NPG 1126 (9a/9b)
Letter from William Ewart Gladstone to G.F. Watts, dated 25 May 1896, describing his pleasure at hearing that the artist has been offered a Privy Councillorship.
May 25. 96
My dear Mr Watts
To hear of a Privy Councillorship offered by Lord Salisbury & accepted by you gave me extreme pleasure. I saw in it nothing but merit on one side, discernment on the other. That there should have been an unexpected obstacle puzzles as well as concerns me. I am loath to suppose it was the Queen.
In foregoing your opportunities of fortune you have set a great example to an age which much needed it; an original example when it is considered that (as I suppose few if any would doubt) you have been for many years the Prince of British Art.
What you tell me about the Athenaeum bemuses me. It rankles and will rankle. But I cannot help thinking there must be means through which without troubling you, this annoyance (which as I well understand may be greater than it seems) could be averted.
Your fame has a basis more solid than any external decoration. When I read your fine sentence I expected to reply "the oldest member of the Privy Council (55 years old) greets the youngest: I must now substitute for these last words 'covets a very distinguished accession to it'. I wish we had power to fall back upon the poor Baronetcy. Believe me with much regard
Most faithfully yours