The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Boehm, Joseph Edgar
Record 7 of 71

System Number: 08055
Date: [September 1873][1]
Author: JW
Recipient: Frances Leyland[2]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscripts Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 2/16/8
Document Type: ALS

My dear Mrs. Leyland

I have not written to acknowledge your kind note to me before, for fear that some of the gloomy spirit of which I am possessed should find its way into my answer and weary you - It is natural enough that utter desolation should set in now that you all have taken your departure and every thing like life has gone with you - and desolate it accordingly is! - My letter to Freddie[3] will have told you of the helpless Horace[4] and myself at the Station - And [p. 2] how our common blankness made us sworn friends for life! - Since then he has been here once or twice; but the first time I missed him as I had accepted an invitation from Sutherland[5] in the country - Oatlands Park Walton - It must have been very pleasant I suppose - under ordinary circumstances I should be sure of it - Sutherland drove me about and was a swell which is always comforting - and I found Aleco Ionides[6] who is staying there also and who also drove me about and is a swell which again was comforting - In the evening I dined with the great Bombay Parsee Arabs the Sassoons[7] who are tremendous swells and whose magnificent old house and acres Leyland[8] ought to have as the estate is so large and [p. 3] so near London - They are meanwhile expected here every day and are to buy up everything I have in the Studio. When they do I shall write and tell you the news - What else in the way of dreary excitement shall I tell you my dear Mrs. Leyland. Alexander[9] the banker called and took me off to his castle where I dined but found no cheques lying about loosely - The Livermores[10] who were staying with us were very nice - but they have gone - and the horizon is again of the dullest grey - The Böehms[11] are away - The doctor comes in now and then - but expects to 'leave the country' at any moment - Oh! I dined over at old Mr. Russels[12] [sic] you may perhaps remember my speaking of him - in Onslow Gardens - His daughter a Mrs. [p. 4] Sim Egerton[13] was there - She is well known in the Season - a chum of Mrs. Gurneys[14] so perhaps Mrs. Böehm may have pointed her out to you in the pony carriage in the Row - She was very bright and clever and pretty and with the facility you recognize in me for being amused at the moment, I folded up my griefs in my fine swell handkerchief and for the moment was amused - Voila - that is all - except that I called one evening on the Count and Countess[15] and they had left town - Howell[16] I have neither seen nor heard anything of - Work goes on seriously and slowly - and I am by degrees accomplishing what I have set myself to do - I am afraid my dear Mrs. Leyland I am after all inflicting a doleful letter upon you - but I cannot help it, and only hope you [will] not fatigue yourself with it all - The Mother[17] [p. 4] has told you of Lizzies[18] [sic] letter to her - I have had one too - They were very kind and considerate - but you will understand readily how my visit to Speke[19] will now be put off for a while - Meanwhile it would be a charity if I might have a note from yourself or one of the children[20] at any time - for we are none of us very merry away from you! -

Please tell Tom[21] that his pictures[22] are all safe and I will write him about them -

Believe me my dear Mrs. Leyland with love to each of the children and kindest regards to yourself and Leyland

Ever very sincerely Yours

J A McN Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [September 1873]
Dated from reference to Elizabeth Dawson (b. 1850), sister of Frances Leyland, and (briefly) JW's fiancée [more] (see below). The letter was clearly written before the start of the London Season.

2.  Frances Leyland
Frances Leyland (1836-1910), née Dawson [more].

3.  Freddie
Frederick Dawson Leyland (b. 1856), son of F. R. Leyland [more].

4.  Horace
Horace Jee, musician, JW's occasional secretary [more].

5.  Sutherland
Thomas Sutherland (1834-1922), Liberal MP, Chairman of the P. and O. line [more].

6.  Aleco Ionides
Alexander ('Aleco') Ionides (1840-1898), businessman [more].

7.  Sassoons
Sir Albert Abdullah David Sassoon (1818-1896), 'The Indian Rothschild'.

8.  Leyland
Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more].

9.  Alexander
William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916), banker and patron [more].

10.  Livermores
Probably Kate ('Cousin Kate') Livermore (1820-1907), née Prince, wife of A. Livermore [more] and her family.

11.  Boehms
Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-1890), sculptor [more], and Fanny Louisa Boehm (1837-1890), née Boteler, wife of the sculptor [more].

12.  Russels
A misspelling of William Russell (1800 or 1801-1884), barrister, father of Mrs Sim Egerton [more].

13.  Sim Egerton
Mrs Sim Egerton, née Russell.

14.  Mrs Gurneys
Isabel Blake Gurney (1851-1932), later The Lady Talbot of Malahide [more].

15.  Count and Countess

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

17.  Mother
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more].

18.  Lizzies
Elizabeth Dawson (b. 1850), sister of Frances Leyland, and (briefly) JW's fiancée [more], to whom JW proposed in February 1872 (see Rossetti, William Michael, The Diary of W. M. Rossetti 1870-1873, ed. Odette Bornand, Oxford, 1977 [p. 166], pp. 165-66). The engagement was broken off more than once, and finally broken in the autumn of 1873. See Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998, pp. 133-37, p. 364, n. 140-41.

19.  Speke
Home of the Leylands' near Liverpool

20.  children
The Leyland children: Frederick Dawson Leyland (b. 1856), son of F. R. Leyland [more]; Fanny Leyland (1857-1880), later Mrs Stevenson-Hamilton [more]; Florence Leyland (1859-1921), later Mrs Prinsep [more] and Elinor Leyland (1861-1952), later Mrs Speed [more].

21.  Tom
Possibly Thomas Alexander Leyland (b. 1842), brother of F. R. Leyland.

22.  pictures
JW mentions that two of Tom's 'works are on exhibition in London and catalogued and priced' in a letter to Leyland written in early November 1872 (see #08794).