The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1867
Record 12 of 31

System Number: 02473
Date: 5 June 1867
Author: 'A. B.[1]'
Place: [London]
Recipient: James G. Wakley[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler L10
Document Type: ALd/cI


To the Editor of the Lancet.

5 June 1867.


The following distressing circumstances connected with a member of the surgical profession should, I think, be known thro' your widely circulated journal.

Mr J. R. Traer[4], M. R. C. S., having received an appointment in connexion [sic] with the Universal Exhibition in Paris, went over there towards the end of April, & almost immediately afterwards died[5] in a very sudden manner. The least one might have expected under these would be that the last painful duties should be paid to his remains; but it is a strange & melancholy fact that the gentleman[6] who undertook the arrangements left the corpse to be buried at Père Lachaise without any sort of religious rites whatever, alleging in reply to an enquiry that no [p. 2] protestant ceremony (Mr Traer having been a member of the English Church) is permitted at Père Lachaise. Now this is directly contradicted by one of the English Clergymen in Paris, the Revd Mr Forbes[7], who declares in writing writes [8] that such an [oblig?] omission could only have arisen from negligence or ignorance, as follows:

"229 Faubourg St Honoré, Paris.

May 9.

"My dear Sir,

In answer to yours just received, I beg to say that full leave is always given to perform service at all funerals. It must have been either ignorance or neglect of those concerned thus omitting it in the case you allude to.

Believe me Yours very faithfully,

Edward Forbes."

Surely the omission, & the pretext alleged for it, are a scandal deserving severe reprobation.

Your obt servant,

A. B.

In cases where burials are hurried [p. 3] by suddenness of death abroad, or absence of relatives, it appears so necessary that the possibility of such a painful contingency shd be known, that I think you will not refuse admis insertion to this communication.

Your obt Servant

A. B.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  A. B.
A. B., possibly a physician, unidentified.

2.  James G. Wakley
James Goodchild Wakley (1830-1886), editor of The Lancet [more].

3.  '5'
Written by unknown hand in top right corner, in pencil.

4.  Mr J. R. Traer
James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more].

5.  died
Traer died on 23 April 1867 of alcohol related causes (see document signed A. Brierre de Boismont, #11801). Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], arranged for Traer's burial, in what JW and W. G. Whistler regarded as a disrespectful and perfunctory manner. Traer was buried with minimal ceremony and cost in a municipal cemetery in Paris (see W. G. Whistler to D. D. Haden, #06994). The incident led to a permanent rift between the Haden and Whistler families.

6.  gentleman
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

7.  Revd Mr Forbes
Rev. Edward Forbes (1817-1882), Chaplain of the English church in Paris [more]. According to W. G. Whistler (see letter to JW, #06995), a letter he wrote on 3 May to Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more] and wife of F. S. Haden. #06994 was returned, annotated by F. S. Haden: 'No protestant service allowed in a catholic burying ground.' Disbelieving Haden's statement, W. G. Whistler wrote to Forbes (#06996) in order to clarify the matter.

8.   writes
See E. Forbes to W. G. Whistler, #01435.