UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Peacock Room
Record 10 of 79

System Number: 08054
Date: [20/31 August 1876][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Frances Leyland[2]
Place: [Liverpool]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 2/16/6
Document Type: ALS


My dear Mrs. Leyland -

As I do not read the papers and as Horace's[3] letters are of a vagueness not to be surpassed, the famous Pullman expedition continues a mystery of the most puzzling - Every time I pass the large play bills of the "Voyage to the Moon[4]," I think necessarily of you all - Not then only by the way! - for nearly all day long you are recalled by your absence! if one may offer such a paradox (good word by the way Horace might try it in the Car!) but Princes Gate[5] [p. 2] is so lonely and so dismal without you that as I work and labor through the dreary silence I cannot well overcome the sense of being left by you all - and I miss you and miss you dreadfully! - I daresay Flo'[6] would think that served me simply right - I wonder by the way if she ever got the letter[7] I wrote to her at Edinborough [sic]? Why does she not send me another delightful little note? So cheerful and refreshing?

Give her my love and tell her how anxious I am to hear more of her journeyings and doings in Wonderland - Beseech her also to take care of her red dress - for I must paint it - What news you must be! Of course you absolutely furnish the news - you are the news yourselves in all the country papers - which I never see!

Letters ought to come from you - not to you - for what can interest in the whirl of excitement, which by this time has become your second nature!

No one in town! - excepting Lionel Robinson[8] - and he goes to Venice with me when I am ready - unless he be too impatient and run off without me! -

I am only staying here to absolutely finish the dining room - All studio work I have put aside until my return - And how I am working! - like a nigger - [p. 3]

The other morning I was up at 6, and it was striking the quarter to 9 o'clock in the evening as I walked away from my ladders and paint! Nearly done now - for I am at it every day - It is most lovely - but I wouldn't do it again for any one alive - "present company" - or rather "absent company" always excepted! - of course - I am quite broken down with fatigue - and I sometimes wonder whether you will all appreciate it? Three or four days more and I suppose I will have finished - I shall run down and see the Mother[9] - and then off to Venice[10]! - Tissot[11] I see a good deal of - The Dr.[12] dined here the other night - and so did Sutherland[13] - Gave me letter of introduction - Not settled yet about publisher - Or whether I shall bring it out by myself - Good night Madame - I am nearly blind with sleep and blue peacocks feathers. Will you perhaps kindly write a line and tell me whether you go next to Dundee[14] - Love to all - Will write again before leaving - Tell Freddie[15] I shall write to him.

The umbrella is delightful - I shall take it to Venice with me and sit under it in the sun for I shall never trust it to the rain!

I am so glad you are all well and enjoying yourselves.

Very sincerely Yours

J A McN. Whistler[16]


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Notes:

1.  [20/31 August 1876]
Dated from reference to JW's interior scheme for the Leyland's dining room and reference in Anna Whistler to J. H. Gamble, #06560, dated 8 September 1876 and written from Hastings, in which reference is made to JW's visit 'last month.'

2.  Frances Leyland
Frances Leyland (1836-1910), née Dawson [more].

3.  Horace's
Probably Horace Jee, musician, JW's occasional secretary [more].

4.  Voyage to the Moon
Alan Summerly Cole (1846-1934), textile expert and museum official [more], notes in his diary that he dined with JW on 11 September. He records that he - presumably they - went 'to see Voyage dans la Lune [Alhambra?] - dull' (see Alan Cole Diary, #03432). 'Le Voyage dans la lune' was an Opéra Buffe, adapted from Offenbach by H. S. Leigh. It opened at the Alhambra on 15 April 1876. See Reginald Clarence and H. J. Eldredge, compilers, The Stage Cyclopaedia [London: The Stage, 1909], p. 472. See also a review in The Academy, 6 November 1875, p. 491: 'The Voyage à la Lune - the last new féerie brought out at the Paris Gaiété, with all Monsieur Offenbach's habitual luxury of mise en scène, with one knows not how many ballets, how much of M. Offenbach's own music - is this week truly described in the French papers as "an operetta blown out into a féerie;" and the serious journal shakes its head - and not too soon - at the number of theatres devoted still to spectacles of that bastard kind. Long after anything has ceased to please, it is conventionally held to be attractive, and that which has once been accepted is slow to be voted totally worthless.'

5.  Princes Gate
The Leylands' London home at Prince's Gate. JW worked all summer there on his interior scheme for the dining room Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178).

6.  Flo'
Florence Leyland (1859-1921), later Mrs Prinsep [more].

7.  letter
Untraced.

8.  Lionel Robinson
Lionel George Robinson, writer and editor.

9.  Mother
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more].

10.  Venice
JW planned to travel to Venice in September 1876 to work on a set of etchings (see A. M. Whistler to J. H. Gamble, #06560. However, his work on the Peacock Room, subsequent quarrel with his patron Frederick Leyland over its cost and other events prevented his departure until September 1879.

11.  Tissot
Jacques ('James') Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), painter and etcher [more].

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

13.  Sutherland
Possibly Thomas Sutherland (1834-1922), Liberal MP, Chairman of the P. and O. line [more].

14.  Dundee
The Leyland family were friendly with Sir James Key Caird (1837-1916), jute manufacturer [more], and his family who lived in Dundee. This may have been a social visit.

15.  Freddie
Frederick Dawson Leyland (b. 1856), son of F. R. Leyland [more].

16.  J A McN. Whistler
The lines 'the umbrella ... J A McN. Whistler' are cross-written.