Born in 1860, the son of a coachman, Arthur Elsley joined the South Kensington School of Art at the age of fourteen. In 1876 he became a probationer at the Royal Academy Schools and submitted his first exhibit to the Royal Academy in 1878. By 1887, he was sharing a studio at 151 Gloucester Road, Kensington with George Grevile Manton who later introduced Elsley to Fred Morgan. Elsley, in succession to Allen Culpeper Sealey, and following the death of Charles Burton Barber in 1894, would be considered the foremost painter of animals and children in the country. In 1900, following an estrangement with Morgan who accused him of stealing ideas for his pictures, Elsley started to execute works on a grander scale. He continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy until 1917, but thereafter painted less and less, due to his failing eyesight.
In Private and Confidential, the young girl depicted is Elsley's only child, Marjorie, who was born on 24 August 1903. Marjorie's birth opened up what may be called the 'golden period' in Elsley's paintings. She would be the subject of many of his most celebrated paintings. Marjorie is also depicted in the same pose in Bedtime/Goodnight of 1914.
Private and Confidential was illustrated in an American color calendar manufactured by Thomas. D. Murphy and Co. in 1908.