The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Wheatley, William R.
Record 1 of 4

System Number: 09434
Date: [December 1882][1]
Author: JW
Place: Amsterdam
Recipient: Thomas Waldo Story[2]
Place: [Rome]
Repository: Institut Néerlandais, Paris
Call Number: Document J1692
Credit Line: Collection Frits Lugt, Institut Néerlandais, Paris
Document Type: ALS[3]

[butterfly signature][4]


Nice paper - ain't it - Yes dear old Waldino you are awfully missed - and Elden[5] has taken to calling Frank[6], Waldo! - showing how continually you are in his mind! -

The scattered remains of Tite Street[7] - Amazing - have gathered for the moment in the Netherlands - Frank, Eldino and myself - where it would really be too perfect if you were only with us. - different from Venice[8] you know - but lovely - and games no end! Nocturnes[9] - and various - meantime the pen of this establishment is exasperating beyond expression! - and I must give up the letter - with a mere statement of one or two facts - First the charming little swaggerers[10] looking prettier than ever, were carefully put in their boxes and packed most perfectly in the large case by the attentive Wheatley[11] (watched over tenderly by the faithful Carr[12]) and despatched by him through his namesake to Rome - where, by this time, you ought to have received them, as you will see by the enclosed paper [13]- Bon! - We all prayed for their safe arrival - and then I think we were all more depressed than ever when these last tokens of our work in the studio together[14] had gone! - I was anyhow - ! - Well - and the upshot [p. 2] of this is the present prance! You know I told you we mustn't be left alone! - Well things are well - good - most excellent good - and yet - no - they are only so-so! - I couldn't stand it - and so bolted with Frank and of course Eldino who has been made to sever all domestic ties and kick sadly and slowly through Holland with me -

As you will perceive by the difference in execution[15], this work, my dear Waldo is of two periods - and the letter begun under difficulties in a cold café in Amsterdam, is continued on board the Flushing boat at anchor in a fog! - You remember the story of my journey through Alsace with Ernst[16] - and how our return was beset with obstacles and obstruction of all kinds - well the same guignon[17] seems always to cling to me in all my expeditions abroad! - Look at Venice and what a devil of a time I had have in getting back - and here have we been in pawn as who should say at the Hotel du Pays Bas for a week or more while telegraphing and writing to & fro waiting for County Bank to be assured of our identity! native correspondents refusing absolutely to advance the National Guilder[18]. At last we get off - and at dawn this morning come to a full stop the result of English fog and Dutch caution. Also we are told that it's not at all unlikely we remain anchored within an hour of the shore for forty-eight hours or more - Alibazan[19] ! - another bit of news I had for you is the forming of the "Chelsea Club" - under the auspices of [Berty?] Sitwell[20] . It is to be most perfect - awfully swell as you may suppose - and delightful - The notion at present is to take the Rossetti's house[21] in Cheyne Walk - and to have everything most complete in the way of cooking & wine - to say nothing of the people. Won't it be jolly next season - just fancy - swell in the summer morning when things are perhaps [funny?] - or when the rest ["]don't matter" - we are seated at one of the windows looking out on the lovely Thames drinking the early Barsac - with a petit dejeuner choisi[22] - Of course I needn't tell you that you and Julian[23] are down as members and Harper[24], too - Poor Arry[25] I am afraid is out of it! A propos[26] - of course Harper and Forbes[27] careered round for about a week - we showed them everything and sent them back in a state of whirl - the little figures[28] they were charmed with - Waldo they are delightful - do write me a line - I know I don't deserve it - and tell me of their safe arrival[29], also what are you doing now - Perhaps indeed there may be a letter from you now waiting for me at the studio. Heaven knows what in the way of news may be there in store - for we are as much in the dark as if we had been away for six months! I must go to you soon - or you must come back for things are absurd like this - and I have so much to say. I am more confirmed than ever in my work by what I have seen in Holland - Rembrant[30] at his best was [p. 3] still in the [working?] of the Studio. There have been but 3 or 4 who reached the tranquility of science! The simplicity of certainty.

Adio Waldino - for the moment - Everybody would say charming things to you if you were here. - The Madame[31] often talks of you - Eldino and Frank send their love - Lady [Luck?] asks after you - and in short what will you - we miss you!

My kindest and prettiest remembrances of Miss Broadwood[32].

Always yours

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [December 1882]
Dated from the records of JW's visit to Holland. JW, F. Miles and M. W. Elden visited the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem on 1 December 1882 (Museum visitors' register, Municipal Archives, Haarlem, see Heijbroek, J. F. and Margaret F. MacDonald, Whistler and Holland, Zwolle and Amsterdam, 1997, p. 53).

2.  Thomas Waldo Story
Thomas Waldo Story (1854-1915), sculptor [more].

3.  ALS
Letter partially published in Heijbroek and MacDonald, 1997, op. cit., p. 137, and MacDonald, Margaret F. et al, Whistler, Women and Fashion, New Haven and London, 2003, p. 155.

4.  [butterfly ]
Drawn over 'EL & C' in the first line of the address.

5.  Elden
Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885), artist [more]; he is also referred to as 'Eldino'.

6.  Frank
George Francis ('Frank') Miles (1852-1894), painter [more].

7.  Tite Street
JW signed the lease for 13 (now 46) Tite Street on 22 April 1881, and lived there until 1885. The house was designed by Edward William Godwin (1833-1886), architect and designer [more], who also designed the 'White House' in Tite Street for JW, and, in 1878, a house for Frank Miles at what is now 44 Tite Street (see Aileen Reid, 'The Architectural Career of E. W. Godwin' in Soros, Susan Weber, (ed.) E. W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer, New Haven, 1999, pp. 164-69). At the time of this letter, the widowed Mrs J. B. Philip (Godwin's, and later JW's, mother-in-law) was living in Dhu House next to Miles.

8.  Venice
JW was in Venice from 20 September 1879 until November 1880.

9.  Nocturnes
JW's watercolours included Snow (excat 14) (Heijbroek and MacDonald, 1997, op. cit., p. 54, repr.), and at least one Nocturne, Amsterdam in Winter (M.877).

10.  swaggerers
JW appears to mean his 'little figures' (excat 15) (see below).

11.  Wheatley
William R. Wheatley (b. ca 1862), gold-beater [more].

12.  Carr
Carr, JW's servant or valet.

13.  enclosed paper
Not located.

14.  our work in the studio together
Story and JW collaborated on some work in London at some time after his return from Venice in 1880 (see below).

15.  difference in execution
Written heavily in dark ink.

16.  Ernst
Ernest Delannoy (d. 1860/1870), art student, JW's travel companion in 1858 [more].

17.  guignon
Fr., rotten luck.

18.  Guilder
Dutch silver coin, worth about 1s. 8d. in 1900.

19.  Alibazan
A magic word.

20.  [Berty?] Sitwell
Probably Robert Sacheverell Wilmot Sitwell (b. 1823), barrister-at-law [more].

21.  Rossetti's house
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), artist and poet [more], lived at 16 Cheyne Walk until his death on 9 April 1882.

22.  Barsac - with a petit dejeuner choisi
Fr., wine (Barsac) with a carefully chosen light lunch.

23.  Julian
Julian Russell Story (1850-1919), genre and portrait painter [more].

24.  Harper
Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington (1854-1920), artist [more].

25.  Arry
Henry ('Arry') Quilter (1851-1907), advocate and art critic [more].

26.  A propos
Fr., on this subject.

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

28.  little figures
This confirms that JW and Story worked together in London. The Hon. Frederick Lawless (1847-1929), sculptor [more], told E. R. Pennell he would send her a print from the negative of a photograph showing JW, Story, Miles, himself, and a statuette (letter dated 23 October [1907?], Library of Congress, PWC 291/2740-41). A copy of this photograph is in the same collection (see Anderson, Ronald, Whistler - the Unexplored Irish Factors, M.A. thesis, University of St. Andrews, 1985, p. 45). Lawless told the Pennells, 'When Whistler lived in his London studio, he often modelled statuettes, and one day he put one up on a vase, asking me to photograph it.' (Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, 2, p. 10, repr. f. p. 10). Lawless sent a copy of this photograph to Ralph Curtis, who had met JW in Venice, and who in turn lent it to Pennell. The photograph shows JW in his Tite Street studio in 1881, and the statuette, standing on a vase, appears on the cabinet beside him. The statuette appears to be about eight inches tall, and represents a woman in a slim-fitting dress, holding a wide-brimmed hat. Both the hat and a ribbon round her neck are dark and appear to have been painted. The hem of her skirt swings out, giving the feeling of movement, and justifying JW's earlier phrase 'swaggerers' (see above). The pose is close to that in several of JW's watercolours of the early 1880s, and in particular Lady in Grey (M.933). It is possible that the statuettes were modelled by Story and painted by JW, or that Story taught JW the basic principles of modelling, and he made them himself. Unfortunately no statuettes have so far been located. See Margaret F. MacDonald, 'Maud Franklin and the "Charming Little Swaggerers"', MacDonald et al, 2003, op. cit. , pp. 153-55.

29.  their safe arrival
JW must have just sent some statuettes from London to Story in Rome. Unfortunately, some did not arrive safely, see JW to W. Story, 5 February 1883, #09430.

30.  Rembrant
Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn (1606-1669), painter and etcher [more].

31.  Madame
Mary Maud Franklin (1857- ca 1941), JW's model and mistress [more].

32.  Miss Broadwood
Ada Maud Story (1856-1932), née Broadwood [more].