The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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George Meredith, 1828-1909

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1828
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1909
Place of Death:


George Meredith was a novelist and poet of mixed Irish and Welsh descent. His father Augustus Meredith was a tailor and his mother Jane Eliza, a publican's daughter. She died in 1833. In 1849 Meredith married a young widow, Mary Ellen Nicholls, the daughter of the poet and novelist Thomas Love Peacock. Together they had a son Arthur Gryffydth, born on 13 June 1853. His second wife Marie Vulliamy, whom he married in 1864, was of French descent. They had a son William Maxse Meredith.


Meredith studied at Neuwied on the Rhine. He initially intended to follow a career in law, before turning to literature. His first poem 'Chillianwallah' appeared in Chambers' Edinburgh Journal on 7 July 1849. In 1851 his first book of Poems was published by John W. Parker and Son, and was admired by Charles Kingsley and William Michael Rossetti. In 1859 he became a regular contributor of poetry to magazines and literary journals including Once A Week. He became editor of the Ipswich Journal and correspondent for the Morning Post. His attraction to the Orient is apparent in his first novel, The Shaving of Shagpat, published at the end of 1855 by Chapman and Hall.

For a short time in 1863, Meredith became the neighbour of JW in Chelsea, when, with Algernon Charles Swinburne, he stayed with Dante Gabriel Rossetti at Tudor House, 16 Cheyne Walk. There he saw much of JW. According to Pennell, Meredith was 'witty as well as brilliant', and it is no surprise that he and JW got on extremely well. Meredith recalled: 'I knew Whistler and never had a dissension with him, though merry bouts between us were frequent. When I went to live in the country we rarely met. He came down to stay with me once. He was a lively companion, never going out of his way to take offence, but with the springs in him prompt for the challenge.'

In June 1889 Sheridan Ford approached JW, on behalf of Arthur Melville, who wanted to paint Meredith's portrait. JW was asked to provide Melville with a letter of introduction (#01460). G. F. Watts also painted his portrait, as did McLure Hamilton who was commissioned by Edward H. Coates on behalf of the Portrait Gallery of the Pennsylvania Academy.

In 1893 George Meredith became President of the Society of Authors. In 1808 he was appointed Honorary President of the Cymmrodorion Society at Liverpool University.


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Hammerton, J. A., George Meredith: His Life and Art in Anecdote and Criticism, Edinburgh, 1911; Hamilton, John McLure, Men I Have Painted, London, 1921; Lindsay, Jack, George Meredith: His Life and Work, London, 1956; Cline, C. L. (ed.), The Letters of George Meredith, Oxford, 1970; Collie, Michael, George Meredith: A Bibliography, London, 1974.