NPG 1007 (1a)

Typed copy of a letter from G.F. Watts to Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton, dated 23 January 1882, responding to Lytton's praise of him and referring to his decision not to accept the offer of a dinner to be held in his honour at the Grosvenor Gallery.

Jan. 23. 1882.
Little Holland House.

Dear Lord Lytton
I am touched to sadness my [sic] your letter, how can all this be merited by any efforts of mine? I haunt the footsteps of the great dead, those who while they enoble [sic] their birth-land enrich the world and ennoble humanity itself, from my childhood I have had a longing to be of that band, but I dare not think it is for me, and praise such as yours and from such as you, seems somehow more distinctly to show me what is not, by showing me what your own genius presents to you as mine, it is you who complete the strain if I strike the chord. The dread of being a deceiver even without the intention, is more distressing to me than the want of general sympathy (through which I have hither-to worked) has ever proved, I would rather be underated than overestimated. You the Poet and Artist for they are identical, will I know understand me although I express myself clumsily.

I have got into great disgrace by declining to accept the dinner, all my instincts recoiled from the thing, and it is a great satisfaction to me to find that you approve.

I want to have your sympathy, I shall want the sympathy of those whom I most admire and respect for life now is all down-hill with me, and I have my best to do.

To be accounted a worthy son of that great England first among the very first in so many things has ever been my aspiration, and if the aim seemed too high, it will I am sure not be condemned even by those who may smile at the presumption, since I claim nothing but sympathy with the aspiration. I have as I said lived too much with the spirits of the great to be in error as to the achievement.

I hope you will some day give me a few sittings, my series of monumental portraits I think should be carried on. I am afraid I have meandered about a good deal and not been very clear, but I think you will pick out my meaning

Yours most sincerely
and gratefully
G.F. Watts.