The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 02860
Date: [26 January 1880][1]
Author: JW
Place: Venice[2]
Recipient: Charles Augustus Howell[3]
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler LB 12/39
Document Type: ALS

It appears my dear old Owl that you are alive and of course kicking - kicking naturally! - How is the Show[4]? - Can't you write a line and tell us many things? - Rumours have reached me of journeys in Holland or Belgium - Flanders qui sait[5] - Explain. Sales? things to be valued or were you travelling for political combinations - a sort of Queen's Messenger[6] at last! Hurrah! In short sit down like [a] good chap and tell me all - You have lots to say -

'Various[7]' is going on amazingly here and I propose to bring back what will delight you - As to etchings[8] I am the kind of thing that out swaggers all the collection - only mon cher I am frozen[9]! - and I scarcely know exactly when I can finish - The Mezzotint of Miss Corder[10] came all right - What shall I say about it? - It is fine - but scarcely as rich as I expected - The head is rather hard - could Josie[11] soften it a [p. 2] little by burnishing slightly the modelling and doing away ever so little with the lines? - It really looks like a dry proof - perhaps others are better - How about the Nocturnes of Cremorne[12] that were exhibited? also what has been done about the Carlyle[13]? I had a letter from John[14] a while ago - dated Bombay! - He is installed as steward and happy in his post though hoping that I shall make the fortune I deserve when of course he will at once come back to his old service faithfull [sic] to his Master - How about the White House[15]? Did you see a paragraph in the World[16] a couple of weeks ago? A huge portrait of a former patron[17], it would appear has been painted by Whistler representing the said Macaenas as a demon - "sitting on the famous White House" .... [four dots] This is for exhibition in a well known auction room! - Give us details Owl - and more news - What about Godwin[18]? - Did you see the inscription[19] I left over the door? - delightful wasn't it? - But tell us about yourself - What programe [sic] is there - and would you like to run anything? - I wish I could show you some of the lovely pastels[20] I have done! I told you I should discover something new and of course you may be sure that a fresh condition of things have I stirred up - Money must come in this time without fail - You know this would be superb for your show - if you could only manage to work something here! - First the absence of cabs would make you a small income of itself - and then living is amazing - Arks could be moored and shows propped up on eighteenpence - For the rest "Various[21]" is rife and Palma Vechio[22]'s for Leyland[23] and his kind to be had for fivers or less - Seriously Venice is not to be neglected - and now that I have taken the habit of voyaging I don't see why Lisboa[24] and the rest of it should not be turned to account - I tell you old chap that I am bound to turn everything I touch now into gold - I can't help it - The work I do is lovely and these others fellows have no idea! no distant idea! of what I see with certainty - Mind I shall not come back with sketches of Venice after the manner of Philip's[25] return with sketches of Spain - the whole thing with me will be just a continuation of my own art work, some portions of which complete themselves in Venice -

[p. 3] Now what in thunder have you been saying in Bond Street - Huish[26] has just written - quite upset by some report you have spread in his place to the effect of my working upon some huge plate not for him - not in the set! - How can you yield to this mania of yours? Why must you always go about inventing things - In this particular case too I should never have supposed you could have had the want of wisdom! - dropping matches[27] about in my show! - However I have given you h-- ! You go and ask Huish to read you my letter - It is too bad - when I am really working like a nigger and risking my health in the cold - Never mind - I will forgive you if you write me a long volume of yarns - Besides we all know you can't help it - so what is the use - -

Give my kindest regards to Mrs Howell[28] and my Goddaughter[29] - how is she? - I shall not forget your little black gondola - Mind you tell me lots - All the Chelsea news - Have you seen anything of little Watts[30] - Remember me to Mr & Mrs Jones[31] and the young ladies - How is Fulham House[32] - and how is the Railway Company[33]? Have they paid up? - and in short how are the shows - Remember me very kindly to Miss Corder[34] of whom I have read brilliant tidings in papers sent me away out here - also forget not Miss Chambers[35] in my greeting and Allingham[36] if you still run together - I wrote the other day to Way[37] - and shall write to Elden[38] in a day or two - Now Goodbye - La bonne année[39] to you all

Ever Yours

J A McN Whistler.

Always address to me Café Florian[40]- Place St Marc.
Venice -

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


Charles Augustus Howell Esqr
Fulham House
[postmark:] VENEZIA / 26 / 1- 80 / 9S/ 136


1.  26 January 1880
Dated from the postmark. No reply from Howell has survived.

2.  Venice
JW was in Venice from September 1879 to late October 1880.

3.  Charles Augustus Howell
Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more]. Also referred to as 'Owl.' This letter was published in MacDonald, Margaret F., Palaces in the Night Whistler in Venice, Aldershot, 2001, pp. 144-45, No. 5.

4.  Show
JW's term for business affairs, particularly in regard to his art work.

5.  qui sait
Fr., who knows?

6.  Queen's Messenger
A civil servant or government official carrying messages.

7.  Various
Another term for business affairs.

8.  etchings
JW's etchings of Venice (K.183-232, 240) were published in two sets. The first set of twelve etchings, Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5) was published by the Fine Art Society in 1880.

9.  frozen
There are several references to the unusually cold winter (#01954, #02992, #06687).

10.  Mezzotint of Miss Corder
Howell had commissioned JW to paint Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder (YMSM 203), which was completed by 1879, when the engraver Richard Josey made a mezzotint of it. Howell hoped that the sale of the prints would help JW's (and his own) finances.

11.  Josie
Richard Josey (1840-1906), reproductive engraver [more].

12.  Nocturnes of Cremorne
Cremorne was a pleasure garden on the Thames, painted by JW in Nocturne: Black and Gold - The Fire Wheel (YMSM 169) and Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170). Howell deposited these paintings with Henry Graves and Co. as surety for a loan to JW. They remained unsold until 1896 and 1892 respectively.

13.  Carlyle
Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137) was surety for JW's debts to Henry Graves and Co.

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

15.  White House
JW's house in Tite Street, sold in liquidation of his assets (see E. W. Godwin, House and Studio for J. A. McN. Whistler(z442)).

16.  World
The World, January 1880.

17.  portrait of a former patron
The Gold Scab (YMSM 208) was a caricature of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more]. It was auctioned in JW's bankruptcy sale at Sotheby's, London, 12 February 1880 (88) as 'A Satirical Painting of a Gentleman styled "The Creditor".' No reference to the portrait has been located in the World in January 1880, though its appearance in the sale itself was later reported in the column 'Art Notes' (18 February 1880, p. 17). It is possible that JW was mistaken as to the date.

18.  Godwin
Edward William Godwin (1833-1886), architect and designer [more]. He designed the 'White House' for JW.

19.  inscription
Before JW left for Venice he wrote over the door of the 'White House', 'Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it. - E. W. Godwin, F.S.A., built this one.' (Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908 vol. 1, p. 258.) Godwin drew the inscription in a sketchbook (Victoria and Albert Museum, AAD).

20.  pastels
JW drew about ninety pastels in Venice (M. 727-28, 734, 737-79, 782-88, 790-96, 799-828).

21.  Various
See above.

22.  Palma Vechio
Jacopo de Antonio de Negreto Palma (ca 1480 - d.1528), known as Palma Vecchio, history painter [more].

23.  Leyland
Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more]. His collection included both Italian and Spanish Renaissance works (see Duval, Susan, A Reconstruction of F. R. Leyland's Collection: an Aspect of Northern British Patronage, M.A. thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 1982).

24.  Lisboa
Lisbon: Howell was born in Portugal.

25.  Philip
John ('Spanish') Phillip (1817-1867), artist [more].

26.  Huish
Marcus Bourne Huish (1843 - d.1921), barrister, writer and art dealer, Director of the Fine Art Society [more]. The Fine Art Society, which had commissioned twelve etchings of Venice from JW, was at 148 New Bond Street. Huish had written to JW on 14 January 1880 (see #01105). JW replied that fine etching tools required small copper-plates. His statement was refined and printed in 'Propositions' to accompany, A Set of twenty-six etchings of Venice, 1886 (the second 'Venice set') (K.196-216, 233-237). (excat 6), published by Messrs Dowdeswell in 1886.

27.  matches
A jocular reference to the incendiary properties of their business and artistic affairs (see The Show on fire (M.674)).

28.  Mrs Howell
Frances Kate ('Kitty') Howell (1842 or 1843-1888), née Howell, cousin and wife of C. A. Howell [more].

29.  Goddaughter
Rosalind Blanche Catherine Howell (b. 1877), daughter of Frances and C. A. Howell [more].

30.  Watts
Probably George Frederick Watts (1817-1904), painter and sculptor [more].

31.  Jones
Mr and Mrs Jones and family have not been identified.

32.  Fulham House
C. A. Howell's address.

33.  Railway Company
C. A. Howell had a long standing dispute over compensation due to him for his house in North-end, Fulham. There is an amusing account of the Howell v. District Railway case in the E. W. Godwin papers (AAD, Victoria and Albert Museum; see also Angeli, Helen Rossetti, Pre-Raphaelite Twilight: The Story of Charles Augustus Howell, London, 1954, p. 96).

34.  Miss Corder
Rosa Frances Corder (1853-1884), artist [more].

35.  Miss Chambers
Alice Mary ('May') Chambers (1855-after 1918), artist, executrix of C. A. Howell [more].

36.  Allingham
Theodore Frederick Allingham (b. 1845), solicitor [more].

37.  Way
Thomas Way (1837-1915), lithographic printer [more]. No letter from JW to Way of this date has been traced.

38.  Elden
Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885), artist [more]. The only surviving letter from JW to Elden written from Venice dates from April 1880 (#12816).

39.  La bonne année
Fr., good New Year.

40.  Always address to me Café Florian
The close of the letter is written on p. 1. The Café Florian is the famous café on St Mark's Square.