The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06686
Date: [October/November 1879][1]
Author: JW
Place: Venice
Recipient: Helen Euphrosyne Whistler[2]
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W680
Document Type: ALS

I meant to have answered your wee little note[3] my dear Nellie long ago - directly it reached me in short - which is long ago I am sorry to say - mea culpa[4]! mea culpa Nellie ! - but dont think on the other hand that it is quite all the way you suggest - You propose to be shocked at my silence and withold the choice scraps from the newspapers until I write - while really it was you who owed me a letter - for surely you must have had my two notes[5] of adieu before I left England - I certainly wrote to bid you both Goodbye - and certainly expected to find here at the Poste Restante an answer or rather a jolly letter full of amiable things and little tit bits of scandal about Godwin[6] - or Holland Park[7] - "various[8]" - I went and asked for one whether or no, and was quite disappointed when [p. 2] the man said there was nothing of the kind for me - Italian my dear Nellie is a poor language - We have not been brought up to believe so but it is - so - and for that reason only - I shall not come back speaking it fluently - Beside Spanish it is mean - and strangely enough it appeals to me not at all - and now that it has taken to snowing I begin rather to wish myself back in my own lovely London fogs[9]! They are lovely those fogs - and I am their painter! - Of course you know Venice is superb and if I hadn't dined horribly today - and yesterday too - and the day before for the matter of that, nothing could induce me to speak the truth and acknowledge that I am bored to death after a certain time away from Piccadilly! - I pine for Pall Mall and I long for a hansom! - The fact is the food of this country is fowl! - Chickens I have had roast and chickens I have had boiled - chickens in the pot many days old[10] until neither the birds themselves nor their eggs are any longer tolerable. I went out the other night and bought for gold some tea - and tried to make a certain curious fat do for the bacon Mrs Cossins[11] used to send up on the silver dish[12] now [six dots:] ...... well well never mind where it is - dear funny old Mrs. Cossins! little Watts[13] used to say he always liked her when she was very drunk! and I scarcely thought I should ever look back myself with affection for her! - John I have heard had his post as steward all right- Elden[14] said so I think - but I have had no letter for a long time past from John[15] himself - Dr Reid[16] I saw for a moment on his way to Egypt. Do you write Nellie and tell us a lot of everything - I shall be so delighted to get back! - The etchings[17] are of course very swell - but one is frozen out and so I am still behind hand with them! It is of a cold you have no idea - cold way beyond anything I know in London - ice and snow all over the place - lovely though - but upon the whole I think it is more beautiful in the rain! however I will tell you all that when I get back - don't expect me yet though - Willie[18] might look in at the Fine Art Society[19] and pick up any gossip- I have never written them a line and doubt not they are very anxious - Now Goodbye - and much love to both - I suppose [p. 3] You will write to the Mummie[20] directly - and so tell her how glad I was to have the woolen cuffs, which I popped on then and there -

Are you going to send me that Hornet[21]? - and anything else you may have seen - By the way you might perhaps just send on the World[22] after reading it until further notice - suppose you begin with one or two of the back numbers - Again with love to all

Your afectionate brother


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1.  [October/November 1879]
This letter dates from shortly after JW arrived in Venice, where he spent about fourteen months from September 1879 to November 1880.

2.  Helen Euphrosyne Whistler
Helen ('Nellie') Euphrosyne Whistler (1849-1917), née Ellen Ionides, JW's sister-in-law [more].

3.  note
The note has not been located.

4.  mea culpa
Lat: my fault.

5.  my two notes
The two notes have not been located.

6.  Godwin
Edward William Godwin (1833-1886), architect and designer [more].

7.  Holland Park
JW's patron, the Greek shipowner Constantine Alexander Ionides, lived at No. 8 Holland Villas Road. One of his sons, Lucas Ionides at No. 16, and another, Alexander at No. 1 Holland Park, next door to his brother-in-law, Theodore Coronio. Sara and Thoby Prinsep had lived in Little Holland House from 1851-1874, with the Pre-Raphaelites as regular guests - indeed, G. F. Watts stayed for 23 years. In 1864, their son Valentine Prinsep built a studio house at 1 (now 14) Holland Park Road, while Frederic Leighton built his famous house at No. 2, and Watts, a house behind that. Many other artists including Albert Moore, Luke Fildes, and John Butler Yeats lived in the area.

8.  various
JW's term for business affairs.

9.  London fogs
JW's paintings of London fog and night scenes, such as Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Battersea Reach (YMSM 152) or Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170).

10.  in the pot many days old
Based on the traditional rhyme, `Pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold, pease pudding in the pot, five days old.'

11.   Mrs. Cossins
Caroline Cossins (b. ca 1839), JW's cook [more].

12.  silver dish
JW's silver was sold at auction, Sotheby, London, 12 February 1880.

13.  Watts
This is probably Walter Theodore Watts (later Watts-Dunton) (1832-1914), solicitor, novelist and poet [more]. However, it could be George Frederick Watts (1817-1904), painter and sculptor [more].

14.  Elden
Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885), artist [more].

15.  John
John Cossins, JW's valet [more].

16.  Dr. Reid
Dr Reid, unidentified. Dr Reid may have been Adam Scott Reid (1848-1918), surgeon [more]. However he was not the only Dr. Reid serving in the Afghan war, who could have passed through Venice en route to the Suez Canal.

17.  etchings
Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5).

18.  Willie
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

19.  Fine Art Society
Bond Street dealers in fine prints and paintings who commissioned the set published after JW's return as Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5).

20.  Mummie
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more].

21.   Hornet
London journal.

22.  World
London society paper.