The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Child, Theodore
Record 6 of 55

System Number: 00609
Date: 26 October 1886
Author: Theodore Child[1]
Place: Paris
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler C110
Document Type: ALS

36 Rue de Constantinople 36

Oct. 26. 86.

Cher maître.

Mr Lucas[2] delivered your kind message sent through Mrs Whistler[3].

To judge from the public sheets you really are going to America to charm the wild natives with your "Ten o'clock"[4] eloquence and wit. I can hardly believe it and yet I must believe it for you have written and declared in print that you cannot continually disappoint a continent[5]. This being the case and seeing that you are determined to deliver that unique piece of exquisite prose, your Ten o'clock, in New York and elsewhere, I consider you to be legitimate prey. As an "unattached writer" I must defend myself and win pardon for my estate by saying charming things about you. This I intend to do in the New York Sun a paper whose circulation is incalculable. I shall write about you from Paris and the idea is to publish my article as soon as you land on the the morning after your "première". for preference the latter. (p. 2) or perhaps the Sunday after.

Now here is what I wish to know: Are you going to request the New York papers not to report the "Ten o'clock" as you requested the London papers? Through your kindness and charmingness I heard your "Ten o'clock"; I have all the main points fixed on the recording tablets of my mind; how far am I at liberty to speak about those points?

Supposing that I oppose a counter-paradox to your paradox concerning the critics and the "unattached writers", what will you say to me? Will you slay me, will you call me base, will you think me to be a brute?

Supposing I were to write an account of you, your general attitude artistic and intellectual in the "Ten o'clock", talk freely about your main points, say what we think about you in Paris - which is all that is most honourable & charming - supposing in short I wrote as if I had heard the "Ten o'clock" in London, what would you think? Would it be disagreeable to you? (p. 3) You see I am embarrassed by the fear of violating the laws of hospitality. In my rooms you initiated me into the great secret, into the mystery of the "Ten o'clock", and without your permission I do not dare to speak too freely in public. And yet I must write about you.

N. B. Whatever I write about you will not be published until after you have delivered your dainty morceau.

Are you going to publish The Ten o'clock[6]? If so when?

Can you give me a note about your plans, about your programme in America? Are you going to have an exhibition of your work? If so what will be in the exhibition? All this I ask with a view to sending a preliminary (p. 4) note to the American papers. When do you sail? What date is the première?

But enough. If I go on asking questions at this rate you will tear your hair and send me to the devil with all the other unattached writers. So with best wishes and compliments to Mrs Whistler

I remain
Yours faithfully

Theodore Child.

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1.  Theodore Child
Theodore Child (1846-1892), journalist and art critic [more].

2.  Mr Lucas
George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), art dealer in Paris [more].

3.  Mrs Whistler
Mary Maud Franklin (1857- ca 1941), JW's model and mistress [more] (but not his wife, though she sometimes called herself 'Maud Whistler'). She had written to G. A. Lucas on 23 October 1886 (#09209) with a message for Child.

4.  Ten o'clock
JW's Ten O'Clock Lecture was given in London on 20 February 1885, and on several occasions thereafter, but the proposed lecture tour of the USA never took place.

5.  disappoint a continent
This phrase appears in JW's letter to Edmund Hodgson Yates (1831-1894), novelist, 'Atlas' columnist and editor-proprietor of the World [more], 13 October 1886, published in the World, and subsequently in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, pp. 184-85 (#11432).

6.  publish The Ten o'clock
It was published as a brown paper covered pamphlet: Whistler, James McNeill, Mr. Whistler's 'Ten O'clock', London, 1886.