The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 8 of 92

System Number: 00549
Date: [July/October 1878?][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: John Cavafy[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler C50
Document Type: TLc[3]

The White House,
Chelsea Embankment.

My dear John,

You may have supposed that through mere indolence I had never answered your letter[4]. It is not so though - but lots of things have been happening - and only now that they are over I look round and find your note carefully put away for the attention I always meant it to hav [sic] have - Voila - for the preface - Now about this matter - it is very simple - and there ought to be no mistake or falseness of position or rather hesitations of any kind.

Let us say the things clearly - I gave the picture[5] to your Father[6]! absolutely was young enough and foolish enough to make a present of it! - - - Good Heavens! when I look back and think of it I feel all the amazement that was George Chapman's[7] when he pawned his watch for Sandy's[8] and thought it over afterwards - Bon - now what is the upshot after many years it comes back to me in a pretty condition - any quality of light and purity it may possess being utterly lost - so much so that it was almost a question as to whether they were not gone for ever - With very little hope however I set to work and finally manage[d] to clean the little picture - and restore it to its original fairness - and then take the trouble to order for it a frame designed by myself - so that after a long period it is returned to you pretty enhanced in beauty; and as a result, so little is the who[l]e thing cared for, that your Father refuses to pay the frame maker for the frame for my silly gift - Now the right thing to do would be simply this - Give me back my picture - you have had it quite long enough - the enjoyment you have got out of it is properly gru[d]ged by the refusal to pay for its new dress - and really Fawten[9] [sic] Fantin fantin is quite right when the other day he asked me to return a picture[10] he once gave me, and which I certainly shall send him. - tout ca[11] [sic] he said c'est la follie [sic] de la jeune[ss]e - and it is absurd indeed. Look also at the matter of the little Balcony[12]. I borrowed it several times from your Father - and each time I worked upon it and added to its worth until at last I had more than quadrupled its value - In the end I also ordered for it a new frame - and elaborately painted and ornamented it - and again the mere price of the frame was refused when Foord [sic] and Dickenson[13] sent in his bill - Now when you reflect that 30 guineas was the price paid and that I never since stayed my hand because of the sum, well, it is scarcely flattering to one's sense of appreciation. There John mon ami, think of this in no other light save the one of mere matter-of-fact - and gi[v]e me back my present - that will be the best for us all.

With kindest regards
Always yours,


This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [July/October 1878?]
The mention of Fantin-Latour suggests a date during the summer of 1878 (see below), but, although JW's lease of 96 Cheyne Walk ended on 25 June 1878, he did not move into the White House until the end of September.

2.  John Cavafy
Dr John Cavafy (ca 1839-1901), physician and collector, son of G. J. Cavafy [more].

3.  TLc
The whole of this letter copy is typed, including the signature; the original has not been traced.

4.  letter

5.  picture
Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville (YMSM 64). Cavafy did not return the picture to JW, but years later sold it to E. G. Kennedy, who did return it (#09692).

6.  Father
George John Cavafy (1805-1891), merchant, partner in G. J. Cavafy and Company [more].

7.  George Chapman
George R. Chapman (b. 1834), artist [more].

8.  Sandy's
Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (1829-1904), portrait painter and designer [more].

9.  Fawten
Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904), artist [more]. The spelling error 'Fawten' is corrected by pencil to 'Fantin', both above the word and in the left margin.

10.  a picture
Possibly H. Fantin-Latour, Nature Morte (FL. 182) (z72), painted in 1861 and exhibited at Martinet's gallery, which was said to have belonged first to JW and then to George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), art dealer in Paris [more]. A letter from Fantin to JW regarding pictures exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in 1863 is dated 31 May 1879 (#01089).

11.  tout ca ... jeune[ss]e
Fr., 'all that is the folly of youth.' The typescript copy reads 'jeunerre' in error for 'jeunesse'.

12.  the little Balcony
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony (YMSM 56). It was probably reframed for the Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1878.

13.  Foord [sic] and Dickenson
Ford and Dickinson, frame makers at 129 Wardour Street, London.