amused that I should of my own free will like to visit the studio by myself. A few moments after I gravely said Good bye to the Princess, her company and Sir Joseph.

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1.  [1903?]
It is impossible to date this memoir, but it is likely that it dates from after JW's death. It is written on lined sheets from an exercise book.

2.  Charles James Whistler Hanson
Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870-1935), engineer, son of JW and Louisa Fanny Hanson [more].

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

4.  studies
See Cartoon of rich and poor Peacocks (M.584).

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

6.  Liberty Hall
Speke Hall, at Speke, near Liverpool.

7.  several portraits of the Leylands
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland (YMSM 97); Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106); Portrait of Miss Florence Leyland (YMSM 107); Portrait of Master Frederick Leyland (YMSM 108); Portrait of Miss Leyland (1) (YMSM 109); Portrait of Miss Leyland (2) (YMSM 110); and The Blue Girl: Portrait of Miss Elinor Leyland (YMSM 111).

8.  Joanna
Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843), JW's model and mistress [more].

9.  Twenty Minutes under an Umbrella
See Whistler sitting under an umbrella (M.681). The performers were actually JW and Isabella Langdale Fowke (1850-1929), née Cole, wife of F. R. Fowke [more], in A. W. Dubourg's play of that title.

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

11.  foster brother
Not identified.

12.  mother
Louisa Fanny Hanson (b. 1849), parlour-maid and mother of JW's son Charles J. W. Hanson [more].

13.  Mrs Doubleday
Not identified.

14.  * I cannot say if
Linked by an asterisk from the foot of the page.

15.  Mrs S.
Bridget Agnes Hiffernan (1844/1845-after 1919), mistress and later wife of C. J. Singleton, and sister of Joanna Hiffernan [more].

16.  Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), historian and philosopher [more].

17.  Lord Tennyson
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), poet [more].

18.  Sir Joseph Boehm
Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-1890), sculptor [more].

19.  Princess Louise
Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939), Marchioness of Lorne, sculptress [more]. This additional note is written at the foot of the page and is linked here by an asterisk.