The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Howard, Francis
Record 15 of 87

System Number: 02283
Date: 24 February 1898
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: Francis Howard[1]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler I23
Document Type: ALS[2]

110. Rue du Bac. Paris

Feb. 24. 1898

Dear Mr. Howard -

I beg to acknowledge your letter - enclosing minutes of the late meeting[3] -

Pray present my [p. 2] most distinguished compliments to the gentlemen of the Committee, and say that I am highly sensible of the very great compliment they have paid me, in unanimously voting for me as their Chairman -

I feel bound to state at once that it would be quite impossible for me to undertake in any way the duties of such office until my return to London - However much inclined I may be, by my strong appreciation of their esteem, to accept the honour proposed for me by my emminent confrères, I think it right that I should at once withdraw in favour of the Gentleman who at this moment fills the post with such ability and advantage to the Society - We have all, I am sure the greatest confidence in the energy & tact displayed by Mr. Lavery[4] - and the direction of affairs could not be in better hands. -

A propos of the list of names submitted to the Committee for selection, with a view to invitation, I would venture to say that it were perhaps well to avoid, if possible, friendly blundering when attended with certain derision!

The Society does not [begin?] begin its career by opening its arms, in the morning, to the passing professional Amateur, whose very irresponsable sweet happiness, like that of the "frölicher Landsman[5]", would be a continued reproach and sadness to us in our midst - Wherefore I fear that under no circumstances could we invite[6] dear nice kind Mr. Brabizon[7] [sic] officially to send his always [p. 3] startlingly successful surprises -

And here we come upon the embarrassments of this system of invitation - Surely it will be awkward for the Committee to rake out of the confines of their brilliant surroundings the gifted ones who might be offended if not sent for! -

I have this moment received your telegram - There is not much time for reflection. - But under the circumstances, if the anxieties of the moment, caused by this spirit of ready disorganisation, on the first [p. 4] uneveness that presents itself, be at all encouraged added to by my own refusal of office, I beg immediately to submit to the Gentlemen of the Committee my willingness to set aside my first hesitation, and accept the responsible position they had been pleased to offer me -

This however I must rely upon their own generosity in assisting me to carry out, by their at once electing Mr. Lavery as Vice Chairman until my return, and by his consenting to the management [p. 5] during my absence -

The question of Mr. Ludovicci's[8] appointment I have answered in my telegram -

And I have the honour to be
Your obedient Servant

J McNeill Whistler

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1.  Francis Howard
Francis Howard (1874-1954), painter, art critic and collector [more]. This letter relates to the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, which had recently been established. The first exhibition opened in May 1898 (Exhibition of International Art, International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, London, 1898). See Howard's reply, #02285.

2.  ALS
Written on notepaper with a mourning border.

3.  late meeting
The meeting took place on 16 February (see Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 2, p. 217). The Council Minutes are at #02281. JW was elected President on 23 April 1898 on the official formation of the Society.

4.  Mr. Lavery
John Lavery (1856-1941), painter [more].

5.  Landsman
Ger., happy peasant.

6.  Mr. Brabizon
A misspelling of Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (1821-1906), painter [more].

7.  invite
Double underlined.

8.  Mr. Ludovicci's
A misspelling of Albert Ludovici, Jr (1852-1932), painter [more].