The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: health, mental
Record 1 of 7

System Number: 12814
Date: [July/August 1876][1]
Author: JW
Place: [Liverpool?][2]
Recipient: Matthew Robinson Elden[3]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler E58
Document Type: ALS

Just a line my dear Elden to beg that you will write to me by tomorrows post [4] and tell me how they are getting on -

I hope it will be an encouraging report that everyone would be delighted to read -

Pray see that Dick[5] repairs and gilds the one or two little places on the ceiling - all ready [p. 2] for me to retouch directly I return -

The Groinings in the ceiling must by this time be all gilt and varnished -

They can then go right on with the dado in the same Dutch Metal[6], begin[n]ing by the door and going round by the fire place -

The carved pillars are to be gilded[7] all right and they might put in a couple on each side of the picture[8] -

I hope to get back by Saturday or Monday

[p. 3] I won

Morris[9] who you know is here joins me in kindest regards -

Many thanks my dear Elden for the trouble you are taking -

and believe me
Ever Yours sincerely

J A McN. Whistler

[butterfly signature]

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1.  [July/August 1876]
Dated from references to preliminary work on Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178) (see below).

2.  [Liverpool?]
It is possible that JW was visiting Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more], at Speke Hall, near Liverpool, although there is no other record of the visit. It is also possible that he was making one of his rare trips to his mother in Hastings.

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

4.  tomorrows post
No letter has been located. Leyland had commissioned Thomas Jeckyll (1827-1881), architectural designer [more], to decorate the dining room of his new house at 49 Prince's Gate in London. Jeckyll's mental illness brought work to a sudden halt in the spring of 1876. JW stepped in to oversee the gilding of ceiling, doors, shutters, cornice, wainscotting and dado with 'Dutch metal'. See Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998, pp. 210-13.

5.  Dick
Richard ('Dick') Watson, carver and gilder, of 146 Wardour Street, London, or Richard ('Dick') Annis, carver and gilder; of 36 Holland Street.

6.  Dutch Metal
An alloy of copper and zinc used as a less expensive substitute for gold leaf.

7.  gilded
On 17 February 1877 JW wrote to Henry Jeckyll, the architect's brother, about the work done after the architect's illness, 'I had begun to gild on my own responsibility his lovely columns feeling sure that by this means the beautiful carving would for the first time be fully brought out - as was the case. Before in their original state of dull brown walnut it could only be made out on close inspection' (#02407).

8.  picture
Possibly La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (YMSM 50). Merrill refutes the artistic myth that JW's involvement in the decoration of the dining room originated from his attempts to make the carpet and leather harmonise with his painting (op. cit., pp. 211-21). This letter suggests that he considered adding to the network of spindle shelving that framed and supported Leyland's collection of Chinese porcelain, to make his picture fit in with the decoration.

9.  Morris
Probably Philip Richard Morris (1833 or 1836-1902), painter [more], who was later commissioned to paint a portrait of Mrs Leyland, could well have accompanied JW to visit the Leylands (see #12824-#12826).