The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: gift from JW
Record 15 of 45

System Number: 01849
Date: [1 December 1887][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: William Henry Smith[2]
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler G214
Document Type: MsLd[3]

Dear Sir,

Having been officially invited, as President of the Royal Society of British Artists, to attend the Review by Her Majesty[4] of her Fleet at Spithead on 273th of July last, I felt myself moved to offer some tribute, within the scope of my own art, and my own ability, to the enduring significance of a magnificent spectaable [sic] which was something grand[er?]er and loftier than a mere pageant.

[right margin] g g g g

I have accordingly embodied my impressions and observations, on that memorable day, in a set of Etchings[5] - notes, as I may say of the needle, not the pen, taken at the moment and from point to point of that Imperial but pacific and more than Roman triumph, from Tilbury fort to the waters of Portsmouth.

These I am most anxious, as you will readily understand, to be allowed to submit to Her Majesty as an expression, sincere, though [p. 2] inadequate, of the emotions of loyalty, admiration and reverence aroused in the hearts of the myriads who witnessed the august display.

Your great kindness in the matter of a recent Memorial[6] of the Society over which I have the honour to preside encourages me to hope that you may not think it an abuse of your Courtesy if I ask you to oblige me by advising me in what form and manner the submission of these Etchings to Her Majesty may be most appropriately and becomingly made.

In preparing them so to be submitted I have been gratefully mindful of the terms of commendation in which Her Majesty was graciously pleased to speak of the artistic execution of that Memorial prepared by me for presentation to Her Majesty, through the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Home Department, as well as of the lofty standard of artistic duty to which every member of that Society must feel himself bound by the high privilege [p. 3] and distinction which Her Majesty has been pleased to bestow upon it

And I am
Your most obedient Servant

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [1 December 1887]
This is the second of two drafts (#01850) of a letter dated 1 December 1887 (#09667).

2.  William Henry Smith
William Henry Smith (1825-1891), MP, statesman and bookseller [more].

3.  MsLd
Written in the hand of Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870-1935), engineer, son of JW and Louisa Fanny Hanson [more].

4.  Review by Her Majesty
On 27 July JW attended the Naval Review at Spithead to celebrate the Jubilee of Victoria (1819-1901), Queen of Great Britain [more].

5.  set of Etchings
JW made a set of twelve etchings, the 'Naval Review set', 1887 (K. 316-331) (excat 7), that was presented to Queen Victoria in a specially designed album (see M.1132-3, 1138-45). The Album was in the safe-keeping of J. L. Pattison by 29 November, and its presentation to the Queen was acknowledged on 13 December 1887 (J. L. Pattison to JW, 29 November 1887, #04538; H. Ponsonby to JW, #04995).

6.  Memorial
On the occasion of Queen Victoria's fiftieth Jubilee, on 20 June 1887 JW sent an illuminated Address on behalf of the SBA (see M.1133-6). JW also, later, sent a Memorial to the Queen requesting that the Society be called 'Royal'. The SBA received a Royal Charter, thus becoming the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA).