National Geographic : 1972 Jan
National Geographic, January 1972 window, where I could view the modern Whistler's Reach. Below was a houseboat colony, and across the river loomed cumber some factories, warehouses, and smoke stacks (pages 46-7). On this dreary day, the light on the river was leaden, the sort of scene Whistler loved to paint. I could see how it might take genius to capture its romance. Miss Pulford said: "My uncle used to own this old row of houses, once called Lindsey House [map, pages 34-5]. When Whistler moved out of Number 96 down the street, he left a Japanese cabinet. My uncle gave it to the Chelsea Library, which has lent it to the Chelsea Arts Club. Go there anc have a look." And so I did. The cabinet stands in a snuggery adjacent to the bar, called, natu rally, the "Whistler Room." Ley Kenyon, then club chairman, told me, "This is one of the most renowned art clubs in the world. Whistler was a founding member, in 1891." When, later, I was elected a "temporary honorary member," I held it a high honor. But I had second thoughts when I learned that the last previously elected honorary member had been the club cat, Fred. His name had been expanded for the occasion to F. Runcible Foss-Foss having been the cat of Edward Lear, Victorian author of nonsense rhymes and coiner of the "runcible spoon." My pride was restored, however, when I was informed that the discoverer of penicillin, Chelsean Sir Alexander Fleming, considered his honorary club membership his greatest honor. Edward Halliday, the portraitist of the Royal Family (more than twenty paint ings of the Queen alone) and a trustee of the club, told me: "Fleming came into the club often to play snooker. He used to say, 'This is the one place in the world where I feel completely at ease and nobody wants to talk to me about penicillin.'" In the past the club's great event was the New Year's Eve Chelsea Arts Ball in the Royal Albert Hall, attended in costume by 4,000, includ ing London's "400." In 1960, after 50 balls, the club discontinued the event, which had become a rowdy money-loser. A society-minded Londoner scoffed when I told him I was doing a Chel sea story: "Why nothing of interest has happened there since the ball was dropped." I heard even worse from others: All Chelsea's best artists have been driven out by the high rents. But I met at least half a dozen Chelsea artists who might someday enjoy high renown. BLOND CAMEL JOCKEY and aides in Arab garb plod the King's Road to promote a low-cost vacation at a resort village in Morocco. Charles II, during his reign from 1660 to 1685, made the roadway a private route to hasten the 12-mile trip between Whitehall and Hampton Court Palaces. It opened to the public in 1830.