The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 02593
Date: 24 July 1877
Author: Frederick Richards Leyland [1]
Place: Liverpool
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler L128
Document Type: ALS[2]

'No. 19[3]'

Woolton Hall

24 July 1877


I have received your telegram[4] stating that you intend to publish our recent correspondence. In this case there are one or two statements in your letters that require correction. -

1st - "That I refused to pay for your work at my house". -

The fact is I paid you £1000 for this work; and I am quite content to leave it to the judgement of those who know the real value of your work whether you have been underpaid or not. You chose to begin an elaborate scheme of decoration without any reference to me until the work had progressed so far that I had no choice but to complete it; and it is [p. 2] really too absurd that you should expect me to pay the exaggerated sum your vanity dictated as its value.

2nd "That prior to my first letter[5] you received no official notification that you were not to visit my house.

Five months ago your insolence was so intolerable that my wife[6] ordered you out of the house and to any one with an ordinary sense of dignity I should have thought this was notification sufficient.

The fact is your vanity has completely blinded you to all the usages of civilized life; and your swaggering self-assertion has made you an unbearable nuisance to every one who comes in contact with you. There is one consideration, indeed, which should have led you [p. 3] to form a more modest estimate of yourself, and that is your total failure to produce any serious work for so many years. At various times during the last eight or nine years you have received from me sums amounting to one thousand guineas for pictures[7], not one of which have ever been delivered; nor indeed during the whole of our acquaintance have you finished for me a single thing for which you have been paid.

It is scarcely necessary for me to notice your assertion that I am only known as the possessor of your peacock room[8]. I hope it is not true; but if true it is doubly painful for, at the time so many newspaper puffs of your work appeared, I felt deeply enough the humiliation of having my name so prominently connected with [p. 4] that of a man who had degenerated into nothing but an artistic Barnum[9]

Yours truly

Fred. R. Leyland

J. M. Whistler Eq

This document is protected by copyright.


J. M. Whistler Esqre
2 Lindsay Cottages
Old Battersea Bridge
London S W
[postmark:] E. D. / LIVERPOOL / 24 JY 77 / 20
[postmark on verso:] LONDON - S. W / C 7 / JY 25 / 77


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

2.  ALS
The page bears a thin mourning paper.

3.  No. 19
Written in JW's hand, double-underlined, in pencil, in top left corner. JW's plans to publish the correspondence, which included making fair copies of it and numbering the letters in sequence, came to nothing. Drafts and copies of earlier correspondence, recording stages in the breakdown of the patron-painter relationship, include #02588, #02589 and #02590.

4.  telegram
A draft of JW's telegram is dated 23 July 1877 (#02592).

5.  first letter
Letter from Leyland to JW, 6 July 1877 (#02581).

6.  wife
Frances Leyland (1836-1910), née Dawson [more]. Possibly when Mrs Leyland overheard Whistler calling Leyland a parvenu in March 1877.

7.  pictures
He had commissioned and paid for several paintings including The Three Girls (YMSM 88), which was never completed, and portraits of his family including Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106) and Portrait of Miss Florence Leyland (YMSM 107), which he did eventually receive (see also a letter from T. Watts Dunton to JW, 1 February 1878, #06072).

8.  peacock room
Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178). JW had invited the press to view the room and published a pamphlet for the occasion (Whistler, James McNeill, Harmony in Blue and Gold. The Peacock Room, London, 1877 [GM, A.1]).

9.  Barnum
Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-1891), showman and circus proprietor [more].