The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: White, A.W.
Record 2 of 3

System Number: 04755
Date: [30 October 1899][1]
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: Rosalind Birnie Philip[2]
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler P395
Document Type: ALS[3]

[telegraph form:]


'Oct. 30. 99'

My dear Major -

This will have to do for the moment - The keys have just come! - So thats all right! and most perfect - Euphrasie[4] was here to see what could be done for Monsieur and has gone with them at once, that I may have the picture brought here for I cannot get out for the next day or so -

It really is an awful business this neuralgia! and I who never have headaches! - However now that all is going on well, I dont mind telling you about it - There was no using worrying you with it at first - It is very simple - & of course as usual I deserved what I brought upon myself! for I sat, and continued to sit for three of four days running in Cathedral corners[5] and wild draughts cultivating & encouraging the [p. 2] stiff neck that was upon me and fully feeling not only the danger but the pain itself! Still What will you! - It was the only way of bringing back the panels - and now I have brought back a very beautifully developed form of neuralgia called Zona[6]! - It attends to the nerves, in my case, that spread from my stiffened neck, over the ear and up to the top of the head! You can think too, how sweetly I encouraged the working of this wicked machinery, already set in motion, by rubbing my head violently the first day with the wide awake mixture of corrosive sublimate I had gotten from Béral's[7]!!! - The result perfect! - A crop of hillocks, mounds, swellings, risings, bumps, humps all over the place! and from each, and every one, shootings, pulsations, agonies - ! like the skull of the bad Boer[8] full of the nice kind British dum dum[9] Christian and be damned to you bullets! -

Well well! Why is a mouse when it spins[10]! Eh Major! Why indeed! - And so Euphrasie has to spread ointment and pomades upon my own scalp at last! - as I have so continually done in kyindness [sic], upon the scalps of those around me! - and the oil upon the waters[11] has come back to me after many days -

It occurs to me suddenly that you never acknowledged receipt of cheque £   - for Webb[12] - for White[13]. Or did you? - & is that all right? -

I had your two letters this morning - very nice - When is Mrs. Con[14] coming over?

I have kept my room all day - These twinges are awful! - and I cannot comb out my curls & White lock! You would be quite offended with me, Ma'ame[15] - if you could see me! -

Later - The picture is here - so thats all right! - and I have been sand papering it down all the afternoon - and I don't know if thats[16] all right at all! - for the more I scrape off, the more the original comes through! and I don't think the whole thing ever looked so like Lady Eden[17] before! dress & all!! -

I am quite distraught and dont know whether I shall turn it into the Bate[18]! or Mrs. Jack Gardner[19]! Who is here just now -

This document is protected by copyright.


[Lion with coat of arms and motto:] BENIGNO NUMINE

Miss Rosalind Birnie-Philip
Dhu House -
36. Tite Street 36.
Chelsea -
London -
[postmark:] [PARIS] / R. DES CAPUCINES / 8 [30?] / OCT / 99
[postmark on verso:] LONDON. S. W. / 5.45. PM / NO 1 / 99


1.  [30 October 1899]
Dated from postmark. The date was also written on the letter by the recipient.

2.  Rosalind Birnie Philip
Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), JW's sister-in-law [more].

3.  ALS
Written in pencil on a printed telegraph form, which has the address of the hotel at the bottom of p. 1.

4.  Euphrasie
Euphrasie, JW's servant at 110 Rue du Bac.

5.  Cathedral corners
JW painted one panel called The Priest's Lodging, Dieppe (YMSM 482). Originally dated July 1897, it may in fact date from this later trip.

6.  Zona
Fr., shingles.

7.  Berals
Presumably a chemist.

8.  Boer
JW was as usual winding-up his sister-in-law, by mocking Britain's presentation of its actions in the Boer War.

9.  dum dum
The dum-dum bullet was developed by the British army and patented in 1897 by Captain Bertie-Clay of the Indian ammunition works at the town of Dum Dum in India. It was used on India's North West Frontier and in the Sudan in 1897. The Mark IV bullet had a small cylindrical hole in the lead at the top, which was not covered over with nickel, and it expanded on impact, causing horrific wounds. It was outlawed by the Hague Convention of 29 July 1899 but since neither the Boers nor the British had been signatories, they were not bound by this.

10.  mouse when it spins
In ''Notes and Queries' on The Guardian Weekly's home page ( a reader asked for an explanation of the conundrum 'Why is a mouse when it spins?' and its answer, 'Because the higher, the fewer.' Some readers suggested that it was a joke against logic, a non sequitur. Others suggested alternative wording, 'Why does a mouse when it spins?', answer, 'Higher or lower', and 'When is a mouse when she spins?', answer, 'The higher the fewer' (meaning, never). Patrick Nethercot, of Durham, wrote: 'This peculiar saying relates to a certain type of governor on steam engines, whereby revolutions of the engine are reduced if a spinning weight (mouse) is lifted up a shaft by its centrifugal force, releasing steam pressure and ensuring fewer revs: the higher, the fewer. Such systems were common on static engines like those found originally in cotton mills in the heyday of the steam revolution.'

11.  waters
Perhaps an allusion to Eccles. 11.1, 'Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days'.

12.  Webb
William Webb (b. ca 1851), of G. and W. Webb, lawyer [more].

13.  White
A. W. White (b. ca 1843), solicitor's clerk, JW's landlord at 8 Fitzroy Square [more].

14.  Mrs. Con
Mrs Conn, unidentified.

15.  Ma'ame
Frances Philip (1824-1917), née Black, JW's mother-in-law [more].

16.  thats
Double underlined.

17.  Lady Eden
On 4 March 1895 Sir William Eden brought an action against JW for not handing over the portrait of his wife, Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408). JW was not satisfied with the manner and amount of payment for it. Judgement went against JW. JW's appeal was heard in Paris in December 1897. Eventually the original judgement was reversed and he was allowed to keep the picture. It is now in the Hunterian Art Gallery.

18.  Bate
Inez Eleanor Addams (fl. 1898-1927), née Bate, painter [more]. In the end JW asked Margaret Curzon Hale (1872-1948), née Marquand, wife of H. D. Hale [more], to pose in a similar costume so that the painting no longer resembled Lady Eden.

19.  Mrs. Jack Gardner
Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924), née Stewart, collector [more]. The sentence concludes with 'here just now -' in the right margin.