The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1867
Record 14 of 31

System Number: 09562
Date: 12 June [1867][1]
Author: William McNeill Whistler[2]
Place: London
Recipient: George Aloysius Lucas[3]
Place: Paris
Repository: Baltimore Museum of Art, MD
Call Number: 03 folder, W-Lucas file
Document Type: ALS

2 Lindsey Row[4]
Old Chelsea

Wednesday June 12th

Dear Mr Lucas

1075 p
 305 leaden coffin
1380 p   


I want to request the favor of your attending to a little matter of business for me. A sister[5] of a friend[6] of mine, who died some six weeks ago in Paris is desirous of having the body of her brother exhumed from Père La Chaise & brought to England for interment - Mr George [p. 2] Smith[7], an agent, residing at No. 30 Faubourg St. Honoré has written[8] to say that he will undertake the removal if she will send him the order to do so, together with the papers relating to the burial in Paris. She has no other paper than the number of the plaque which the undertaker gave me in Paris on the morning of the burial there, and which he said was all that was necessary at any time that it might [p. 3] be desired to exhume the body - If by papers regarding the burial Mr Smith means a certificate of burial I presume it is at the mairie[9] of the 11me arrondisement in the bureau des pompes funêbres[10] as it was there my friend Mr Jas. Reeves Traer's death was registered by me & they had charge over the burial - as Miss Traer is very anxious to have this removal of her brother effected as soon as possible and has [p. 4] requested me to find out for her if the registration at the mairie together with the number of the plaque is not sufficient - I would be exceedingly obliged to you if you would call on Mr George Smith the agent & find out these particulars for me -

If you will do this[11] at your earliest convenience, it will greatly relieve the anxiety of the sister of my poor friend - as she has come to London expressly to attend to this.

Jim[12] desires to be remembered -

Truly yours

Wm M. Whistler

[p. 1] The undertakers[13] also gave Jim & me an address "10 Rue Alibert" where he said they would undertake the removal at any time - should you mind calling there & finding out whether they would do it for less than £50 - or £60[14] - which is the sum fixed by Mr Smith?

This document is protected by copyright.


Via Calais.

Monsieur G. Lucas.
41 rue de l'arc de triomphe
[stamp x 4:] POSTAGE / ONE PENNY
[postmark:] LONDON S.W / 2 / JU 13 / 67
[postmark:] CALAIS [...]

'Dr Whistler[15] about removing body ans[were]d'

[postmark on verso:] PARIS [...] / 1E [...] / JUIN / [67]
[postmark on verso:] [...] LES TE[...] / 2E [...] / JUIN / 67

'get the[16] papers & send if possible / if not send on blank [illegible word] of [panels?] / say sister or mother / Prefet of the Seine? / Brother 2'


1.  12 June [1867]
Year date from postmark.

2.  William McNeill Whistler
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

3.  George Aloysius Lucas
George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), art dealer in Paris [more].

4.  sister
Ellen Traer (b. ca 1837), J. R. Traer's sister [more].

5.  friend
James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more]. In April 1867, Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], Traer and W. M. Whistler visited Paris for a medical conference. JW was also in Paris in March and April, as his works (including Wapping (YMSM 35)) were on view in the American section of the Paris Exposition. During the trip, Traer died suddenly, allegedly in a brothel. Haden arranged for Traer's burial, with what JW and his brother regarded as unseemly haste. A violent quarrel ensued on 23 April. Later, Haden alleged that JW had pushed him through a plate glass window in the heat of the confrontation. After their quarrel with Haden, the two brothers made arrangements to have Traer's body returned to Ellen Traer in England, assisted by G. A. Lucas.

6.  George Smith
George Smith, undertaker. Smith arranged for the exhumation and shipment of Traer's remains. However, there was a delay in the exhumation proceedings (see George Smith to Ellen Traer, 5 September 1867, #05477), and the shipment did not take place until 11 September 1867 (see JW to C. A. Howell, 12 September 1867, #09160).

7.  written
Possibly a reference to G. Smith to Child, #05474.

8.  mairie
Fr., town hall.

9.  bureau des pompes funêbres
Fr., funeral director's office.

10.  do this
G. A. Lucas obliged (see Randall, Lillian, ed., George A. Lucas: An American Art Agent in Paris, 1857-1909, Princeton, 1979, p. 243, diary entry, 14 June: 'At Smiths to see about Whistlers information'). He sent a letter to William Whistler the following day (see op. cit., diary entry, 15 June), telling him: 'He [Smith] informs me that there will be no difficulty at all in the matter of removing the body; what will be necessary, in the absence of the regular papers which must have been given some one at the time of the funeral, will be a written request from some member of the family (say Mother or Sister) to the "Prefet de la Seine", desiring the removal & authorizing day Mr Smith or other to attend to the matter.' See G. A. Lucas to W. M. Whistler, 14 June 1867, #02654.

11.  Jim

12.  Lindsay Row
JW's address from 1867 to 1878.

13.  The undertakers ... Smith?
Cross-written in left margin of page one.

14.  £50 - or £60
William Whistler seems to have drawn up a subscription list from amongst their friends in order to pay the expenses of the funeral. The list included Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more] (see JW to C. A. Howell, 12 September 1867, #09160).

15.  Dr Whistler ... ans[were]d
This line is written by Lucas in the left margin of envelope.

16.  get the ... Brother 2
Written on the reverse of envelope.