The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 04058
Date: 20 May 1878
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Metropolitan Board of Works[1]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler M329
Document Type: ALS

96. Cheyne Walk - Chelsea -

May 20th 1878 -

To the Board of Works,

Gentlemen -

Your witholding [sic] my lease is putting me to most serious injury. -

I have complied in every particular with your requisitions. - All the stone moulding, panelling, etc. . has been put up, and I am only waiting for a sculptor to properly execute the designs, approved by you, to complete the alterations -

Notwithstanding this, you persist in refusing to give me my lease, and the result is that the parties advancing [p. 2] me the money required for building purposes, and who have patiently waited for the lease, decline to supply any more funds, and the building is stopped. - The house[2] I now occupy is let, - the new tenants are waiting to come in - and the consequence will be that I shall be turned into the street - being prevented by you from getting into my own house - .

The impression seems to prevail among your body that I have opposed your requisitions and given you trouble - but on the contrary, it has been my endeavour, from the first to meet you in every way - and if there has been delay in doing so, it has been because I did not clearly know what was wanted -

It has become imperative at last, that I should formally demand that my lease be sent to me without an hour's delay. -

Please send me an answer by bearer - so that I may see the builder and stop the disastrous damage you are causing me. -

Understand that although my own wish has been for a plan of of decoration involving mosaic on the façade, I yeild [sic] all my own artistic views to your aAuthority, and distinctly undertake to get the panels[3] carved according to your wish -

I have the honor to be, Gentlemen,
Your obedient servant

J. A. McNeill Whistler

[p. 3] 'Coppey [sic] of Letter dellived [sic] by me to the Bord [sic] of Works May 20 / '78

John Cossins[4]'

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1.  Metropolitan Board of Works
The Board retained the lease of JW's new house, the White House in Tite Street, because he had not completed the alterations they demanded. JW sent a copy of this letter to Benjamin Ebenezer Nightingale (b. 1838), builder [more] (#04301).

2.  house
96, Cheyne Walk.

3.  panels
The facade of the White House as originally designed by E. W. Godwin was extremely plain and elegant. The Board insisted on decorative panels, which were in the end installed, before they would grant planning permission. Whistler moved into the White House in the summer of 1878, but was forced to sell it the next year because of bankruptcy resulting from buildings costs and his court action against John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more].

4.  John Cossins
John Cossins, JW's valet [more]. He is the author of the text on page three.