The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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23rd April 2003 - Lobster Cake

It is not simply letters regarding art and artists which form the collected correspondence of James McNeill Whistler. There are various other types of literature represented in the edition, including legal transcripts, bills, family correspondence and visiting cards, which provide us with an amazing insight into different aspects of nineteenth century life.

Also preserved for us are many of Whistler's dinner menus, an example of which (from GUL Whistler W948) is below:

"Potage bonne femme -
Bifteck -
Gateau de Homard -
Gelée d'Oranges -
Café - "

This menu dates from February 1878, and translated into English reads: "'Good housewife's soup' (ie, leek, potato and carrot), beef steak, Lobster cake, orange jelly, coffee".

One further interesting aspect is provided by the abundance of Whistler's grocery bills from around this time, which were preserved due to the fact that in 1879 Whistler was declared bankrupt, and therefore all of his current accounts were held by his lawyers (and thereby preserved for us). Whistler's account with his fishmonger J. S. Charles is among this group of documents, and so we can even trace the exact day in February 1878 when Whistler bought the lobsters that went into the cake on this menu.