The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Deschamps, Charles William
Record 8 of 54

System Number: 13487
Date: [9/22 November 1873][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Charles William Deschamps[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Call Number: FGA Whistler 292
Credit Line: Charles Lang Freer Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Gift of the Estate of Charles Lang Freer
Document Type: ALS[3]

2 Lindsey Houses.

Dear Deschamps -

I cant tell you how excessively troubled I am by what I see in the papers -

At first I took what the Observer of last Sunday said about Mr. Whistlers pun on "B Sharp"[4], for some unwarrantable hoax of their own - And paid no further attention; but I find it repeated in other journals and am told that it is so in your catalogue! For this I am very sorry - I am convinced that you would not willingly have done any thing of the kind to annoy me -

[p. 2] It was probably proposed by some one at the club[5] and thought rather a good thing, than and that I would be pleased with it - And you yourself doubtless thought no more about it - Nor is it really worth much thought - but you see the names I give to my pictures really mean to indicate seriously the kind of work I am about -

And this or any other witticism from without thrown at me would do well enough, but I cannot never joke with my own work myself and I cannot possibly let it be supposed that I should do so - The upshot of all this is that I beg [p. 3] you will scratch "Symphony in B Sharp" out of your catalogue - Leave 'Yacht Race' if you like - though I regret immensely having been knocked over by my illness so immediately after seeing you - and so prevented from seeing the picture and doing anything about either its name or its frame[6] - Also that I shall probably have to write a line to the Athenaeum[7] to explain this and that I hope you will not be vexed at my so doing -

It would be very simple - very short and inculpate no one - Pray let me hear from you - I am still horribly ill though convalescent. With my kindest regards and thanks to yourself and Madame Deschamps[8] for your kind enquiries -

Sincerely Yours,

J A McN Whistler.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [9/22 November 1873]
This must date from after a review in the Athenaeum on 8 November 1873 but before publication of JW's letter on 22 November (see below).

2.  Charles William Deschamps
Charles William Deschamps (1848-1908), art dealer [more].

3.  ALS
p. 3 is written at right angles to the rest of the text. A note on a cover-sheet reads: 'Original letter of Whistler to C. W. Deschamps / Mr. L. G. Deschamps, (son of C. W. Deschamps) / Messrs J Connell & Sons. / 47 Old Bond Street, / W.' Deschamp's reply to JW's letter is #00830.

4.  B Sharp
Trouville (YMSM 70) was exhibited at the 7th Exhibition, Society of French Artists, London, 1873 (cat. no. 110) as 'The Yacht Race - A Symphony in B sharp'. Deschamps told JW he copied the title from a label on the back (#00830). He eventually sold the picture back to JW (see his letter of 8 April 1891, #00833).

5.  club
Deschamps assumed JW meant the Hogarth Club, of which presumably they were both members (see #00830).

6.  frame
JW had started to use frames painted with a design of feathers or scale-patterns, and signed with a butterfly. Deschamps replied that he liked the old frame (see #00830).

7.  Athenaeum
The Athenaeum had described JW's painting as 'a vigorous and beautiful study of colour, and bright, yet soft tone, the subject being a contest of sailing vessels near the shore. Among the finer, if not the finest, portion of this interesting picture, is the sky, which is excellent' (Athenaeum, 8 November 1873, p. 601). They did not comment on the title, but it was probably because of this review that JW decided to write his letter (see Whistler, James McNeill, [Letter to the Editor], The Athenaeum, no. 2404, 22 November 1873, p. 666, #13150).

8.  Madame Deschamps
Christina Deschamps (b. ca 1848), wife of the art dealer, C. W. Deschamps [more].