The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877
Record 101 of 119

System Number: 08750
Date: [30 November 1878][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: James Anderson Rose[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 4/26
Document Type: ALS

'recd 30 November 1878'


Rose my dear old friend.

What shall I say to you that can at all prove my warmth of feeling and my sense of the splendid way in which you managed and fought my battle[3] for me! - Nothing could have been finer - Morally, and in the judgement of all the world - all the world with whom high tone has weight - it is a complete victory! I came [p. 2] home to find my table strewn with letters of congratulation and sympathy - Many stating that the chance fact of Ruskin's not being forced to pay damages would take away from him whatever might have remained of sympathy or rather pity for a poor old man whose money was drawn from him! -

No Rose - we have really won - or you have so far beaten the ennemy [sic] -

Now among these letters which I must show you I enclose at once two - and you will see that the matter may further assume in the eyes of the Public a larger and m I think indeed the more proper standing. That is the question at issue has really been not merely a personal difference between Mr Ruskin and myself, but a battle fought for the painters in which for the moment Whistler is the Quixotte[4] [sic]! - It is proposed that a subscription[5] be made to pay the costs on our side - and it seems to me quite in keeping with our dignity that it should be so - Only this must be done openly with public announcement in the journals and publication of all names - so that there shall be no charitable sneaks - In short a demonstration on the part of all those concerned - I shall have fought for the principle [p. 3] of the thing, and I also will subscribe my mite to the general fund - This must be done while the iron is hot - Will you write yourself to Comyns Carr[6] - and arrange preliminaries -

Now about the war - it is rumored that either we or they might still appeal[7] - How is this? If to be done, would it not be well to feel whether Benjamin[8] would look at it for us - You see it would be wise to prevent the other side getting him - and he might proffer his services for the sake of his countryman - and friend - ? -

Will you come and dine on Monday? - 7.30.

Ever affectionately Yours

J A McN Whistler -

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1.  [30 November 1878]
Dated from date of receipt in the hand of J. A. Rose at top of page one.

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

3.  battle
A reference to JW's libel case against John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more], which went to trial on 25-26 November 1878. 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. Ruskin lost the case to JW although JW was only awarded token damages of one farthing. Around the same date as this letter, the Fine Art Society launched an appeal to pay Ruskin's costs which appeared in several newspapers (see circular, #11688).

4.  Quixotte
Literary reference to the idealistic hero of Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605).

5.  subscription
Contributions and offers of contributions had already been made towards JW's costs (see J. W. Comyns Carr to JW, #08747, and J. P. Heseltine to JW, #08920). However, the idea to set up a subscription list to pay JW's costs was unsuccessful (see Merrill, Linda, A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in 'Whistler v. Ruskin', Washington and London, 1992, pp. 280-82).

6.  Comyns Carr
Joseph Williams Comyns Carr (1849-1916), art critic and theatre manager [more].

7.  appeal
Rumours had been circulating in the press that either of the parties in the Whistler-Ruskin trial might appeal against the verdict. However in his reply, Rose advised against it (see J. A. Rose to JW, #05232).

8.  Benjamin
A reference to Judah Philip Benjamin (1811-1884), senator, Confederate officer and lawyer [more], who practised at the English Bar after the American Civil War, from 1866 to 1883.