The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Transcription/Database Record

the on-line edition

System Number: 01748
Date: 11 September [1878][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Edward William Godwin[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler G114
Document Type: ALS

Dear Old man -

Just a line in awful haste - I am so sorry I can't come tomorrow - indeed I doubt if just now I could fix a day as I may go out of town -

I am so dreadfully tired and sleepy - having been all about -

You will be delighted to know that I am on the war path as I told you I should be - That d—d thief Nightingale[3]! You have now put it most clearly before me - in those few [p. 2] figures I see now what I never so fully appreciated [-] the ridiculous robbery he attempts to perpetrate!

Over nine hundred pounds for additions! Half what the house itself cost for Johns little shanty[4] in the yard!! - He forgets that he said, that the whole thing, with the panels in front insisted upon by the Board of Works[5], would come to what - 130, and with the façade something like 200 - you remember you told me -

And fancy afterwards his imposing upon you as well as me and making you give him certificates and things!

However I'll have his scalp!

Mine is the brightest little lawyer[6] in London - and we are going to have people down and rip up the whole concern - and see whether Mr Nightingale will enjoy his joke! -

Nine hundred and odd - about a thousand pounds in short for the bird cage at the back! -

They tell me that in court it will be found monstrously funny! -

I have set the whole machinery going and now I'm off if I can manage it for a bit -

[p. 3] Meanwhile with kindest regards to Mrs Godwin[7]

Ever Yrs

J A McN. Whistler

Write us the story of the Cabinet and the Princess[8] -

28. Wimpole Street[9] -

Staying here for the moment -

Wednesday night -
Sept 11 -

'recd Sep 12. 78.'[10]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  11 September [1878]
Year date from day of week and Godwin's letter to JW, #08736, to which this is a reply. Also see recipient's date note at foot of letter.

2.  Edward William Godwin
Edward William Godwin (1833-1886), architect and designer [more] of JW's studio house at Tite Street, the White House.

3.  Nightingale
Benjamin Ebenezer Nightingale (b. 1838), builder [more] of the White House. This letter concerns JW's growing dispute with Nightingale over the costs of the work, including additions required by the Board of Works (see note below). On 29 August, Nightingale's representative called upon JW's solicitors demanding final settlement of his account (see G. and W. Webb to JW, #08735).

4.  Johns little shanty
Perhaps John Cossins, JW's valet [more].

5.  Board of Works
The London Metropolitan Board of Works which controlled planning matters in Chelsea.

6.  lawyer
Presumably the firm of George Webb (b. ca 1835), of G. and W. Webb. lawyer [more] and William Webb (b. ca 1851), of G. and W. Webb, lawyer [more], which had negotiated JW's mortgage to build the White House.

7.  Mrs Godwin
Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more].

8.  Cabinet and the Princess
A reference to Harmony in Yellow and Gold: The Butterfly Cabinet (YMSM 195), a fireplace with shelves above designed by Godwin and decorated by JW for William Watt (d. 1885), of William Watt and Co., art furniture makers [more]. It was displayed on Watt's stand at the Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1878. In his letter to JW (#08736), Godwin had reported that 'a princess possesses our mantelpiece.'

9.  28. Wimpole Street
Home of William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

10.  'recd Sep 12. 78.'
Added in another hand, probably by Godwin.