The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877
Record 103 of 119

System Number: 05233
Date: 30 November 1878
Author: James Anderson Rose[1]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler R131
Document Type: ALS



30 Novr 1878

My dear Whistler

I had another word to say (but was so interrupted while writing my letter[3] to you this morning) with reference to the trial[4], as an additional reason for not appealing, and it was this; that you never could again, have your case presented to the Jury so well, as it was at the trial. Parry[5] is acknowledged to be a Man of great eloquence, but especially (p. 2) of sound judgment, discretion, and prudence, in the management of a Case like this - Petheram[6] the Junior is a Gentleman, of good presence, popular, and an excellent Lawyer, in large practice and therefore of great experience. Your Witnesses[7] were all first rate - Ruskins Witnesses gave their evidence so that you ought to have had the Verdict on their evidence only. Burne Jones[8] admitted enough of as to the excellent qualities of your (p. 3) painting to shew that the language used by Ruskin was indefensible; and Tom Taylors[9] evidence, (and Article which he read,) shewed that he himself was an Art Critic (good or bad whichever you please) and not a Vulgar insolent denunciator of the personality of a Painter - like Ruskin; and I consider on the evidence of the 5 Witnesses I have named - your 3, and the above 2 - that you ought to have had a substantial Verdict. Of the Witnesses there (p. 4) remains only Frith[10], whose evidence no doubt was adverse to you to the extent of his ability; but he is the illustrator of the Common place vulgarity prostitution & crime of the period - This as you know I suggested he should be examined about, & I proposed to give Counsel illustrations from the Derby Day - the Railway Station, & Hell[11] - exhibited in the last Academy.

Then we had Parrys Reply; and this last word is always considered (p. 5)[12] to be a great advantage to the Plaintiff. In fact it is the struggle in all Cases for the Plaintiff to get the right to reply - the last word - and of the Defendant to prevent the Plaintiff having the reply.

Then the Judge was certainly in your favour from beginning to end. The production of a Titian[13] by the Defendant Ruskin ought alone to (p. 6) have given you a substantial Verdict. Anything more unfair could not be executed or conceived and if it was necessary to bring a Titian to smash compete with you then indeed the Libel must have been most unjustifiable.

I wish to see you on Monday if you can spare the time. If not Monday as soon after as you can make it Convenient to call.

Ever Yours

J. Anderson Rose

This document is protected by copyright.


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

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

3.  my letter
See J. A. Rose to JW, #05232.

4.  trial
A reference to 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.

5.  Parry
John Humffrey Parry (1816-1880), Sergeant-at-law [more], JW's counsel.

6.  Petheram
William Comer Petheram (1835-1922), barrister [more], JW's junior counsel.

7.  Witnesses
The witnesses who took the stand during Whistler v Ruskin on JW's behalf were William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), civil servant and critic [more]; Albert Joseph Moore (1841-1893), painter [more]; and William Gorman Wills (1828-1891), playwright and painter [more].

8.  Burne Jones
Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898), painter and designer [more], witness for Ruskin in Whistler v Ruskin.

9.  Tom Taylors
Thomas ('Tom') Taylor (1817-1880), civil servant, dramatist, art critic, and editor of Punch from 1874-1880 [more]. Taylor was also a witness for Ruskin in Whistler v Ruskin.

10.  Frith
William Powell Frith (1819-1909), genre and landscape painter [more], witness for Ruskin in Whistler v Ruskin.

11.  Derby Day - the Railway Station, & Hell
W. P. Frith, Derby Day (z82) and W. P. Frith, The Railway Station (z83) were works by Frith. 'Hell' is probably a reference to W. P. Frith, The Road to Ruin (z84) exhibited by Frith at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 1878 (cat. 291-95).

12.  (p. 5)
The printed letterhead and date appears, as it did on page one, here at the top of page five.

13.  Titian
Tiziano ('Titian') Vecello or Vecellio (1485-1576), painter and engraver [more]. The work was Vincenzo Catena, Portrait of the Doge Andrea Gritti (z64), then owned by Ruskin and attributed to Titian.