The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 11411
Date: [25 December 1884][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Edmund Yates[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PLc[3]

[Tite Street, Chelsea]

Atlas, look at this! It has been culled from the Plumber and Decorator[4], of all insidious prints, and forwarded to me by the untiring people[5] who daily supply me with the thinkings of my critics.

Read, Atlas, and let me execute myself:

"The 'Peacock' drawing-room of a well-to-do shipowner[6], of Liverpool, at Queen's Gate, London, is hand-painted, representing the noble bird with wings expanded, painted by an Associate[7] of the Royal Academy, at a cost of £7000, and fortunate in claiming his daughter[8] as his bride, and is one of the finest specimens of high art in decoration in the kingdom. The mansion is of modern construction."

He is not guilty, this honest Associate! It was I, Atlas, who did this thing - "alone I did it" - I "hand-painted" this room in the "mansion of modern construction."

[p. 2] Woe is me! I secreted, in the provincial shipowner's home, the "noble bird with wings expanded" - I perpetrated, in harmless obscurity, "the finest specimen of high-art decoration" - and the Academy is without stain in the art of its member. Also the immaculate character of that Royal body has been falsely impugned by this wicked "Plumber"!

Mark these things, Atlas, that justice may be done, the innocent spared, and history cleanly written.

Bon soir!

[butterfly signature]


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1.  [25 December 1884]
This letter, dated 25 December and written from Tite Street, Chelsea, was published in The World on 31 December 1884.

2.  Edmund Yates
Edmund Hodgson Yates (1831-1894), novelist, 'Atlas' columnist and editor-proprietor of the World [more]. In a letter to Yates JW had suggested a minor change to the text, changing 'The immaculate character' to 'also the immaculate character' (#13388).

3.  PLc
Published in Whistler, James McNeill, [Letter to Atlas], The World: A Journal For Men and Women, no. 548, vol. 21, 31 December 1884, p. 15 where the date and the address are noted.. See also Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, pp. 174-75, under the heading 'Noblesse oblige'; Getscher, Robert H., and Paul G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Two Annotated Bibliographies, New York and London, 1986, B. 28, p. 34.

4.  Plumber and Decorator
Plumber and Decorator, not located.

5.  people
Possibly Romeike's press-cutting agency.

6.  'Peacock' drawing-room of a well-to-do shipowner
Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178) was painted for the London house of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more].

7.  Associate
Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1836-1904), painter and writer [more].

8.  his daughter
Florence Leyland (1859-1921), later Mrs Prinsep [more].