The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877
Record 102 of 119

System Number: 05232
Date: 30 November 1878
Author: James Anderson Rose[1]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler R130
Document Type: ALS



30 Novr 1878

My dear Whistler

I have well considered the question of Appeal[3], and I am of opinion that there is no ground for Appealing; and if there were technically any ground for doing so, I should still advise you not to Appeal.

In truth I am not at all sure that the Defendant Ruskin [this of course you must be wise enough to keep to yourself] might not [p. 2] have better ground for appealing than you have. That is to say it may be a question (certainly an arguable question) whether when the Jury came into Court, and asked if the criticism was "honest," they could they give their verdict on that ground - the Judge ought to have told them, that if they found the criticism was "honest," they should find their verdict for the Defendant Ruskin; instead of which he told them that "honest" was not enough; they must be satisfied that it was "fair and bona fide". Now it is a very nice [p. 3] question whether "honest" does not mean "fair", and whether the Judge was right, in directing the Jury, that besides finding the criticism honest, they must also find that it was fair & bona fide.

From the tone of all the newspaper articles[4] I have yet read, it would seem to me that if you had won the case, with substantial, (not contemptuous) damages; there would have been an [sic] universal revolt against the [p. 4] Ruskin despotism, of personal & malignant libelling in which he indulges; & which appears to be a mode deliberately adopted, to sell the muck he writes. Take away the personal and scandalous slander of almost every line of Fors Clavigera, & there is literally nothing but the most contemptible & arrant nonsense left.

The Saturday Review[5] has an excellent article today & Moore's letter[6] is good

Ever Yours

J. Anderson Rose

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  James Anderson Rose
James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), solicitor [more]. This letter discusses the outcome 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. 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. JW won the case but was only awarded token damages of one farthing.

This line is in red ink; rest is in black.

3.  question of Appeal
Rumours had been circulating in the press as to whether either of the parties in the Whistler-Ruskin case might appeal against the verdict. JW had asked Rose to consider the matter in a letter (#08750) to which this is his reply.

4.  newspaper articles
The trial and its aftermath received extensive coverage in the press. See, for example, Anon., 'Action for Libel against Mr. Ruskin,' The Globe & Traveller, 25 November 1878, Anon., 'Law Report ... Exchequer Division ... (Before Baron Huddleston and a Special Jury.) Whistler v. Ruskin,' The Times, no. 29,422, 26 November 1878, p. 9, and Anon., 'Editorial,' The Times, no. 29,423, 27 November 1878, p. 9.

5.  Saturday Review
See Anon., 'Whistler v. Ruskin,' The Saturday Review, vol. 46, no. 1205, 30 November 1878, pp. 687-688.

6.  Moore's letter
Albert Joseph Moore (1841-1893), painter [more]. For his letter, see Moore, Albert, 'The Case of Whistler v. Ruskin: To the Editor of the Echo,' The Echo, 29 November 1878.