The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > Whistler 2003 > Journal

Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

return to list of journal entries

21st January 2003 - Beginning of Seminar Series

Last night saw the beginning of the Whistler Centre's new seminar series, 'Nineteenth Century Letters'. The series began with a talk from Dr Kirsteen McCue on the letters of the collector of traditional Scottish Airs, George Thomson.

Ailsa Boyd, co-organiser of the seminar series, comments: "Dr McCue's lecture was a great start to the series. Thomson engaged the eminent composers of the day, including Beethoven and Haydn, to set to music hundreds of Scottish, Welsh and Irish songs, which he published in large volumes decorated with engravings.

"Dr McCue's discussion of the thousand letters in the Thomson letterbooks in the British Library gave a fascinating insight into the process of this huge project of music commissioning and publishing. It revealed how much Thomson's lavish volumes cost to produce, to his own financial loss; details of the delicate relationship between composer and publisher, who sometimes had to resort to bribes like silver snuffboxes to have his songs 'set' suitably; and the fine adjustment of song lyrics almost at the last minute, by lyricists such as Joanna Baillie. The Thomson letters reveal not only the processes behind a collaborative, European music project, but a fascinating glimpse of the cultural history of the early nineteenth century."

See a listing of all the seminars given in this series.