122 Typed; signed: August 31, 1940.
MOUNT MANOR HOUSE,
August 31st, 1940.
c/o The Hogarth Press,
37, Mecklenburg Square,
I have read, with the greatest interest and delight, the very important book that you have written on Roger Fry. I knew him well, from the time when he asked me to come over and see him at Dorking, and during his strange and eventful life. We differed upon almost every important matter, except in one respect. I wrote a little book on Velasquez, which Roger Fry praised in no measured terms, to my great joy. But, though we differed in many other respects, we were none the less friends. I loved the work of Gainsborough, and hated that of Cezanne, and twice I declined to write articles upon Post-Impressionist Exhibitions, because I told him I could say nothing in favour of the work.
You have entered into the details of his life with extraordinary skill, if I may be allowed to say so, and I am greatly obliged to you for having written the book.
I do want, however, to protest against what you have put on page 137. I knew Mr. Morgan intimately, and as a personal friend. He was constantly at my house in London, and I was often at his in America, and I traveled for him all over Europe, gathering up information from archives and documents in various languages. You say that his "ignorance was colossal." He took a very high degree at his university, he was a sound classical scholar, he spoke and read French, and in mathematics he took an especially high position, particularly in the more difficult kind of mathematics--trigonometry, the integral calculus, and so on. There his knowledge was so important that he would have been welcomed as a tutor or professor in any university, and was in fact offered such a position. Moreover, he had a sound knowledge of Italian art and a considerable knowledge of portraiture, and he knew about carved woodwork, jewels and precious stones, so that what you mean by "colossal ignorance" I cannot conceive.
Again, you say that his "vanity was prodigious." On the contrary, he was a very humble man, he kept his own skill and knowledge carefully hidden. He was a religious man, a constant attendant at religious services, and he was always ready to say things in discredit of his own knowledge. Then you say he "required flattery." No man required it less, no man more resented it, no man saw more quickly through it. He did wish to make his museum as good as possible, and I have heard him say again and again that he wished to have as fine things in it as in any of the museums of the old country, and he did everything in his power to carry out this wish.
He did "buy in batches," as you say, because his remark was "I cannot live long enough to make a collection, and therefore I will buy the whole collection of some great collector, and hand it over to my museum." I remember expertising for him a great collection, taking out from it fakes and forgeries, and telling him that what was left was worthy his having, and he there and then, as I later understood, made an offer to the collector for all that I had selected.
I knew Mrs. Douglas, and Fry was not right in the remarks that he made about her. I knew Mrs. Jack Gardner well.
Morgan was anxious to have a fine private collection, but was never anxious to have the "finest in the world." He simply wanted to have a few fine pictures, and in that he succeeded, but he only had about a dozen in his own room, and they were all important ones. What he was most anxious was that his museum should have the very best. Fry misunderstood him again and again, and moreover, Fry had no tact, and therefore it was that he did not get on with Morgan, but there is a great deal in what he said on pages 141-144 that is not accurate. I know Perugia and Siena well; I know what he got and what he bought, and I knew the man thoroughly well. He did get together wonderful things, as you say on p. 144, but it was not to increase his own importance, but to make the museum, which he called his museum, as great as it possibly could be, and to that he spared no pains.
Johnson of Philadelphia I knew perfectly well, he was a man of great independence, he most certainly was never under Mr. Morgan's influence. He bought pictures that he liked, and he never accepted Mr. Morgan's advice or opposed him. His collection was formed entirely separately, it was far larger than Morgan's, it contained a great many things that were comparatively unimportant, together with a great many that were important. Sir George Savage, mentioned on 146, was a great friend of mine.
Your book is a very wonderful one, but I do very much regret that you have looked at a book that was written by a financial opponent of Morgan, instead of looking at the Satterlee biography or getting information from someone who had come into contact with the Maecenas of modern life, as I did myself.
George Williamson AET 83.
Letters from readers, Letters about Roger Fry
George Charles Williamson (1858-1942) published many books about art, miniatures, and collecting, among them The Amateur Collector (1924), Catalogue of the Collection of Miniatures, the Property of J. Pierpont Morgan (1906-08), and The Book of Amber (1932), and he also wrote about Lady Anne Clifford and Angelica Kaufmann. The source he mentions, by a financial opponent, was Morgan the Magnificent: The Life of J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) by John Kennedy Winkler (1930), and the source he wishes Woolf had consulted was Herbert Livingston Satterlee's J. P. Morgan, An Intimate Portrait (1939).
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|Title Annotation:||LETTERS FROM READERS|
|Publication:||Woolf Studies Annual|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2006|
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