The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Wake, Baldwin Arden
Record 3 of 6

System Number: 12975
Date: [c. 12 December 1867][1]
Author: Rodolph Nicholson Wornum[2]
Place: London
Recipient: Committee of the Burlington Fine Arts Club[3]
Place: London
Repository: Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Call Number: National Art Library, PC12/6 MSL/1952/1353/3/4/1
Document Type: ADd[4]

On the 11. June 1867; in consequence of a statement laid before the Committee of the Burlington Fine Arts Club by Mr F. Seymour Haden[5] to the effect that he had been assaulted in a public Restaurant in Paris by Mr. J. A. Whistler, a recently elected member of the Club, and that the assault in question was one of several which it was notorious that Mr Whistler had committed on other persons within a very short space of time, the Committee communicated to Mr Whistler their unanimous opinion that it was inexpedient that he should remain a [illegible word deleted] member of the Club, and called upon him, if he would avoid expulsion, to resign his membership -

The assault complained of being stated by Mr Haden to be one of several which were notorious and of one or two of which he undertook to furnish immediate proof, the Committee [p. 2] did not think it necessary or even desirable in the interests of the Club to call upon Mr Whistler for any detailed explanation of his conduct - The habit of assaulting people appearing to the Committee to disqualify him for membership they simply called on him to resign, and it is with infinite regret that they have now to state that he has not only not thought proper to do so but that he has conveyed his refusal in terms so unnecessarily offensive as to leave the Committee no choice than to bring the matter before the Club.

I am to state that the Committee do not ask or expect the Club to go into the private affairs of Mr J. A. Whistler. With these or with his private character they desire to have absolutely nothing whatever to do. and For the same reason they will decline [p. 3] to follow Mr Whistler into any statements intended to reflect upon the private character of upon Mr Haden. They merely call upon the meeting to take cognizance of the allegation made to them by Mr Haden one of the members that he has been publicly assaulted by Mr Whistler, and that within a comparatively short time, Mr Whistler has publicly assaulted at least five other persons, for three of which assaults he has been under arrest - and to hear Mr Whistler if he is in a position to deny that allegation - and if he is not and to justify, not one, but all these assaults - and if he is not in such a position then they ask the meeting to ratify the action taken by the Committee respecting Mr Whistler, and to authorize me to remove his name from the roll of Members.

[p. 4] The assaults relied upon by the Committee as having been committed by Mr Whistler are as follows -

1 An assault last winter in the streets of Paris on a person in charge of a building in course of erection which was summarily punished by the Correctional Police and which, therefore requires no further proof.

2 An Assault upon a passenger on board the Ship Shannon on her voyage from St Thomas' to Southampton in Oct of last year, which was punished by arrest and which therefore requires no further proof.

3 An assault on Capt B. A. Wake[6] RN the naval officer in charge of H. M. mails on board the same ship, which is proved by a letter from Capt Wake -

4 An assault upon Capt H. H. Doty[7] a naval officer in the Chilian [sic] service upon the Platform of the Waterloo Station in [p. 5] Oct of last year, which is proved by a letter from Captain Doty.

5 An assault upon Mr Legros[8] an Artist practising in London in the spring of the present year, which is proved by a letter from Mr Legros.

6. An assault upon Mr Haden, a member of this Club, on the 26 April last at Paris - for which Mr Whistler was arrested and only liberated at the instance of Mr Haden and taken before the magistrate and only liberated at the instance of Mr Haden -

The Letters and papers having reference to these Assaults are as follows.

1. A statement by Mr Haden

2. A letter from Mr Legros and a letter from Dr Geneau de Mussy[9].

3. A letter from Capt Wake R. N.

4 Three letters A letter from Capt H. H. Doty -

5 A series of letters from the Committee [p. 6] to Mr Whistler and from Mr Whistler to the Committee, inclusive of two from Messrs Boxall[10] & Louis Huth[11] the proposer and seconder of Mr Whistler.

(Two other letters from Capt Doty making charges of a very painful nature against Mr Whistler the Committee do not unless Mr Whistler especially desires it propose to have read.)

It will now be my duty to read these letters -

Hon Sec Reads the letters -

Upon these letters the Committee have little to remark, the number and notoriety of the assaults and the fact of Mr Whistler having been under arrest three times under arrest for them warranted, they think, their first letter to Mr Whistler him ! [sic] and the offensive tone of Mr Whistlers replies - their last 2. To Mr Whistlers complaint that the matter had been suffered to go on for [p. 7] a long time and to an advanced stage without his knowledge, they answer that the date of Mr Hadens' first communication to them and of their first communication to Mr Whistler is the same. viz the 11. June. 3. That in obtaining evidence of the assault upon Mr Legros &c., Mr Haden only carried out the suggestions of the Committee - 4. That the communication of Capt Doty was entirely spontaneous neither the Committee or Mr Haden having had any previous knowledge or if the case which he has case against of that gentleman till he presented himself at the Club - or of the case that he had against Mr Whistler - They therefore venture to think that Mr Whistler the charges brought against them by Mr Whistler of "unfairness and ungentlemanly treatment" are not sustained.

That is the case of the Committee. It is now competent to Mr Whistler or [p. 8] or to any member present to make any reply or motion on the subject - provided always that each reply confines it self to an answer to this charge which is that of the Habit of Assaulting[12] or [... text breaks off]

The Committee are now in the hands of the meeting.

such motion to the action proposed & recommended by the Committee

The Committee are now in the hands of the meeting

The sole charge against Mr Whistler "being the habit of assaulting[13]" - which the Committee say renders him ineligible as a member of the Club.

[p. 9] Motion proposed by.
Seconded by.

That this meeting having heard the statement of the Committee and Mr Whistler's reply to it concede the course pursued by the committee to have been fully justified, and that Mr J [A McNeill?] J. A. McNeil Whistler is not a fit person to remain a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club and accordingly they therefore authorize the Hon Sec to strike the name of Mr. J. A. McNeil Whistler from the role of members of the Club - and the Treasurer to refuse to receive any further subscription from him - and the door keeper to prevent his entry upon any of the premises in the occupation of the Club - And they request the Committee to cause the resolution to be suspended in the morning room of the Club for the space of 14 days from the present date.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [c. 12 December 1867]
This document appears to have been prepared for the Burlington Club meeting, on 13 December 1867, to discuss the complaint made against JW.

2.  Rodolph Nicholson Wornum
Ralph Nicholson Wornum (1812-1877), history painter [more], Secretary of the Burlington Fine Arts Club.

3.  Committee of the Burlington Fine Arts Club
The Burlington Club was a club for artists and connoisseurs, founded in c. June 1866. The committee included Richard Fisher (d. 1890), Fellow and Curator of the Society of Painter-Etchers [more] and Vittorio Emanuelle Taparelli (1816-1890), Marquis D'Azeglio, Sardinian Ambassador and collector [more] (President).

4.  ADd
A subsequent version is #12972.

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

6.  Capt B. A. Wake
Captain Baldwin Arden Wake (1813-1880), officer in the Royal Navy [more].

7.  Capt H. H. Doty
Captain Horace H. Doty (b. 1824 or 1825), officer of marines, specialist in signal lights and lighthouse illumination [more].

8.  Mr Legros
Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), painter, etcher and art teacher [more].

9.  Dr Geneau de Mussy
Henri-François Guéneau de Mussy (1814-1892), doctor [more].

10.  Boxall
William Boxall (1800-1879), portrait painter, Director of the National Gallery [more].

11.  Louis Huth
Louis Huth (1821-1905), collector [more].

12.  Habit of Assaulting
Double underlined.

13.  being the habit of assaultings
Double underlined.