Dear Mr. Graham -
There has been always a miserable fatality about the little picture I certainly meant you to have long ago - Curiously unable to satisfy myself I have over and over again attempted to complete the work and only by degrees brought about its destruction - Writing appeared such a mockery that I have allowed silence to take such a hold upon the matter that [p. 2] I must have woefully harmed myself in your opinion - How to thank you for your continued courtesy delicacy and forbearance I don't know - I ought to tell you frankly that the work of which you have doubtless heard (Mr. Leyland's dining room) which has absorbed me for the past year, and which is now fully completed,
though has been anything but remunerative, indeed it has left me very ill off - so that I am not in a position now to restore the hundred guineas you advanced years ago - I send herewith a picture which many are pleased with and which I myself prize - "Nocturne in Blue & Silver No 5 - "
May I beg that you will accept it meanwhile as a small amends for my long accumulated debt and apparent neglect and ingratitude -
If in a few weeks you would call upon me and could see any thing you liked better I should be only too happy to reestablish [myself] in your [p. 3] opinion and know that any work of mine hangs in your collection -
Believe me dear Mr Graham
Very sincerely Yours
J A McN. Whistler
96. Cheyne Walk Chelsea
1. [23/30 July 1877]
This letter appears to be a reply to Graham's letter of 23 July 1877 (#01783). However, when the painting in question, Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 140), was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in May 1877, it was listed in the catalogue as belonging to William Graham (cat. no. 6).
Annabel Lee (YMSM 79) was painted in the late 1860s. Graham asked JW if he would sell him the picture, which he had seen 'in the early days of our acquaintance,' i.e., in 1874 (#01782); and in 1877 he reminded JW that he had sent him £100 for the picture (#01783). Although JW never gave Graham the painting, he continued to make both drawings and paintings of a figure in similar pose (see Nude standing (M.443), A draped model standing with arms extended on a balustrade (M.1467); Sketch for 'Annabel Lee' (YMSM 80)). In addition, according to T. R. Way, a pastel dating from the mid-1880s, but showing a totally different composition, was later renamed by JW Annabel Lee (M.1077) (Way, Thomas Robert, Memories of James McNeill Whistler, the Artist, London and New York, 1912, p. 98). The title is derived from Edgar Allen Poe's poem 'Annabel Lee' about a girl who lived 'In a kingdom by the sea'.
6. Nocturne in Blue & Silver No 5 -
Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 140). It was first exhibited in Second Annual Exhibition of Modern Pictures, Corporation of Brighton, Royal Pavillion Gallery, Brighton, 1875, as 'Nocturne in Blue and Silver.'