The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877
Record 109 of 119

System Number: 02410
Date: 8 December 1878
Author: J. H. Johnston[1]
Place: New York
Recipient: JW
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler J31
Document Type: ALS



971 Fifth Avenue
New York

Dec 8. 1878

My Dear Sir:

I have read with extreme interrest [sic] the account of your brave attempt to force Ruskin[4] into at least momentary decency. It requires more courage to take the stand you did than it does to walk up to a cannons mouth. [p. 2] That twelve lunkheads saw fit to give you a valueless verdict only increases the value of the real verdict which is always given by the Public, and which I feel sure in your case will result at once, as well as in years to come to your increasing benefit.

Thousands of people have swallowed Ruskin as they do their Bible and Prayer Book. This episode will set them to thinking and perhaps re-reading their idol, who has crossed his own tracts [p. 3] oftener than any other critic of modern times.

I am sorry the Times are such that I cannot back up my sympathy with an order for a picture, having long desired one by you, but when Times improve I hope to gratify my wish.

Meantime, though a stranger, believe me
Very Sincerely Yours

J. H. Johnston

Mr Jas Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  J. H. Johnston
J. H. Johnston, an American sympathiser of JW.

2.  'JHJ'
This printed monogram has been coloured in with green, orange and purple.

3.  'Ruskin'
This is written in red ink in the upper right corner, in JW's hand.

4.  Ruskin
A reference to the verdict of JW's recent libel case against John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more]. 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. In a review of the 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877, on 2 July 1877 Ruskin accused JW of 'flinging a pot of paint in the public's face' (see Ruskin, John, 'Letter the Seventy-ninth' Fors Clavigera, 2 July 1877, pp. 181-213). JW won the case but was only awarded token damages of one farthing.