The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Transcription/Database Record

the on-line edition

System Number: 08182
Date: 11 March [1869][1]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: London
Recipient: Frederick Richards Leyland[3]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 34A/1/1
Document Type: ALS

2 Lindsey Row Chelsea.

March 11th.

My dear Mr Leyland

You will be surprised at my writing you for Jemie[4], as, in the usual course of either business or friendship he would himself do so, but he feels too keenly his disappointed hopes.

Yesterday the conviction was forced upon him that he should only ruin his work by persevering now in vain endeavours to finish your picture[5] & that he must set it aside til he should be in better tone, mortifying tho it be to him, that it is not to be exhibited this Season. he is poor fellow more to be pitied than blamed, if mortal energy & industry could have accomplished it, his might, he has worked so hard night and day to attain his ambition, his first motive to please you who have been so indulgently patient, & also that it [p. 2] might have had a place in the new R Academy[6][,] he has only tried too hard to make it the perfection of Art, preying upon his mind unceasingly it has become more & and more impossible to satisfy himself.

Yesterday afternoon I was surprised by his coming to see me, as he has been too closely at work to spare time even to cheer me, but he said in explanation, "All Sons I believe come to their Mother in their difficulties, to ask help & find comfort" and then with his characteristic frankness he entered upon the details of his trying position, for he always confides in his Mother, who thus knows intimately all his failings & his virtues. "Leyland must be written to! but I cannot do it! You can dear Mother for me, & I'm sure you will try to relieve my mind that far, Say to him I feel it right to put again in his hand the £400 he advanced as the price of the first picture, I dare say George[7] will lend me that amt. which I feel in honor bound to refund. Say to Leyland that on my return to Chelsea, I will [p. 3] finish the two pictures[8] he has ordered, before I begin any others, only beg him to believe I have not failed to do so before now, from lack of endeavor to gratify his wish and my own. I cannot even shew him the first in its present state.

You may judge dear Mr Leyland how painful is this task to me, for tho my experience of blighted hopes in this world has taught me to expect disappointment, I yet tremble as my Sons encounter it, for they have not the faith in God which is my support. I could not but fear this check upon Jemie's temerity in setting aside the divine wisdom of resting from labor on the Lord's day. I failed in my argument to convince him that he should profit by the day of rest, not only to recover tone, but to seek the blessing promised to obedience. Surely the 4th Commandment[9] is as binding as any others upon Christians, & the Bible is teeming with promises to those who honor the Lords day by hallowing it. Perhaps these reflections of mine may be unnecessary; but my head is so sadly & deeply touched by a sense of the [p. 4] rebuke visited upon us, I am only comforted by believing that tho our present chastening is grievous, its results will be for our rejoicing in God our Savour. Jemie told me he should begin a small picture[10] today & thinks it possible he may finish it in 4 weeks. he is blest in buoyancy of spirit, so hopeful! but alas if this wintery weather continues, the end must be blighted hopes, tho I am not so cruel as to dishearten the poor fellow. He said also of you that when you visit his place if you can refrain from expressing your vexation at the delay in his work for you, he will feel more grateful than ever to you. I am his representative in Chelsea & shall welcome a call from you, if you have time to spare.

Please offer Mrs Leyland[11] my love & best wishes for the happiness of your home circle, and believe me dear Mr Leyland with the truest regard

Your friend

Anna M Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  11 March [1869]
Dated from references to works and to JW's brother George William Whistler, who died in December 1869.

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

3.  Frederick Richards Leyland
Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more]; he lived in Liverpool and London.

4.  Jemie
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more].

5.  picture
The Three Girls (YMSM 88).

6.  R Academy
At Burlington House, the new galleries of the Royal Academy.

7.  George
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more].

8.  two pictures
The Three Girls (YMSM 88) and another unidentified work probably from the decorative scheme 'The Six Projects' (YMSM 82-87) (excat 11), commissioned by Leyland.

9.  4th Commandment
'Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy,' Exod. 20.10.

10.  small picture
Perhaps Harmony in Flesh Colour and Red (YMSM 91).

11.  Mrs Leyland
Frances Leyland (1836-1910), née Dawson [more].