The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Freer, Charles Lang
Record 35 of 374

System Number: 06003
Date: [31 January 1892][1]
Author: JW
Place: [Paris]
Recipient: Beatrix Whistler[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W602
Document Type: ALS

He is enchanted! - and this evening he went up stairs and brought down Madame de Montebello[3], who was standing for her picture to Gandara[4], poor fellow - I was not displeased that he should do so, for the whole picture had not yet sunk in - and the back ground and figure all went beautifully together - Chinkie I wish you could have seen the two in front of the work! - They were splendid! - these two amazing ones - all "respectueux[5]", and absolutely without a doubt! - a sort of unveilling in Olympus - or last tableau in a very superior pantomime!

Montesquiou[6] was of course simply heroic - "triste et noble[7]" - and childlike in his joy - It really was without precedent in my experience - for expression of such sympathy is unknown to me hitherto and impossible in England - - Not that there was any thing loud or accentuated were even in their demonstration, [p. 2] but they gloried in the picture as an apotheosis of themselves, their birth their "race"! - "It is the sense of pride" said the Count[8], "unstained with vanity"!!! - "C'est noble[9]" said the grande dame with a sort of religious intonation - and there they were really worshipping before a sort of monument of their blue blood! - Well you know Chinkie no more intoxicating recognition could possibly be offered the Wams than such appreciation as this - I dare scarcely believe that the picture can be as superbe as in the gloaming it looked - You know how the poor Grinder is lonely and timid in the morning - and how he lives in terror of the first peep at his painting before breakfast - Meanwhile however there is no doubt that Madame de Montebello looked at the portrait in its highest sense of achievement - no little thoughts of detail - no wishing for more of this or less of that - no desire for any thing other - simply a supreme acceptation of the whole as the highest possible incarnation of all that is beautiful and dignified and magnificent - "C'est splendide!" she told Gandara when she went back to that sad Spaniard - un chef d'oeuvre! - And certainly in the flattering light of the evening our Montesquiou poète et grand seigneur did look stupendious [sic]! - Bunnie[10] I believe would never have forgiven him - and William's[11] "lofty" was a pale expression for him - But more Obi Chinkie that I may not think ill of him tomorrow! - Gandara came down afterwards, and sat and was sad and gentle and grave after the manner of his people - and I like him - a very distinguished head - with his features all drawn in black upon his ochre face - He will please you I am sure - You must have had lots of letters from me now - Three at least that you have not answered - This makes the fourth - Not that I don't get yours - a very nice one last night, enclosing Kennedy's[12] but funnilly we seem to be behind each another! - What do you think of the "Japanese Society[13]"? ought I to belong? - Leighton[14] I see is a member - but so is Liberty[15]! -

And now what about the bills[16]? - I mean Dickinson's[17] (there is one of his still out, isn't there?) - and Grau's[18]? - You must make Webb[19] go on tiding us over - And by the way, in the midst of it all, here, have I forgotten all about the "Vale[20]" - had I not better write to Lewis[21]? I suppose if anything were threatening there would have come a letter from them - Is there no answer also from Orchar[22]? no acknowledgment of his picture[23] - Another thing - when the lithographs were sent to Mr. Freer[24] did you send any [p. 3] letter that he might understand what it is all about? and did you say that part was for him and part for his friend[25] & that the price is two guineas apiece? Otherwise how about the money? - Any news from Thomson of Goupil's[26]? Is the pink Meux[27] still there? - Why what a lot you will have to write to me!

And now Goodnight my own darling Chinkie Wam - I am writing all alone at Tortoni's - the Café, quite empty - after dinner - and not late enough for the theatre people - and I don't think that I feel quite well - a little achey - and heady - and generally queer - However I have got a bottle of Lithia[28] from an English Chemist - and I shall [go] home to the Hotel - Say beautiful little prayers for the wandering Grinder Chinkie dear, and bless him always. Perhaps we are doing really good work! - Who knows - What do you think?

Who have you seen? dont forget to send the Pall Mall[29], with the Academy Election - It is nice of you to post the things over -

Love to Bunnie and Goodnight again and sleep and dream of

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [31 January 1892]
This letter dates from after one dated 30 January 1892 (#06608) and before one dated 1 February 1892 (#06610). An extract was published in Newton, Joy, 'La Chauve-souris et le Papillon: Correspondance Montesquiou-Whistler,' Nottingham French Studies, vol. 20, no. 1, May 1981, pp. 163-65, dated 'février 1892'.

2.  Beatrix Whistler
Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more], also called here 'Chinkie' and 'Wam'.

3.  Madame de Montebello
Mme Marie Louise Hortense Madeleine de Montebello (m. 1873), née Guillemin, society hostess [more].

4.  Gandara
Antonio de la Gandara (1862-1917), portrait painter and pastellist [more].

5.  respectueux
Fr., respectful.

6.  Montesquiou
Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921), Symbolist writer and poet, and collector [more].

7.  triste et noble
Fr., sad and noble.

8.  Count
Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921), Symbolist writer and poet, and collector [more].

9.  noble
Double underlined.

10.  Bunnie
Ethel Whibley (1861-1920), née Philip, JW's sister-in-law [more].

11.  William's
William Bell, JW's secretary [more].

12.  Kennedy's
Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), dealer with H. Wunderlich and Co., New York [more].

13.  Japanese Society
M. B. Huish was a founder member of the Japan Society.

14.  Leighton
Frederic Leighton (1830-1896), painter and sculptor [more].

15.  Liberty
Arthur Lasenby Liberty (1843-1917), designer, founder of Liberty and Co. [more].

16.  bills
Double underlined.

17.  Dickinson's
London firm of jewellers.

18.  Grau's
Frederick H. Grau (d. 1894/1895), picture framer [more].

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

20.  Vale
JW's former house in Chelsea.

21.  Lewis
Sir George Henry Lewis (1833-1911), society lawyer [more].

22.  Orchar
James Guthrie Orchar (1825-1888), engineer and collector [more].

23.  picture
Nocturne: Grey and Silver - Chelsea Embankment, Winter (YMSM 205).

24.  Mr. Freer
Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), industrialist, collector and founder of the Freer Gallery of Art [more].

25.  friend
Col. Frank J. Hecker (1846-1927), partner of C. L. Freer, Michigan and Peninsular Car Company [more].

26.  Thomson of Goupil's
David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), art dealer [more].

27.  pink Meux
Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux (YMSM 229).

28.  Lithia
One of many supposedly healthful mineral waters, 'BUFFALO LITHIA WATER' was billed as 'NATURE'S MATERIA MEDICA.' According to an advertisement in an 1891 Harper's Magazine Advertiser, it was produced by Buffalo Lithia Springs, Virginia, whose proprietor was Thomas F. Goode. It was prescribed by physicians, the advert claimed, for gout, rheumatism, and other ailments, including Bright's Disease.

29.  Pall Mall
The Pall Mall Gazette, a London society paper. JW was probably referring to the elections of the Royal Academy.