The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877
Record 18 of 119

System Number: 12055
Date: [7 December 1877/1878?][1]
Author: James Anderson Rose[2]
Place: London
Recipient: Warburton Pike[3]
Place: [London]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC
Document Type: MsD

In the High Court of Justice
Queens Bench Division
Whistler }
v  }
Ruskin[5]  }
Instr[ucti]ons for Statement of Claim

Mr Warburton Pike

J. Anderson Rose
Plt's [Plaintiff's] Solicitor
11 Salisbury Street

[p. 2] 1.  The plt[6] joins issue upon the Statement of Defence.

J. Anderson Rose
11 Salisbury Street
Strand. Middlesex
Plts Solcr -

As to the[7] Interrogatories is there any evidence of private spite? Otherwise I cannot think of anything to ask about. The question is whether the criticism is not [rather?] more than is fair, & if you could make out any reason for the attack beyond Mr Ruskin's [illegible word] [two words illegible] [impression?] it would be well, assuming that the action is to go on

Warburton Pike.


[p. 3][8] Whistler v Ruskin
Instrons for Statemt of Claim

In this Action brought to recover damages for the libel contained in the No. of Fors Clavigera[9] herewith.

The plaintiff is the well-known Artist, Painter & Etcher -

The Defendant is the equally well known Art Critic & writer on every imaginable subject - The defendant's opinions are accepted as gospel of on all matters of Art or relating thereto & there can be no doubt that the expressed opinion of Mr Ruskin in Fors Clavigera that Plaintiffs work so nearly approached the aspect of wilful imposture (page 201) is calculated to do Deft Plt great pecuniary injury & it is submitted is not within the limits of fair criticism. It may be that the rest of the sentence is not so very clearly libellous & it may be considered as mere Billingsgate or vulgar abuse to write of an Artists "ill educated conceit" or ["]Cockney Impudence" or to call him a "Coxcomb" - However this may be the question of libel is one for the Jury - Both parties are eager to appear as witnesses - Mr Ruskin's Solrs entered an appearance the day after Mr Ruskin was served with copy of the Writ - & Mr Ruskin has alleged his attentions [sic] of appearing as his own Counsel - Both parties have many friends & many enemies -

It will be seen by a note on the back of the wrapper of Fors Clavigera that Mr Ruskin has adopted a singular mode of publication of his works in order as he explains to retain complete command over their mode of publication - Three different applications were made to Mr Geo. Allen[10] Mr. Ruskin's publisher at Sumnnyside Orpington Kent for copies of this particular number of [p. 4] Fors Clavigera of July 2nd 1877 & in reply a copy was sent to each of the applicants.

Mr Pike will consider whether Interrogatories are necessary either to prove the authorship of the libel or the publication

Is it necessary, desirable or allowable in the Statement of Claim to refer to any evidence to shew the injury which such criticism as Mr Ruskin's has caused or is likely to cause to an Artist like Mr Whistler - If so Mr Pikes attention is called to an Article in the Daily Now News of July 21st 1877 in which the writer says it cannot be concealed that he Mr Ruskin "has spoken with excessive severity about Mr Whistler" & again it is that when Mr Ruskin comes to this question of purchase that his remarks become things to regret & the articles continues to aprobate [sic] the style of Mr Ruskins criticism

Again the "World" newspaper of the 18th July 1877 extracted the passages from Fors Clavigera relating to Mr Whistler & adds - sardonically at the end of the extracts "this is pleasant reading I think I shall subscribe to Fors Clavigera"

The "Architect" of 14th July 1877 extracted from Fors Clavigera for July the criticism of Mr Ruskin on Mr Whistler.

The "Atheneum" of 21 July 1877 refers to the criticism & shates states that it is Mr Whistlers intention to bring on Action for libel -

And the "Academy" of 21 July 1877 called attention to Mr Ruskins remarks in the July number of "Fors Clavigera" refrained from quoting but stated "that a single number of Fors Clavigera could all always they believed be got for 10d & adds that as to Mr Ruskins remarks that [p. 5] as to Mr Ruskins remarks that they were for the most part with admirable [practice?] & carefulness of Judgement & with what is even a more than usual felicity & audacity of phrase the great critic of our time has expressed himself on certain of the works which happen to be in prominent places in Sir Coutts Lindsay's[11] Exhibition Rooms."

Many other papers & periodicals commented on the criticism of Mr Ruskin & there is no doubt that this particular number of "Fors Clavigera" was more noticed & conextracted from by the press than any other Number had ever been and solely because it contained this libel on Mr Whistler.

Mr Ruskins position with regard to publishing is different to other Publishers. He gives express notice to the Public by a circular sent out to all the buyers of his Books that for reasons stated (see Circular herewith marked A) "I mean therefore to sell my own Books at a price from which there shall be no abatement.["] He adds ["]my Publisher Mr G Allen Sunnyside Orpington Kent will supply the Volumes as per list annexed without abatement carriage paid to any person in Town or Country on remittance of the price of the number of Volumes required[.] He has my positive orders to attend to no letter requesting either credit or abatement"[.] However in a list of his Works lately sent out by Mr Ruskin in September 1877 he [p. 6] announces as to a few works marked with * in the list that discount is allowed to the trade only on such Books as are noted with an *. Each Bookseller Mr Ruskin expects will add such Commission for his own profit as he may deem necessary (see Circular herewith marked B)

[p. 7] In the High Court of Justice
Queens Bench Division
Whistler }
ats   }
Ruskin }
Instrons for Statement of Claim

J. Anderson Rose
plaintiffs Solr
11 Salisbury St Strand

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [7 December 1877/1878?]
This document relates to the case of Whistler v. Ruskin. It probably dates from shortly after a document dated 6 December 1877, which refers to Pike (#12063). The case was finally heard at the Queen's Bench of the High Court on 25-26 November 1878.

2.  James Anderson Rose
James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), solicitor [more].

3.  Warburton Pike
M. Warburton Pike (d. 1889), probably a lawyer at the Exchequer of Pleas Division of the High Court.

4.  118
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.

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

6.  1. The plt...Defence.
Written in another hand.

7.  As to the ... Pike
Written by Warburton Pike.

8.  [p. 3]
Page three is numbered '1' at foot of page, and this sequence continues (p. 4 = '2', etc.) until p. 6 (= '4').

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

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

11.  Sir Coutts Lindsay's
Sir Coutts Lindsay (1824-1913), Bart., co-founder of the Grosvenor Gallery [more].