The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 3 of 92

System Number: 05619
Date: [2 April 1865][1]
Author: Algernon Charles Swinburne[2]
Place: [London]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler S265
Document Type: ALS

Sunday. [illegible]

Cher père

I write a word to leave in case I find you gone out. Here are the verses[3], written the first thing after breakfast & brought off at once. I could not do anything prettier, but if you don't find any serviceable as an Academy-Catalogue motto[4] & don't care to get all this printed under the picture, tell me at once that I may try my hand at it to-morrow again. Gabriel[5] praises them highly, & I think myself the idea is pretty: I know it was entirely & only suggested to me by the picture, & where I found at once the metaphor of the rose & the notion of sad & glad mystery in the face languidly contemplative of its own phantom & all other things seen by their phantoms. I wanted to work this out more fully [p. 2] & clearly, & insert the reflection of the picture & the room; but Gabriel says it is full long for its purpose already, & there is nothing I can supplant.

Tout à toi[6]

A C Swinburne


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1.  [2 April 1865]
The letter dates from shortly before the 97th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1865, which opened in May. It is dated 2 April 1865 in Lang, Cecil Y., The Swinburne Letters, 6 vols, New Haven, 1959, vol. 1, No. 74A. 2 April was a Sunday in 1865.

2.  Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), poet and critic [more]. He addresses JW in French as 'Dear father'.

3.  verses
The text of the poem Before the Mirror is given separately: see #05620. It also appears with a letter from J. C. Potter to JW, 24 March 1865 (#05621).

4.  Academy-Catalogue motto
Two verses from Swinburne's poem were pasted onto the frame of Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl (YMSM 52). Stanzas four and six were inserted alongside the picture title in the catalogue to the Royal Academy Exhibition. See Swinburne, Algernon Charles, The Complete Works Swinburne edited by Sir Edmund Gosse and Thomas James Wise, 20 vols, London 1925-1927, vol. 1, 'Poetical Works', pp. 260-62.

5.  Gabriel
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), artist and poet [more].

6.  tout a toi
Fr., all yours.

7.  Swinburne
Written in another hand, at right angles to the letter.