The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Transcription/Database Record

the on-line edition

System Number: 02788
Date: [17/24 May 1864][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Charles Augustus Howell[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler LB 11/9
Document Type: ALS[3]

[monogram:] WEN[4]

Dear Howell

I intended to have written before but I am always behind-hand - We are going to the Derby[5] - and unfortunately with the party we spoke of for we would rather go with you - In any case meet us at Cremorne[6] -

As to Teniel[7] that is simple enough - only I think Charles Keene[8] would manage your affair better -

[p. 2] I have varnished the little White Girl[9] - since your letter[10] -

Au revoir -

Jim Whistler

I have a little box I want to give you for your cigarette tobacco

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [17/24 May 1864]
JW painted Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl (YMSM 52) in 1864. This letter was probably written in the week preceding Derby Day, which in 1864 was on 25 May (The Times, 26 May 1864).

2.  Charles Augustus Howell
Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more].

3.  ALS
This is one of the earliest letters from JW to C. A. Howell, who stuck it into the first of two albums of documents, letters and press-cuttings concerning JW. Some time after October 1884 (and possibly after Howell's death in 1890) these albums were acquired by Cornelius Cox (1835-1889), stockbroker and collector [more], at a second-hand-shop for £14. Cox removed some drawings, showed the albums to Way, and then returned them to JW in exchange for some Venice etchings (see Way, Thomas Robert, Memories of James McNeill Whistler, the Artist, London and New York, 1912, pp. 77-79; M. 673). JW removed some items and destroyed several letters and documents relating to personal and financial matters. The albums were in JW's estate and bequeathed to Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), JW's sister-in-law [more]. She gave them to the University of Glasgow in 1955.

4.  WEN
This monogram, in a square border, is that of William Eden Nesfield (1835-1888), architect and designer [more]. A note by C. A. Howell written underneath the letter reads: 'The monogram above is that of the Architect William Eden Nesfield -'.

5.  Derby
The annual horse race run at Epsom Downs, Surrey, from 1780 onwards. In 1864 W. I'Anson's 'Blair Athol' was 'An easy winner by two lengths.' (The Times, 26 May 1864, p. 9).

6.  Cremorne
London's famous pleasure gardens, Cremorne Gardens, on the Thames in Chelsea.

7.  Teniel
Probably Sir John Tenniel (1820-1914), painter and illustrator [more].

8.  Charles Keene
Charles Samuel Keene (1823-1891), etcher, cartoonist and illustrator [more]. Both Keene and Sir John Tenniel were well-known as illustrators and cartoonists, and contributed regularly to Punch. It is not clear if Howell needed the services of an illustrator or if this was a personal problem. In 1863 Keene had been a founder member of the Arts Club in Hanover Square, which JW also joined, and this might have been the focus of Howell's enquiry. Another possibility is that Howell could have asked for an introduction to a mutual friend, such as Edwin Edwards (1823-1879), lawyer, painter and etcher [more].

9.  White Girl
Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl (YMSM 52). JW was probably varnishing it for the Royal Academy, where it was exhibited in May 1864 as 'The Little White Girl' (cat. no. 530).

10.  letter