The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Boehm, Joseph Edgar
Record 10 of 36

System Number: 00322
Date: 20 November [1878][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Joseph Edgar Boehm[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler B98
Document Type: ALS

LONDON W. C. ............... 18

Now Mac[4] my dear Mac you must stand by me - This is a chance that will not occur again - and that, were the tables turned, and you were in my place, I should only be too eager to seize upon for your sake! - Indeed the cause of us doers and workers is at stake with the writers and praters -

On Monday next my case[5] versus Ruskin comes off - and I shall call on you to state your scientific opinion of Whistler and his work in Art generally. Moore[6] also I shall have and we will see if professors like ourselves cannot carry the day over ill-conditioned pendrivers whose ignorance is only equalled by their arrogance and conceit -

I am bound to win you know! but I must not be deserted! -

It will be simple for you and I trust, not irksome to speak boldly for our side - and first my dear Mac come for a moment round to my place tomorrow at 2 o'clock and see the pictures I have there collected - and I am sure that before the dignified portrait[7] of my mother - the fine sketch[8] of Carlyle, and the really [p. 2] beautiful picture[9] of little Miss Alexander (all just varnished and seen for the first time in their full richness of color) you will feel that truth is on my side and have renewed confidence in the painter! -)

The little girl simply lives and breathes and stands in the room with us - and as Signor Buggiani[10], who has [illegible word deleted] passed his days with the old Masters, says, "On ne fait pas[11] mieux que ça! - on n'a jamais fait mieux que ça! - "

[butterfly signature]

If 2 o'clock is too early, come at 3 - but for heaven's sake come in the day light - or come if you like better on Sunday -
Send me a line in any case just to say it is all right -

The White House
Chelsea Embankment -

Wednesday, Nov. 20 -

It is necessary[12] for me to bring men of my own craft to say that what I produce is Art - otherwise Ruskin's statement[13] that it is not art remains; and he has an army of Volunteers ready to come forward and swear that Whistler's work is sham and impudence - and leading among them is Mr. Stacey Marks[14]!!! - who is prepared to stand up and say that he could paint a Whistler Nocturne in five minutes in Court!!

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  20 November [1878]
Year dated from JW's references to his libel suit against Ruskin, and from the day of week.

2.  Joseph Edgar Boehm
Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-1890), sculptor [more].

James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), solicitor [more]. This letter is written on Rose's printed notepaper. JW has written the letter on the blank side of the paper and Rose's deleted address appears on the second page of ms, midway through the letter. For legibility, the address has been placed at the beginning of this transcription.

4.  Mac
Nickname for Boehm.

5.  my case
JW's libel suit against John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more], concerning JW's works (specifically Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170)) at the 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877. For a full account of the trial see Merrill, Linda, A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in 'Whistler v. Ruskin', Washington and London, 1992.

6.  Moore
Albert Joseph Moore (1841-1893), painter [more].

7.  portrait
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101).

8.  sketch
Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137).

9.  picture
Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander (YMSM 129).

10.  Buggiani
Brazio Buggiani (b. ca 1818), picture restorer [more].

11.  On ne fait pas mieux que ça!
Fr., You can't do better than that! - No-one has ever done better than that!

12.  It is necessary ... in Court!!
Written in top left hand corner of page.

13.  Ruskin's statement
Ruskin's libelous statement was published in Fors Clavigera, his periodical aimed ostensibly at the working man. See Ruskin, John, 'Letter the Seventy-ninth' Fors Clavigera, 2 July 1877, pp. 181-213.

14.  Stacey Marks
Henry Stacy Marks (1829-1898), history and genre painter [more].