The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 3 of 7

System Number: 07571
Date: 26 August [1872][1]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler [2] and JW
Place: London
Recipient: Rachel Agnes Alexander[3]
Place: London
Repository: British Museum, London
Call Number: Department of Prints and Drawings, 1958-2-8-34
Document Type: ALS[4]

2 Lindsey[5] Houses Chelsea

Tuesday afternoon Augt 26th

My dear Mrs Alexander

You are quite right to make me of any use in the studio. the Artist is very sorry to put you to any additional trouble, but his fancy is for a rather clearer muslin than the pattern enclosed in your note. I think Swiss Book muslin will be right, that the arms may be seen thro it, as in the "Little White Girl[6]" you may remember. it should be without blue, as purely white as it can be. he likes likes the narrow frilling such as is upon the upper skirt of the dress Sicily[7] [sic] has worn, & I suppose the new one can be made in the same fashion exactly.

If possible it would be better to get fine Indian muslin - which is beautiful in color - It would be well to try at a sort of second hand shop called Aked's[8] in a little street running out of Leicester Square to the right hand corner of the [p. 2] Alhambra as you face it and on the same side of the square - like this

[Map inscribed:] Alhambra Aked./ Leicester Square

Or perhaps Farmer & Roger[9] may have it they often keep it - But try Aked first -

The dress might have frills on the skirts and about it - and a fine little ruffle for the neck - or else lace - [Design for a dress for Miss Cicely H. Alexander][10]

Also it might be looped up from time to time with bows of pale yellow ribbon -

[p. 3] In case The Indian muslin is not to be had - Then the usual fine muslin of which Ladies evening dresses are made will do - the blue well taken out - and the little dress afterwards done up by the laundress with a little starch to make the frills and skirts &c stand out, & of course not an atom of blue! -

As I handed as far as I had written, to my Son for his approval, he went on with it himself but, that you need not feel nervous about the time alotted, I have taken the freedom to put the dress left in my keeping, into the hands of my Laundress merely to extract the slight hue of sky blue, which is the sole objection, and so, it will be ready for Friday if the one ordered cannot be finished by then.

I must now express my grateful sense of your kindness in your invitation for next Sunday. The Old Chelsea Church being closed & my Pastor[11] absent I am like a stray sheep & shall I am sure be benefitted by attending your place of public worship & I am as fond of children as of sweet roses, I shall [p. 4] be delighted to see the originals of the pretty Photos shewn me yesterday, as, with not having seen & heard Sici's little brothers & sisters[12], she has introduced them to me, in her natural loving talk of them & as she has won a place in my heart so will they.

Believe me dear Mrs Alexander
Very truly yours with esteem

Anna M Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  26 August [1872]
This letter has traditionally been dated 1873 (see YMSM 129 and M.503), since 26 August fell on a Tuesday that year. However, it is inscribed in pencil "1872" and this appears to be correct, because AMW's planned visit to the Alexanders on the following Sunday was later described in her letter to James Gamble, 5-22 November 1872, #06553.

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

3.  Rachel Agnes Alexander
Rachel Agnes Alexander (b. ca 1837, m. 1861), née Lucas, wife of W. C. Alexander [more].

4.  ALS
'2 Lindsey ... exactly' written by AMW; 'if ... blue' written by JW; 'As ... Whistler' written by AMW. The letter was published, with slight variations, in Robin Spencer, ed., Whistler: A Retrospective, New York, 1989, pp. 103-4, repr. p. 104; and M.503.

5.  2 Lindsey
This was JW's address until 1878.

6.  Little White Girl
Symphony in White, No. 2: The Little White Girl (YMSM 52).

7.  Sicily
Cicely Henrietta Alexander (1864-1932), later Mrs Spring Rice [more]. She was posing for Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander (YMSM 129).

8.  Aked's
Joseph Aked, art dealer at 16 Green Street, Leicester Square, London, WC; see PO Directory, 1870, p. 630.

9.  Farmer & Roger
Messrs Farmer and Roger's Great Cloak and Shawl Emporium at 119 Great Regent Street, where Arthur Lazenby Liberty was then Oriental Manager. It was a shop specialising in hats, cloaks and woven materials. JW was a regular customer and at the time of his bankruptcy owed them £34.13.0; see Farmer and Rogers to JW, 25 December 1878, #08952.

10.  Design for a dress for Miss Cicely H. Alexander
Design for a dress for Miss Cicely H. Alexander (M.503).

11.  Pastor
Rev. Robert Henry Davies (1821-1908), incumbent of Chelsea Old Church.

12.  brothers & sisters
In AMW's description of the visit, she mentions that the Alexanders had seven children (see #06553). These included Agnes Mary Alexander (1862-1950); Cicely Henrietta Alexander (1864-1932), later Mrs Spring Rice [more]; Grace Alexander (b. 1867).