The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Lenoir, Helen
Record 5 of 42

System Number: 00924
Date: 8 January 1885
Author: Helen Lenoir[1]
Place: London
Recipient: Archibald Forbes[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler D130
Document Type: ALS


Jan 8 1885

Dear Mr Forbes -

I have only just got the Hall fixed or should have written you sooner. I have booked it for Friday evening February 20th[3] and I have got the refusal of Feb 27th for a day or two. The rental is £12 " 12 including gas.

I have been examining the plan of the Hall and I find there are 500 "stalls" on the ground floor [p. 2] and 80 side seats on same floor. There is also a galler small balcony but the seats are not numbered. I will ascertain how many it holds.

It is of course on the stalls we shall rely for the money and if we can safely place the stalls all at 10/6 it is evident that (allowing for the press) we could take a good deal of money.

If we had to make two prices for stalls then we should have 214 stalls of first price and 286 stalls of second price. I fancy the [p. 3] best plan would be to print the same tickets for all the stalls (not putting price on them) and then if they did not go off sufficiently well at the highester price we could always put the back ones down.

I have not advertised yet as you will observe - because I was not sure of the Hall till this morning and also because Mr Whistler has not yet sent me the draft. I want to have the wording just what he will like. I saw your World paragraph!

Before starting the thing, it would be best to have the business arrangements between Mr Whistler and Mr Carte[4] understood. You said to me the other day that you had said to Mr Whistler that you thought if he and Mr Carte arranged this thing, that the London lecture would be worked on the basis of Mr Carte's taking ten per cent of the net profits after deducting simply the local expenses, Mr Whistler taking the speculation and risk on himself. This was the old arrangement on which Mr Carte [p. 4][5] worked your Tours some five years ago I think - I told Mr Carte what you said, and he then said (what I should have remembered) that he does not now undertake anything on an "agency" basis - he only now works things of which he stands the risk, taking a share of the net profits of the whole enterprise and paying all the loss himself - if there is a loss -

You will recollect that when [p. 5] I saw to your last American Tour, I told you that Mr Carte would no longer take any agency commission for working it, and so I arranged that he should take nothing at all from you but that you could make use of the office & myself without any charge and pay Morse[6] what you thought right for the absolute work he did. The object in the old days of working on the ten per cent basis was that Mr Carte did [p. 6] not at that time consider himself justified in undertaking large money risks. It is fortunately different now, and he is willing to undertake the whole risk of anything which he thinks well enough of to be willing to undertake at all.

I don't know that the plan of taking all the risk is a better one for Mr Carte in the long run - as of course against occasional large profit there has to go occasional heavy loss. But it is the plan on which we now work and the only one Mr Carte cares to work on.

The arrangement Mr Carte made with Mr Matthew Arnold[7], Mr Oscar Wilde[8] and Sergeant Ballantine[9] was (as I think you know) that he (Mr Carte) undertook all the risk & paid the loss (if any) - that the net profits (if any) at the end of the Tour were divided equally between the lecturer & himself - all the expenses of the Tour being first deducted - No charge of course was made for the services of the [p. 7][10] office staff - but any special acting manager or advance agent engaged to travel with the lecturer was of course charged as part of the expenses. The travelling expenses of the lecturer and an amount (mutually arranged) to represent his Hotel expenses were also charged in the expenses. This was I think a very [fair] arrangement all round and proved we found very satisfactory to [p. 8] the gentlemen named. You see the lecturer on this arrangement - is at absolutely no risk whatever - all the expenses of the Tour including his own travelling and Hotels being paid for by Mr Carte and he gets clear half of whatever the speculation may net without any risk except the loss of his time.

Mr Carte is ready & willing to make this arrangement with Mr Whistler and to take him to America and anywhere [p. 9] else that may seem agreeable and profitable on this basis if it seems good to him.

I am troubling you with this long letter because you have brought this thing to us and have kindly taken so much interest in it and I do not like to write anything of a business nature to Mr Whistler till writing you first. If Mr Whistler does not care to arrange on the basis Mr Carte proposes no harm is done - and in any case, I shall be pleased to work the London "lecture" for him irrespective of business arrangements if none are come to. But I hope he & Mr Carte may fix it as I believe in the thing & think there is a good deal to be made out of it well worked. I was immensely impressed with the "lecture". It should[11] go splendidly[12].

I need not say you are quite welcome to show this letter to Mr Whistler if you think well to do so. I am retaining a good man here ready to start work directly all is settled. But I want Mr Whistler's own good & original ideas for wording of advertisements - circulars & tickets.

Yours sincerely

Helen Lenoir

P. S Paris - good idea, I think -[13]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Helen Lenoir
Helen Lenoir (1852-1913), née Coupar Black, actress and stage manager [more].

2.  Archibald Forbes
Archibald Forbes (1838-1900), journalist and war correspondent [more].

3.  February 20th
JW's 'Ten O'Clock' Lecture was delivered in Princes Hall, London, on 20 February 1885, and on several occasions later in the year.

4.  Mr Carte
Richard D'Oyly Carte (1844-1901), impresario and property developer [more].

5.  [p. 4]
Lenoir has numbered this sheet '2', though it is actually the fourth page of text. The printed letterhead is repeated at the top of this page, as on page one.

6.  Morse
Possibly Sydney Morse (1854-1929), solicitor [more].

7.  Mr Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), writer [more].

8.  Mr Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde (1854-1900), writer, critic and playwright [more]. His lecture tour of the States was very demanding and highly successful.

9.  Sergeant Ballantine
William Ballantine (1812-1887), Sergeant-at-law [more].

10.  [p. 7]
Lenoir has numbered this sheet '3', though it is actually the seventh page of text. The printed letterhead is repeated at the top of this page, as on page one.

11.  should
Double underlined.

12.  splendidly
Triple underlined.

13.  P. S Paris - good idea, I think -
Written in top left corner of page one.