The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: gift from JW
Record 16 of 45

System Number: 09667
Date: 1 December 1887
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: William Henry Smith[1]
Place: [London]
Repository: New York Public Library
Call Number: E. G. Kennedy I/4b
Credit Line: Edward Guthrie Kennedy Papers / Manuscripts and Archives Division / The New York Public Library / Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations
Document Type: TLc


Dear Sir,

Having been officially invited, as President of the Royal Society of British Artists, to attend the Review by Her Majesty[2] of Her Fleet at Spithead on 23rd 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 spectacle which was something grander and loftier than a mere pageant.

I have according[ly] embodied my impressions and observations, on that memorable day, in a set of etchings, 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 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 of the Society, over which I have the honour to preside, encourages (p. 2) 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 the lofty standard of artistic duty, to which every member of that Society must feel himself bound, by the high privilege and distinction which Her Majesty has been pleased to bestow upon it.

And I am, Dear Sir,
Your most obedient Servant,

James McNeill Whistler.

454 Fulham Road,
S. W.,

December 1st 1887.

The Rt. Hon: W. H. Smith M. P.
The First Lord of the Treasury,
etc., etc., etc.,

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  W. H. Smith
William Henry Smith (1825-1891), MP, statesman and bookseller [more]. There are two drafts (#01849, #01850) of the letter sent to Smith, of which this is a typescript copy; the original has not been located. See drafts for full annotation.

2.  Her Majesty
Victoria (1819-1901), Queen of Great Britain [more].