The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 02609
Date: 9 December 1873
Author: Thomas Layland[1]
Place: [Liverpool]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler L143
Document Type: ALS[2]

49 North John St

Dec 9th / 73

My dear Jimmy

I am glad to hear you have recovered from your serious illness[3] - and are back again in the studio - I hope the old lady[4] continues better -

Are you coming down to Speke[5] this Christmas? -

We have had several shooting days - and you might have good sport @ the remaining dogs[6]!! - in case you venture out - Pardon the recollection - it was a sudden thought -

[p. 2] I have one or two oils[7] to ask your opinion on - and hope I am gradually getting over my first difficulties in them - A word of advice from you @ this stage would be valuable to me - As the mountain can't go to Mahomet - will Mahomet come to the Mountain -

- Come down if possible -

Are they done with my two drawings[8] yet? - I hear you are doing famously - no end of Commissions[9] - Allow me to congratulate you -

Will you drop me a line? -

Yours as ever

T. Layland -

J. M. Whistler Esq.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Thomas Layland
Thomas Layland (b. ca 1838), architect and surveyor [more]. Despite the difference in spelling, he may have been related to Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more], who mentions him in a letter to JW (8 November 1872, #02565). He is probably the person JW refers to, in a letter to Frances Leyland, as her son's 'Uncle Tom', #08051.

2.  ALS
This letter was originally attributed to Frances Leyland (1836-1910), née Dawson [more] (see Ferriday, Peter, 'The Peacock Room,' The Architectural Review, 125, June 1959, p. 410).

3.  illness
JW's mother wrote that he had been confined to bed for five weeks with a 'painful attack of Rheumatic fever and Bronchitis combined' in the autumn of 1873 (A. M. Whistler to M. E. Eastwick, 8 September 1874, #11843). G. P. Boyce called on him on 11 November 1873, reporting that he was still in bed but 'getting better' (Boyce, George, The Diaries of George Price Boyce, Norwich, 1980, p. 58).

4.  lady
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more]. She was also ill that autumn: 'almost as soon as Jemie took to his bed [...] and I attempted nursing him and sitting up two nights I had ulcers on my sight. Of course a nurse was hired' (A. M. Whistler to M. E. Eastwick, 8 September 1874, #11843). According to Boyce, who visited JW on 11 November, 'His mother there; she had been much troubled with her eyes, poor lady.' (Boyce, 1980, op. cit., p. 58).

5.  Speke
JW had been at Speke 'for Partridge shooting' in the autumn of 1872: see A. M. Whistler to J. Gamble, 22 November 1872, #06553.

6.  dogs
This probably alludes to an incident recorded by Menpes: "Whistler at a country house was very amusing. [...] On occasions Whistler had been known to drift out into the open and become a sportsman. A man told me that he once persuaded him to go out with a gun, and he told me he had not been out long before the most extraordinary thing happened. 'Suddenly,' he said, 'Whistler had a marvellous chance. A large bird - it might have been a peacock - came sailing majestically up to him. I whispered to him, 'Now's your chance!' Whistler, having been brought up at West Point, knew all about loading. He soon loaded his gun, fixed his eyeglass, and fired; and - it was a most extraordinary coincidence, but - the next thing I realised was that my favourite dog was shot. Nothing more was said, and somehow or other we drifted back home. That was the only day's sport I ever had with Whistler.' When I told the Master this story, he laughed, and said: 'Yes: I did shoot the dog. It was a dog without artistic habits, and had placed itself badly in relation to the landscape.' " (Menpes, Mortimer, Whistler as I Knew Him, London, 1904, pp. 60-61).

7.  oils
Not identified. Layland exhibited several works in London in the autumn of 1872, according to letters from JW to Frances and F. R. Leyland (#08055, #08794).

8.  two drawings
It is not clear if this means drawings by JW or by the writer.

9.  Commissions
JW had several commissions from Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more], including The Three Girls (YMSM 88), which was never completed, and Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106).