UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 5 of 11

System Number: 01049
Date: [February 1880][1]
Author: Matthew Robinson Elden[2]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: [Venice]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler E37
Document Type: ALf[3]


69 Mallinson Road
New Wandsworth

My dear Whistler

Your delightful letter[4] makes me ashamed to find myself still in this triste[5] country - the dullness here is intensified by your absence - if I came I could not stay long enough & must return to my chains & these perhaps I had better better [sic] break in the spring as the weather in Venice will not be quite so fine in December or November as when you wrote in October?

On Sunday I saw the Mitfords[6] who were delighted to hear of you & are going to write to you - They enjoyed the Gold Scab - & Lobster[7] story & particularly of Leylands[8] visit to the White House[9] with Mrs Caldecot[10] - in John's[11] absence Watson[12] did the honours[,] his scruples as to admitting strangers being removed by Frilthy Lucre[13] - Watson did not know who he was but knew him by his resemblance to the Gold Scab & by Mrs C's & his interest in the Lobsters [p. 2] at which they looked & then at one another smiling quizzically - though not unhappily quite - perhaps to the Lighthearted this is fame & reputation such as he has - The Gold Scab has been taken to Sothebys[14] in its frame complete - but the other jokes were cut off their stretchers[.] The clerk who fetched them having orders to take all canvasses & to leave the frames &c to you - this is perhaps good as regards the greek girls[15], it may fetch less - to buy in - all frames &c have been sent to the Doctors[16] save a few which Pellegrini[17] borrowed & of which I have an account - Way[18] was delighted to hear such good news of you but knew nothing of the date of sale of the house at Sothebys as yet - I doubted the Leyland visit which was a week after the sale of the house until John told me that Howell[19] had told him that it was true - John is all right [p. 3] and appointed a super steward in the P O[20] which entitles him to draw pay pending his appointment to a berth

The inscription[21] still remains over the door & Keene[22] says that some people looking at it read it gravely saying - What a religious man he must have been to put that over the door of his house - Of Godwin[23] I know nothing save that he has published in his paper elaborate drawings of a cottage studio for Miss R. Corder[24] to cost 1200 pounds it is not yet built though Fulham Jones[25] is at liberty to do it when the ground has been discovered at Kensington on which it may stand - Mrs Howell[26] has been at Brighton for a month or more & Howell to France Belgium & the Hague which means that some one sent him to see some pictures that are for sale there - This famous experte [sic] Jones tells me [he] works hard at the catalogue[,] Howell telling [p. 4] him that Chatto[27] offers him 150 pounds if it be ready to publish when your etchings[28] come out - I suppose Jones will then get his rent -

Miss Corder[29] has lately painted a picture of a deceased lady which so pleased the widower that he gave he gave [sic] her 120 pounds twice her price - Howell & she in high delight - this must have made your old [Joss?] House[30] jump - since this Mrs Howell has lived at Brighton recovering her health & looking now quite up to [illegible name] portrait[31] which old Jones had not before thought like[.] Miss Corder has got 9 commissions various & full of prospects -

I met the other day a Fenian named Brophy[32] lately master of the Westminster school of Art - & asking about Clausen[33] he told me he was getting on amazingly & that he was a great admirer of yours & that in the year of the fatal criticism He was so delighted with your work at the Grosvenor[34] that he called you the Prophet of painting &c


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Notes:

1.  February 1880
Dated by the reference to Sotheby's auction on 12 February 1880 (see below).

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

3.  ALf
The final page of this letter appears to be missing.

4.  letter
Not traced.

5.  triste
Fr., sad.

6.  Mitfords
Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford (1837-1916), Lord Redesdale (1886), diplomat, Secretary of the Office of Works, and collector [more], and Clementine Gertrude Helen Mitford (1854-1932), née Ogilvy, wife of the 1st Baron Redesdale [more].

7.  Gold Scab -& Lobster
The Gold Scab (YMSM 208), and The Loves of the Lobsters (YMSM 209). They were both caricatures of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more].

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

9.  White House
JW's house in Tite Street was designed by Edward William Godwin (1833-1886), architect and designer [more], and completed in 1878.

10.  Mrs Caldecott
Rosa Laura Caldecutt (1843?-1890), mistress of F. R. Leyland [more] had an affair with F. R. Leyland, and may have borne his son (Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998, p. 283).

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

12.  Watson
Watson, care-taker or bailiff at the White House, Tite Street.

13.  Frilthy Lucre
i.e. filthy lucre and an allusion to The Gold Scab (YMSM 208). JW and friends mocked F. R. Leyland's preference for frilled shirt fronts.

14.  Sothebys
JW's bankruptcy sale at Messrs Sotheby and Co. on 12 February 1880.

15.  greek girls
The Three Girls (YMSM 88).

16.  Doctors
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

17.  Pellegrini
Carlo Pellegrini (1839-1889), alias 'Ape', cartoonist for Vanity Fair, designer and lithographer [more].

18.  Way
Thomas Way (1837-1915), lithographic printer [more]. Way bought several lots at JW's bankruptcy sale at Sotheby's on 12 February 1880. Most of his collection was sold in 1905 to Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), industrialist, collector and founder of the Freer Gallery of Art [more].

19.  Howell
Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more].

20.  P O
Peninsular and Oriental Line.

21.  inscription
According to the Pennells, JW wrote over the front 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).

22.  Keene
Isaac Henry Keene, builder, landlord of 7 Lindsey Row [more].

23.  Godwin
Edward William Godwin (1833-1886), architect and designer [more].

24.  cottage studio for Miss R. Corder
Godwin's design for a studio for Rosa Frances Corder (1853-1884), artist [more], was published in the British Architect in 1879.

25.  Fulham Jones
A number of builders lived in the area, including Jones and Co. at 80 Charlwood Street, Pimlico; Alfred Jones at 42 College Street, Chelsea; and Robert Jones at 14 Montpelier Square.

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

27.  Chatto
Andrew Chatto (1840-1913), publisher [more], or the firm of Chatto and Windus.

28.  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.

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

30.  [Joss] house
Allusion unclear.

31.  portrait
The notepaper is abraded and the artist's name illegible. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), artist and poet [more], made a fine portrait drawing of Mrs Howell (Angeli, Helen Rossetti, Pre-Raphaelite Twilight: The Story of Charles Augustus Howell, London, 1954, repr. f. p. 96).

32.  Brophy
Brophy, master of Westminster School of Art [more], unidentified.

33.  Clausen
George Clausen (1852-1944), painter and print-maker [more].

34.  Grosvenor
In May 1877 JW showed eight paintings at the newly opened Grosvenor Gallery 1877, including Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170), which was the focus of the critic John Ruskin's attack on Whistler (Ruskin, John, 'Letter the Seventy-ninth' Fors Clavigera, 2 July 1877, pp. 181-213).