The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Edward William Godwin, 1833-1886

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1833.05.26
Place of Birth: Market Street, Bristol
Date of Death: 1886.10.06
Place of Death: 6 Great College Street, Westminster, London


Edward William Godwin, architect and designer. Godwin's parents were William (d. 1846) and Ann Jones Godwin (d. 1869). On 1 November 1859 he married Sarah Yonge, daughter of Rev. William Clarke Yonge of Henley-on-Thames. On 3 May 1865 Sarah died after a long illness. In 1868 he began a six-year relationship with the actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928). In 1868 they moved into the Red House, Harpenden with Terry, and they continued this rural life for six years. In 1869 their daughter Edith (1869-1947) was born on 9 December. She was baptised in 1887 as Edith Geraldine Ailsa Craig. Their son, Edward (Teddy), later called Edward Henry Gordon Craig, was born on 16 January (1872-1966). After Terry's return to the stage, and the dissolution of their relationship in 1874, Godwin married Beatrice Philip, a pupil in his office, on 4 January 1876; on 1 October that year a son, Edward ('Ted' or 'Teddy') was born. It is clear from his diary entries that Godwin and his wife led amicable yet fairly separate lives. Godwin died from complications following surgery to remove kidney stones.


Godwin may have met JW in 1863, when he was an established Bristol architect. He was a founding member of The Arts Club, of which he was a member from 1863-1873 and was a member of many other men's clubs. Like JW, he was a dandy, a man about town, of considerable charm and culture.

In 1874 Godwin collaborated with JW on the installation of an exhibition at 48 Pall Mall. In September 1877 JW commissioned Godwin to build him the White House, 35 Tite Street, to be large enough for him to open an atelier. The Metropolitan Board of Works at first objected to Godwin's designs, and revisions and delays engendered higher costs than anticipated. In June 1878 an exhibition stand designed by JW and Godwin was shown at the Paris Exposition Universelle (Harmony in Yellow and Gold: The Butterfly Cabinet (YMSM 195)).

Both Godwin and Whistler were interested in theatrical design and production. Godwin directed the 'Pastoral Players' at Combe Hill Farm for Lady Archibald Campbell, and JW painted their patron in costume (Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (YMSM 242)).

On Godwin's death in October 1886, JW ensured that suitable obituaries appeared in the London papers. He continued the portrait of Godwin's widow, Harmony in Red: Lamplight (YMSM 253), who he married in 1888.


Soros, Susan Weber, (ed.) E. W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer, New Haven, 1999; Soros, Susan Weber, The Secular Furniture of E. W. Godwin, New Haven, 1999; Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004.