System Number: 05460
Date: 27 November 1878
Author: George Washburn Smalley
Recipient: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler S105
Document Type: ALS
27 Nov 78
8, CHESTER PLACE,
HYDE PARK SQUARE, W.
My dear Whistler,
I was exceedingly sorry to hear of the verdict, but what can you expect when a lot of cheesemongers & pastry cooks are allowed to sit in judgment on works of rare & delicate art? It was a mistake altogether. The question ought never to have been raised. You [p. 2] should have gone to the jury on the text of the libel & your own testimony only. Then Huddleston, as he intimated plainly, would have ruled out the evidence on the other side & the stupidest jury in creation (which yours was) could not have helped giving you a verdict.
It is plain, however, that opinion is with you [p. 3] & not with Mr. Ruskin in this matter. The papers this morning write about the libel with some of the intelligence the jury lacked; - on the whole in a way that will do you more good than the verdict does harm.
Believe me ever
George W. Smalley
A reference to JW's libel case against John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more], on which JW had just heard the verdict. The case was in response to Ruskin's criticism of JW's works, especially Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170), in his periodical Fors Clavigera. On 2 July 1877 he accused JW of 'flinging a pot of paint in the public's face' in a review of the I Summer Exhibition of the Grosvenor Gallery, London. See Ruskin, John, 'Letter the Seventy-ninth' Fors Clavigera, 2 July 1877, pp. 181-213. The trial took place at the Queen's Bench of the High Court over two days on 25-26 November 1878. The judge found in favour of JW but awarded him only token damages of one farthing. This is one of a number of letters of support received by JW (see, for example, J. W. Comyns Carr to JW, #08747 and J. P. Heseltine to JW, #08920).
See, for example, Anon., 'Action for Libel against Mr. Ruskin,' The Daily News, 26 and 27 November 1878; Anon., 'Law Report ... Exchequer Division ... (Before Baron Huddleston and a Special Jury.) Whistler v. Ruskin,' The Times, no. 29,423, 27 November 1878.