CHARLEY'S AUNT. Family albums relating to the life and career of Brandon Thomas, author of Charley's Aunt, including a fine letter by Walter Sickert
Lot 17
Family albums relating to the life and career of Brandon Thomas, author of Charley's Aunt, including a fine letter by Walter Sickert
Sold for £ 1,875 (US$ 2,521) inc. premium

Lot Details
Family albums, containing material relating to the life and career of Brandon Thomas, author of Charley's Aunt, compiled from family papers and photographs, with a typed biographical narrative; the collection comprising: carte-de-visite photographs of Brandon Thomas's father, Walter Thomas, a Chartist bootmaker, and mother, Hannah, and of himself as a young man (one when nineteen); a group of testimonials in an envelope marked by him "My Characters" written by employers in the timber business in Liverpool docks between 1870 and 1879 ("...Mr W.B. Thomas, has been in my employ since August 1865... I can strongly recommend him as a good general clerk..."); the telegram from William Kendal summoning him to the Court Theatre at "half past eleven sharp", 3 April 1870, where he was to make his stage début later that month in The Queen's Shilling; a note forwarded to him by Madge Kendall engaging his services as a recitalist ("...Mr Thomas/ Ask for £5-5-0 not more..."); trimmed cabinet photographs of his future wife, Marguerite Leverson, aged nineteen, and of his parents-in-law; the 'breakfast' letter in which he declares his love of Marguerite (she having written to ask if he remembers her, he replies: "I know who you are – a thousand years hence a lovely cameo in your likeness will be dug out of my grave it will be my HEART, fossilised with your image engraved on it, so do not say that again!!!"), which caused her parents to ban him from their house; the letter of 1886 in which her father refuses ever to grant permission; his invitation to the reception given to celebrate his forthcoming marriage in 1888 (her father having relented); an autograph letter to him by Walter Sickert [who before taking up painting full time in 1881 had been an actor and shared a dressing-room with Thomas], acknowledging on Whistler's behalf a cheque "for his portrait of your baby. He is really pleased & touched & grateful" ("...He asked me to thank you & to say that he is only afraid he has not given you your money's worth. His sitter is coming tomorrow, Tuesday at 2. Whistler himself will not be there before 2. Come then if you can. Don't enquire after his wife or condole or mention the subject...") [1895, Beatrice Whistler had been diagnosed with cancer in 1894 and was to die on 10 May 1896]; another autograph letter by Sickert, to Thomas, containing his account for his portrait of Penley as Charley's Aunt ("...You do quite enough in buying things for which the market is small without paying fancy prices for them & I will not sell you anything except at my own prices... the whole transaction leaves me still your debtor..."); a series of five cabinet photographs of his daughter Amy (as painted by Whistler) from baby to fourteen-year-old and later on stage with Sir Gerald du Maurier and as Olivia in Tree's Twelfth Night; photographs of him and the Leversons with his son Jimmy, with a letter from the War Office to Thomas ("...His Majesty desires to condole with you on the loss you have suffered and to express his high appreciation of the services of the late Second Lieutenant J.G.B. Thomas..."); photographs of his second son, Jevan (one as Inspector Heat in Conrad's Secret Agent; photographs of the whole family; photographs of his second daughter Silvia, some as a ballerina; an autograph letter by J.M. Barrie, congratulating Thomas on his costume as Thomas Whammond; and a set of photographs of Marguerite herself, in two modern oblong 4to photograph albums; included in the lot, loose, are other family items including a series of letters to Amy by her father and siblings, with a harrowing series by her mother written from France in November 1914 when nursing her fatally wounded son Jimmy ("...He has done nothing but ask for me.../ ...They say the bullet went in under the left eye in the direction of the right ear, they don't know if it is still in..."); a collection of family photographs, many of cabinet format; and transcripts of Silvia's diaries, dust-staining and other wear, in a suitcase


  • The remarkable letter by Sickert to Brandon Thomas about Whistler is not recorded by the University of Glasgow's online Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler, where another letter to him by Sickert and other Whistler-related correspondence is listed. The Correspondence records that 'Brandon Thomas was a fervent admirer of JW' and that 'The Thomas' daughter Amy posed for JW in the autumn of 1890 when she was six months old... Portrait of Miss Amy Brandon Thomas (YMSM 392) was not finished until 1895. Thomas considered it to be beautiful: "a spirit, a shadow, a divine sketch"'. However, the Correspondence queries whether the Brandon Thomas who was a friend of Whistler was the same person as the playwright. This letter leaves no doubt that Whistler's friend was indeed the playwright; as does his son Jevan's memoir, Charley's Aunt's Father (1955).
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  1. Simon Roberts
    Specialist - Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs
    Montpelier Street
    London, United Kingdom SW7 1HH
    Work +44 20 7393 3828
    FaxFax: +44 20 7393 3879
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