The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Aitchison, George
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System Number: 08796
Date: [2/9 September 1876][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Frederick Richards Leyland[2]
Place: [Liverpool]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 6B/22/1
Document Type: ALS

Mon cher Baron[3] -

Je suis content de moi[4]! The dining room[5] is really alive with beauty - brilliant and gorgeous while at the same time delicate and refined to the last degree -

I have enfin managed to carry out thoroughly the plan of decoration I had formed - and I assure you, you can have no more idea of the ensemble in its perfection gathered from what you last saw on the walls than you could have of a complete Opera judging from [p. 2] a third finger exercise! - Voilá -

But dont come up yet - I have not yet quite done - and you mustn't see it till the last touch is on -

I have nearly worked myself to death and if you like I propose to come down to Speke[6] for a couple of day's rest, when I have quite finished - probably at the end of this week for Sunday or so - a sort of farewell visit before I get off for Venice[7] - and then perhaps you would come up with me and we could enjoy the success of this great work together - I seeing it also with rested eyes -

There is no room in London like it mon cher - and Mrs. Eustace Smith[8] is wiped out utterly! - What did you think of the article in the Academy[9]? There will be a little letter of mine in next week that Tommy[10] may have his full share of the praise as is right -

Ever Yours sincerely,

J A McN. Whistler

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1.  [2/9 September 1876]
Dated from references to the Academy on 2 and 9 September 1876 (see notes below).

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

3.  Baron
There is an element of friendly exaggeration in this form of address, for despite Leyland's lifestyle, as businessman, collector and patron, he never had a title.

4.  Je suis content de moi
Fr., I am pleased with myself.

5.  dining room
Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178) in Leyland's house at 49 Prince's Gate.

6.  Speke
JW frequently visited the Leylands at Speke Hall near Liverpool.

7.  Venice
In the end JW did not get to Venice until September 1879.

8.  Mrs. Eustace Smith
Mary Martha ('Eustacia') Smith, née Dalrymple[more]. She and her husband (Thomas Eustace Smith (1831-1903), MP, shipowner, shipbuilder, and collector [more]) moved to 52 Prince's Gate, around the time that the Leylands moved to No. 49, and collected works by such artists as Burne-Jones, Legros and Albert Moore. They commissioned Leighton, Thomas Armstrong and the architect George Aitchison to decorate the house, and Walter Crane to paint the frieze of white cockatoos in her boudoir. JW's comment suggests, as Merrill says, 'that he was consciously engaged in an undeclared competition.' (Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998, p. 222, repr. p. 223, p. 373 n. 143-44).

9.  Academy
Anon., 'Notes and News,' The Academy: A Weekly Review of Literature, Science, and Art, new series, vol. 10, no. 226, 2 September 1876, p. 249.

10.  Tommy
Thomas Jeckyll (1827-1881), architectural designer [more]. JW's letter regarding Jeckyll's part in the room was published in the Academy (see Anon., 'Notes and News,' The Academy: A Weekly Review of Literature, Science, and Art, new series, vol. 10, no. 227, 9 September 1876, p. 275, and #00431).