Speke Hall - near Liverpool
Go round one morning to my place and look at a most lovely Nocturne in blue and silver in the Drawing room. It differs from all the others and is perhaps the most brilliant of the lot. I want 300 gs. for it - but whether you go in for hanging it in your red room or not, never mind just go and look at it for I am delighted with it myself and want to show it. So you can take any friends with you. There are three Nocturnes in the Drawing room, but the one I mean is a large sea piece with some fishing smacks putting off - sky lovely and the sea of an immense distance and gleaming in the soft light of the moon. This description is almost fit for the papers! But faites pas attention, mon cher! Go and see if ever you saw the sea painted like that! And the mystery of the whole thing - nothing apparently when you look at the canvas, but stand off - and I say the wet sands and the water falling on the beach in the blue glimmering of the moon - and the sheen of the whole thing - enfin - then I have exhausted the subject. The other two Nocturnes are not finished.
The famous Lucy will show you the pictures if my brother the doctor is not there, for you know my poor Mother has been very ill for a long time, though I am happy to say she is better but still confined to her bed. By the way get Tommy Jeckyll to go with you, for I want him to see my pet Nocturne.
With kindest regards to all,
J. A. McN. Whistler.
You know that Mitford has taken a couple of houses in the Row and is my neighbour. I don't know him. I met your friend Gower one day in town - he said he should like to see any pictures I had, perhaps he would go with you. Anyhow write us a line and tell me how you like it.
The frame it is stuck in is not its own of course merely for the moment - it will be framed in pale green gold with blue pattern.
1. [July/August 1874]
This letter was written before September 1874, when Mitford and Swinburne were at a party at JW's home (Henderson, Philip, Swinburne: the Portrait of a Poet, London, 1974, p. 294; and see note below).
Quoted in Cohen, Lucy, Lady De Rothschild and Her Daughters, 1821-1931, London, 1935, pp. 198-99.
6. faites pas attention, mon cher
Fr., do not pay attention, my dear fellow. This phrase was printed in italics, probably because it was in French, but possibly to indicate an underlined section.
Fr., well. Printed in italics; see note above.
Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford (1837-1916), Lord Redesdale (1886), diplomat, Secretary of the Office of Works, and collector [more]. In December 1874, Mitford married Clementine Ogilvy and they lived near JW on Lindsey Row.
JW painted scale or feather patterns on his frames to co-ordinate with the colour of the paintings.