The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Howard, Francis
Record 4 of 87

System Number: 02282
Date: [6 February 1898][1]
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: Francis Howard[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler I22
Document Type: ALS

Dear Mr. Howard -

I regret greatly the absolute impossibility of my being among you all at the meeting tomorrow -

Not that, for a moment, any odd wisdom of mine will be missed in the councils of the distinguished and eminently shrewd & practical men who will be gathered together to settle these matters - of which you kindly give me a summary -

Only I should naturally like to be present to enjoy the progress of the work in which I am so greatly interested -

Pray present my compliments & my regrets to the Chairman[3] & the gentlemen of the Committee, & say how pleased I am to note the smart and ship shape way in which things [p. 2] are already going - as indeed how should they go else, on board the Three Decker of our Admiral[4]! - to whom I beg to offer the assurance of my highest consideration -

May I say that I think the dates of Private View & Opening well chosen? - It seems to me so much more dignified to show no unseemly commercial haste in the teeth of Tooth Dowdeswell[5] and the Brothers Fathers Mclean[6]?] - to say nothing of other anxious establishments - unknown to me - as I am to them! -

I think, if I were asked, I should not wish to know the whole world invited - or on the other hand that the Society should appear to restrict its hosipitality to guests only - Not that I have any sense of the ease or difficulty of the suggestion - But such a stand might logically - say to the legal mind - and in the law Courts, there would be, it seems to me, intelligence! - bring a responsability, on the part of the Society, for, or even a guarantee of the quality of its Exhibition - which might be disastrous - not to say ridiculous! - Then again does not this smack slightly of Regent Street, and Comyns & Halle[7]? - Might there not be as who should say, a lingering odour of the Amateur about the place if this proposal were carried out?

Moreover what of the joy of the Jury? and the stern refusals at the door! How is London to know that a great Exhibition is opened in its midst, unless the painters are thrust by the hundreds from its portals? - And after all - qui sait?[8] - there may be a glimmering of something business like in this view of the case - dim perhaps - and of slight importance - but faintly there seems to me something that savours of discipline and authority and consequent stability and right and squareness fore and aft, and quarter deck - I dont know - ask the Admiral - and let him "make it so"! -

If your Chairman thinks that Monsieur Dagnan Bouveret[9] would add lustre to your roll, it seems to me so simple that the Committee should gratefully inscribe his name - I have heard of him in high places - though sadly unfamiliar with his work -

May I beg to receive from you in due course the "minutes" - so they were called I believe in a little place in Suffolk St[10] - of this next meeting -

And with my best wishes in all things
I have the honour to be, Your obt Sert

J McNeill Whistler

110. Rue du Bac -

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1.  [6 February 1898]
Dated from the reference to the second meeting of the newly formed International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, which took place on 7 February 1898 (see Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 2, p. 217).

2.  Francis Howard
Francis Howard (1874-1954), painter, art critic and collector [more].

3.  Chairman
Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934), sculptor [more], (see Council Minutes, #02277). Gilbert resigned shortly afterwards.

4.  our Admiral
Admiral Friedrich ('Frederick') Augustus Maxse (1833-1900), political writer [more], was proprietor of the Prince's Rink Skating Club where the ISSPG held its first exhibition in May 1898. The admiral's rank led JW to use naval terms in his letters concerning the ISSPG. A draft of this section of the letter is at #02279.

5.  Dowdeswell
Arthur Tooth and Sons, London printsellers and dealers, and C. W. or one of his sons, Charles and Walter Dowdeswell, of Dowdeswell and Dowdeswell, art dealers.

6.  McClean
The firm of Thomas M. McLean (b. ca 1832), print dealer and publisher [more].

7.  Comyns & Halle
Joseph Williams Comyns Carr (1849-1916), art critic and theatre manager [more], and Charles Edward Hallé (1846-1919), artist [more], who ran the Grosvenor Gallery.

8.  qui sait?
Fr., who knows.

9.  Monsieur Dagnan Bouveret
Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929), naturalist painter [more].

10.  Suffolk Street
The Royal Society of British Artists, of which JW had been President briefly, 1887-1888.