The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Wilde, Oscar
Record 26 of 154

System Number: 04175
Date: 16 October 1883
Author: Augustus Moore[1]
Place: [London]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler M445
Document Type: ALS

[Royal coat of arms:] DIEU ET MON DROIT

Oct 16th 1883.

My dear Sir,

My friend Mr Godwin[2] has sent me your letter[3] in which you endeavour to explain your reasons for breaking faith with him & me.

You say you abhor personal journalism. How can that be? Are you not "a man of much newspaper-paragraph" as [Browning[4]?] says, yourself, and are you not intimate with Society-journalists, and do you not contribute personal matter to "society" papers?

What do you know of my quarrell [sic] with Oscar Wilde[5]? Am I not as entitled to quarrell with him as you were with 'Arry[6] or Ruskin[7], and have I not the same right to revenge my wrongs with my pen as you had with your brush?

[p. 2] Are you going to constitute yourself the intelligent jury & award Oscar Wilde the farthing's damages[8]. You know as much about our quarrell as the twelve intelligent butchers knew about art.

Why can't Oscar take care of himself?

You never had a warmer admirer admirer than myself.

Everyone has had to paint & write pot-boilers for Monsieur [Prudhomme?] - Bull.

Supposing I think Oscar a damn bad poet and a worse friend - what then? Are all great poets & painters to cry "Room for the Leper!" when I pass because I think Oscar knows nothing of art except what he picks up second hand from you and poor Mannet[9] [sic] or Degays[10] [sic], and contents himself by parodying Rossetti[11] and Swinburne[12] & Mathew Arnold[13]?

[p. 3] Excuse me for saying so, but I think the positition position you have taken up is an absurd one & ill becomes you.

What has Oscar done to exempt him from chaff and why does he call Du Maurier[14] his friend & me his f enemy?

I never wrote but two things about Oscar in my life. One was a Sonnet in his praise with which he helped me, and the other "A Ballade of Photographs" in Truth with which he did not help me. The quarrell with Oscar was of my seeking not his as he has represented.

Have you not got enough quarrells of your own without taking up with those of Simpkins the Sonneteer?

Faithfully yours

Augustus M. Moore

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Augustus Moore
Augustus Martin Moore (d. 1918), journalist and acting manager [more].

2.  Mr Godwin
Edward William Godwin (1833-1886), architect and designer [more].

3.  your letter

4.  Browning
Possibly Robert Barrett Browning (1846-1912), genre painter and sculptor [more].

5.  Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde (1854-1900), writer, critic and playwright [more], who was at this time on a lecture tour of the USA.

6.  'Arry
Henry ('Arry') Quilter (1851-1907), advocate and art critic [more].

7.  Ruskin
John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more]. In 1877 Ruskin wrote an attack on JW and his Nocturnes, in particular, Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170). JW sued him for libel.

8.  the farthing's damages
The case of Whistler v. Ruskin was heard at the Queen's Bench of the High Court on 25-26 November 1878. He won the case but was awarded paltry damages - one farthing; see Ruskin, John, 'Letter the Seventy-ninth' Fors Clavigera, 2 July 1877, pp. 181-213; Merrill, Linda, A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in 'Whistler v. Ruskin', Washington and London, 1992.

9.  Mannet
Edouard Manet (1832-1883), painter [more].

10.  Degays
Probably Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834-1917), artist [more].

11.  Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), artist and poet [more].

12.  Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), poet and critic [more].

13.  Mathew Arnold
Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), writer [more].

14.  Du Maurier
George Louis Palmella Busson Du Maurier (1834-1896), author and caricaturist [more].