The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 10877
Date: [11/17 June 1881][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Sydney Morse[2]
Place: London
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 14/1244/1
Document Type: TLc


My dear Morse

I have been more or less of late out of town and have not called upon you as I meant to have done since the appearance of the famous cabinet top[3].

I am delighted to know that it is at last in its proper place, and I will tell you when I see you how by chance I discovered it -

In a little while I hope to be in my new place[4] in Tite Street, for it appears that the Vestry still insist[s] upon preserving that name - and then you shall come and see the pastels[5] that remain in my possession -

With kindest regards to yourself and Mrs Morse
Yours sincerely

Ja. McN. Whistler.

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1.  [11/17 June 1881]
This is probably a reply to S. Morse's letter of 10 June 1881 (#04194).

2.  Sydney Morse
Sydney Morse (1854-1929), solicitor [more].

3.  cabinet top
A Chinese 'pagoda' cabinet was sold by JW to Morse in September 1878. Soon afterwards, it became the subject of an elaborate deception between JW, Theodore Frederick Allingham (b. 1845), solicitor [more], Morse and Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more]. In December 1878, Morse requested the missing head-piece of the cabinet (S. Morse to C. A. Howell, #04192). However, Howell claimed that he had taken it in for repair. Mystified, Morse contacted the cabinet-maker to learn that while it had indeed been in for repair, it had been collected by Howell months earlier (S. Morse to C. A. Howell, #04193). It later turned out that he had pawned it, and JW was able to retrieve it from the shop of W. A. Chapman (see W. A. Chapman to JW, 6 June 1881, #00590). JW published his version of events in Whistler, James McNeill, Correspondence. Paddon Papers. The Owl and the Cabinet, London, [1882]. According to the Pennells, Whistler later chanced upon the top in 'some old shop, bought it no doubt for a good price, and brought it in a cab straight to [Morse], that the cabinet might be complete as a thing so beautiful should be' (Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Whistler Journal, Philadelphia, 1921, p. 295). The cabinet is now in Leighton House, Chelsea.

4.  new place
JW leased a flat and studio at 13 Tite Street on 22 March 1881 but stayed on with his brother for two months until the premises were ready.

5.  pastels
Probably Venice pastels such as Beadstringers (M.788) or Riva, Nocturne (M.800). JW's exhibition Venice Pastels, The Fine Art Society, London, 1881, took place in February.