The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 10867
Date: [1/6 January 1874?] [1]
Author: JW
Recipient: Frances Leyland[2]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 13/1171-72
Document Type: TLc

My dear Mrs. Leyland -

I must write a line to thank you for the kind thoughtfulness to my Mother[3] - She will of course write herself but her letter[4] to me last night was full of her warm love to you - How good you are to us all! - The Mother is at least able to show how she values your friendship - but I, to whom you are so continually indulgent seem doomed to disappointment in every effort that I make to show at all my gratitude - The thought of your portrait[5] is upon me! - Well do I remember the persevering kindness with which you so patiently bore the fatigue of those many tiring days! - How can I ever thank you! - And I am now so unhappy to know that the work itself is not worthy of the weariness it caused you - It should have been so beautiful! Do you know that I sometimes dare to hope that still it may be saved - The strange little something, that stands between a master-piece in its perfection, and failure, might at any moment yield - and a mornings work bring with it the bright life that is now smouldering with in - So lovely is the conception too! Ah well! Believe me though my dear Mrs Leyland it is not only selfish glorification or ambition that still frets me in my disappointment - It would have been my pride to in some measure through my work thank the kind hostess who has I fear been often vexed by the waywardness and tiresome eccentricities of a never ending guest[6]! -

Rip[7] is very dreary today and begs you to forgive this dull account of himself - but he feels rather out on the moun-[p. 2]-tains and far away from you all - The fact is "the set" has a little spoiled me - and I find myself really longing for news from the Hall[8]!- Flo - and Freddie[9] - and the Babs and Fannie[10]! - Give my love to them all - they have written me charming letters[11] and I am very fond of them! Do you know I think I must perhaps run down for a day or two's rest - When I get on a little further with the big picture[12] - Might I again appear in my character of the "Eternal Guest"? I told Freddie that "I shwore [sic] off" - but perhaps you wouldn't count it that time! - Don't you?

You will be pleased to hear the pictures progress - and I shall write all the entertaining news in my "next Journal" -

With kindest regards and thanks - and best wishes for the New Year, believe me,

Very sincerely yours

J. A. McN. Whistler.

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1.  [1/6 January 1874?]
Dated from references to the New Year, and to paintings (see below).

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

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

4.  letter
Not located.

5.  portrait
Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106). JW worked on the portrait at Speke Hall in March 1872, hoping to complete it by April for the Royal Academy; upon his return to London, Mrs Leyland continued to pose every day at Lindsey Row (see A. M. Whistler to J. Gamble, 13 March 1872, #06548, and 10, 12, 13 April 1872, #06549; and A. M. Whistler to Mrs. Mann, 7 May [1872], #06551). It was exhibited at Mr Whistler's Exhibition, Flemish Gallery, Pall Mall, London, 1874, and was sent to Leyland some time after their quarrel in 1876.

6.  guest
JW was a frequent guest of the Leylands, and spent most of the following winter, from September 1874 to March 1875, painting in the studio (see #09605, 01634).

7.  Rip
This may be a pet-name or it may have been mis-read by the transcriber.

8.  Hall
Speke Hall, near Liverpool, home of the Leylands.

9.  Flo - and Freddie
Florence Leyland (1859-1921), later Mrs Prinsep [more], and Frederick Dawson Leyland (b. 1856), son of F. R. Leyland [more].

10.  Babs and Fannie
Elinor Leyland (1861-1952), later Mrs Speed [more], and Fanny Leyland (1857-1880), later Mrs Stevenson-Hamilton [more].

11.  letters
Not located. Letters from 'Freddie' (F. D. Leyland) show his affection for JW (17 November 1872, #02602; 15 October 1873, #02693).

12.  picture
Probably The Three Girls (YMSM 88), commissioned by Leyland but never completed.