The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877
Record 21 of 119

System Number: 11999
Date: 10 April 1878[1]
Author: George Mallows Freeman[2]
Place: [London]
Recipient: James Anderson Rose[3]
Place: [London]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC
Document Type: ADS


Whistler }   Advice
     v      }      on
Ruskin   }   Evidence

J A Rose

[p. 2] 1. The publication of the libel in this case is apparently admitted in the Statement of defence. As however para[graph] 3 qualifies para 1 it will be well for ptf [plaintiff] to be prepared to prove the publication. This may be done by any person who wrote to George Allen[5] & received a copy of the number of Fors Clavigera[6] containing the libel which copy must be in court. The statement on the back of the printed number of Fors identifies Allen as being licensed by dft [defendant] to sell the work. This may be supported if necessary by the statement in the number of Fors marked A.

[p. 3] 2. As this is a comment on a work of art publicly exhibited it is prima facie privileged unless malice can be shown. As however the dft has travelled beyond criticism of the picture & launched violent criticism of the plf himself & his motives & as in such cases the temperance or violence of the language used is largely to be considered the libel itself will be sufficient & the proper evidence for the [proof?] of malice.

3. As to the damages - the allegation in the Statement of Claim is a general one of damage to the plf in his business. It will therefore only be necessary for the plf to give general evidence of damage which [p. 3] has either actually happened to him in consequence of the libel or which may be reasonably expected to do so in the future or in the words of Rose v Grove "evidence of general decrease of custom or business." Special instances are not usually admitted unless alleged in the Statement of Claim. The plf or some person who can speak from personal knowledge should be prepared to prove that Fors Clavigera has a large circulation especially among persons who take an interest in art matters. * * For this[7] purpose I think it wd be well to subpoena George Allen who can give the addresses of such persons & can prove the circulation of the paper. That its criticisms on pictures in an exhibition like the Grosvenor Gallery[8] was very influential & other papers wd be likely to make use of it & did then actually copy & comment on it. These papers may then be produced to the witness & their articles given in aggravation of damages[.] [p. 5] Any other libels written (if any) by dft upon the plf either before or since this action may be given in evidence to show malice & in aggravation of damages.

4. I do not consider that the other libels scattered through Fors on other persons can be made any use of. In fact it seems to me they wd rather weaken this case than otherwise as tending to disprove "any malice against plf["] & showing that the criticism in question was only part of Mr Ruskins[9] usual style of comment.

G M Freeman

April 10th 1878

[R B. B. W?]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  10 April 1878
This document is dated, and relates to the case of Whistler v. Ruskin, which was ultimately heard at the Queen's Bench of the High Court on 25-26 November 1878 (see Merrill, Linda, A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in 'Whistler v. Ruskin', Washington and London, 1992). It seems to answer queries raised in #12076.

2.  George Mallows Freeman
George Mallows Freeman (1850-1934), barrister [more].

3.  James Anderson Rose
This was kept with other legal documents by James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), solicitor [more].

4.  49
Written in another hand, in a circle. The legal documents kept by Rose on each case, or each aspect of a case, were given the same number. Page one is crossed through with a large 'X'.

5.  George Allen
George Allen (1832-1907), publisher and agent for John Ruskin [more].

6.  Fors Clavigera
Ruskin, John, 'Letter the Seventy-ninth' Fors Clavigera, 2 July 1877, pp. 181-213.

7.  * For this ... paper.
Inserted from foot of page.

8.  Grosvenor Gallery
JW exhibited seven oils at the 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877, but Ruskin's attack focussed on Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170).

9.  Mr Ruskin
John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more].