The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Record 12 of 44

System Number: 06074
Date: [9/16 April 1881][1]
Author: Walter Theodore Watts-Dunton[2]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W71
Document Type: ALS[3]

The Pines. Putney Hill


My dear Whistler,

Your genius for fighting[4] and your love of it are unabated; as I see with pride. That touch about the "detectives" is fine. They[5] won't let let [sic] [p. 2] you alone - (the dunces of London) - and 'tis sweet to see how they do "catch it on the nob," - these dunces. But even in Duncedom itself, there was, I am told, a hint of disgust at the vulgarities of that cad Burnand[6] about you the other week. Punch [p. 3] is indeed a distressing spectacle now. since Tom T.[7] died. When in a too frivolous frame of mind, it was chastening to tone down one's indecorous hilarity by lingering over 'Punch's' sober, if mournful, page. But, alas, under the new régime, the poor dear old thing has taken to joking! The lively Burnand - King of the Cockney cads - would fain [p. 4] revive the Punchine glories of Jerroldian and Thackerayan days[8]! But alas, for B., what is the antics and foolings that are charming in the genuine spaniel become anything but agreeable in the ambitious jackass who needs must frisk too. In short, so far from admiring that jackass we pull his long ears, kick his hairy arse, and otherwise maltreat him - !

Au revoir: I wish I had room to say more; for I am waxing eloquent.

Thine ever

Theodore Watts

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [9/16 April 1881]
This may be a reply to a letter from JW to T. Watts-Dunton, [8 April 1881], #07390.

2.  Walter Théodore Watts-Dunton
Walter Theodore Watts (later Watts-Dunton) (1832-1914), solicitor, novelist and poet [more].

3.  ALS
Written on paper with a mourning border.

4.  fighting
This relates to an incident between JW and the newly formed Painter Etchers' Society. In the spring of 1881, the Society held an exhibition at the Hanover Gallery. However, when Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), painter, etcher and art teacher [more], submitted three Venice etchings, Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more] (who was President of the Society) suspected that they were in fact by JW. Anxious to compare the etchings with those that JW had been printing for the Fine Art Society, Haden, Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), painter, etcher and art teacher [more], and Dr Edward Hamilton (1815 or 1816-1903), doctor of medicine and print collector [more], paid a visit to the Society's gallery. JW was indignant when he heard of the visit, regarding it as an attack on his artistic integrity. A lengthy correspondence ensued which JW eventually published in a pamphlet (Whistler, James McNeill, The Piker Papers. The Painter-Etchers' Society and Mr. Whistler, London, 1881).

5.  They
Presumably Haden and Alphonse Legros (see note above).

6.  Burnand
Francis Cowley Burnand (1836-1917), barrister, dramatist and journalist [more]. Burnand became editor of Punch in 1880.

7.  Tom T.
Thomas ('Tom') Taylor (1817-1880), civil servant, dramatist, art critic, and editor of Punch from 1874-1880 [more].

8.  Jerroldian and Thackerayan days
A reference to Douglas William Jerrold (1803-1857), author, jouralist and dramatist [more], and William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), novelist and writer on art [more]. Jerrold was a regular contributor to the comic magazine Punch from its foundation in 1841. Thackeray joined its staff in 1842.