32 Lyme St
Jany 31st 1880
Dear Mr Whistler,
I was very glad indeed to hear from you at last. Mr Huish read me your long and amusing letter and I was sorry to learn that you had been ill, though I had heard a rumour of this before. I also heard through Mrs Poynter that you had been seen in Venice and this is nearly all the news we have had of you.
Your wishes shall be attended to[.] I send you by this post four balls of ground and a bottle of stopping out varnish and hope they will be what you want. If not let me know at once and I will try again. [p. 2] The paper will not be quite such an easy matter but I have written to Goulding and will post it to you as soon as I get it. I think the etchings will be a great success and have prepared the people for "something swell"[.] Though I must say I think it a pity they were not published by the first of January. I have persuaded a great many people to put off buying etchings until they had seen yours and they are growing tired of waiting. And the worst of it is I have heard today that Dowdeswell has announced two new plates by you[.] Of course I know they cannot really be new but the public will not know this and it puts us in an awkward position. Where did they get them from? I think the time is just ripe for [p. 3] the Venice etchings as there has been a devil of a row here about St Marks and any drawings of Venice we have had have sold immediately.
I did not believe the tale that you were doing huge surveyers [sic] plans like Haden. By the way his new etching of Greenwich has been published and has not been a particular success though it is better than Windsor, which it couldn't well help being.
I told Mr Tissot I was going to write to you and he asked me to send you his kind regards and very best wishes for your success and also those of a certain lady whom he said you would know[.] Mr Way, Mr Eldred, Mr Ridley and Mr Howell have all been asking about you also Mr Pelligrini [sic].
We are publishing a great many etchings as you will see by the catalogue enclosed.
[p. 4] Old Ruskin (of
y whom we have had quite enough lately) is going to give a lecture in London under the title of "A Caution to Snakes"[.] A fine subject is'nt it
Can I do anything more for you in London, if so, please let me know and I shall be only too pleased.
Hoping we shall soon have something to show
most sincerely yours
Ernest G. Brown
5. Mrs Poynter
Agnes Poynter (ca 1846 - d.1906), née Macdonald, wife of E. J. Poynter [more]. Edward John Poynter (1836-1919), history and genre painter [more], was in Venice during part of Whistler's sojourn there 1879-1880.
An acid resistant varnish spread on the copperplate to prepare it for etching.
7. stopping out varnish
Stopping out varnish is used to block out lines or areas on the copper plate that need no further etching.
JW wanted old paper, rather than contemporary chemical bleached paper, for printing proofs.
Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more], sold two etching plates to Messrs Dowdeswell and Dowdeswell of 36 Chancery Lane, London. They circulated a leaflet (#02856) proposing publication of 'two new Etchings', Tatting (K.112) and Two Ships (K.148). These were not 'new' but dated from c. 1873 and 1875 respectively. As far as is known, no large edition was published.
12. St Marks
John Ruskin and William Morris (1834-1896), painter, designer, poet and socialist [more] had established a Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, and there was considerable press coverage of the controversy about the extent and efficiency of the long-running restorations to St Marks. When Whistler painted Nocturne: Blue and Gold - St Mark's, Venice (YMSM 213), the cathedral was shrouded in scaffolding.
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more]. Haden's largest etching, Francis Seymour Haden, Calais Pier after Turner (S.141) (z56) (D140, H157, S141) was 597 x 838mm (23 ½ x 33"). It was praised by J. Ruskin, and printed by F. Goulding in 1875.
F. S. Haden's etching Francis Seymour Haden, Greenwich (S.187) (z57), 1879-80 (D184, H207-8, S187) was commissioned by the Fine Art Society. Greenwich was a large plate, 341 x 520mm (13 3/8 x 20 ½"), heavily detailed, stiff, and lacking JW's lightness of line.
F. S. Haden's etching Francis Seymour Haden, Windsor (S. 186) (z58), 1878 (D183, H199, S186), was commissioned by the Fine Art Society. Windsor was a somewhat pedestrian and consciously classical composition.
17. a certain lady
Possibly Joanna Hiffernan (b. ca 1843), JW's model and mistress [more]. She had parted amicably from JW, but some time earlier she was, at least in part, the cause of the quarrel between JW and Jacques ('James') Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), painter and etcher [more].
The exhibition of Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5) opened at the Fine Art Society, London, in December 1880, followed by Venice Pastelson 29 January 1881.