The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Sydney Morse, 1854-1929

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1854.06.01
Place of Birth: Warwick
Date of Death: 1929.01.29
Place of Death:


Sydney Morse, son of Canon Francis Morse, was a solicitor. Whistler attended the wedding of Juliet Mary Taylor and Sydney Morse on 1 June 1878 (#11341). They had three sons and one daughter.


Morse joined the firm of Gedge, Kirby, Millett and Morse, 5 Lime Street Square, EC, on 5 August 1879. He was joint solicitor for the School Board for London from 1890 until 1895.

Morse succeeded Whistler as tenant of 96 Cheyne Walk (originally 2 Lindsey Row) upon the expiry of his lease on 25 June 1878. Whistler was anxious about the redecoration of the house and so he supervised the work himself, even down to the mixing of the paint (#11341) (see Designs for wall decorations: r.: Designs for 2 Lindsey Row; r. and v.: Whistler's House, 2 Lindsey Row (M.659)). Once settled in his new residence at 13 Tite Street, Whistler offered to invite Morse around to see some of his remaining pastels (#10877). Morse stayed at Cheyne Walk until 1886. In September 1878 he objected to Whistler and his servant retaining keys to the house, the latter letting himself in when no one was at home (#00145).

Morse bought a Chinese 'pagoda' cabinet and some engravings from Whistler (#00145). The cabinet became the subject of a protracted wrangle between Whistler, Morse and C. A. Howell. It later turned out that Howell, the agent in the sale, pawned the 'headpiece' of the cabinet whilst claiming it was in for repair. Whistler published his version of events in Whistler, James McNeill, Correspondence. Paddon Papers. The Owl and the Cabinet, London, [1882]. The complete cabinet is now at Leighton House Museum, London.

An enthusiast for inventions, Sydney once demonstrated the 'American gramophone to Queen Victoria at Balmoral.'

Morse and his wife lived next door to William Rothenstein on Camden Hill in 1922.


UK census 1881 from (accessed 2004.03); Whistler, James McNeill, Correspondence. Paddon Papers. The Owl and the Cabinet, London, [1882]; The Chelsea, Pimlico and Belgravia Directory, 1881, 1885, 1886, 1887; Kelly's Directory of Chelsea, Pimlico and Belgravia "Buff Book", 1887; UK Census, 1901; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; obituary of S. Morse, Times, London, 28 January 1929, p. 17; obituary of J. Morse, Times, London, 12 April 1937, p. 10; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.