The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Search for People > Document Display

return to search results

Documents associated with: Wortley, Archibald J. Stuart-
Record 14 of 31

System Number: 09656
Date: [5 May 1889?][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Théodore Duret[2]
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Call Number: Library and Archives, Met 192 W57/W576
Document Type: ALS

Mon cher Duret -

Why were you not one of my distinguished hosts the other night? -

Je vous envoie ci-inclu un petit conte rendu [sic]-

Ecrivez moi deux mots -

[butterfly signature]

Tower House. Tite Street. Chelsea.

Aussi ai je [p. 2] à vous dire autre chose -

On me dit que dans la Gazette des Beaux Arts [three illegible words, deleted] a paru la traduction d'une portion de ma correspondence[3] avec la Société des British Artists -

Je vous envoie donc la chose complete, dans l'Athenæum - Faites-moi la gentil[l]esse de reproduire cela - pour Gonse[4] - ou voulez-vous que je lui écrive? - qu'en dites vous?


It is rare that an artist is accorded, in his lifetime, such an ovation as that tendered to Mr. Whistler, when, on Wednesday evening last, a large and representative body of distinguished men offered him a banquet in honor of his election to the Munich Academy and the conferring upon him of the Cross of the Royal Order of St. Michael. What made the gathering unique in its way was the entire absence of official formalism. It was the heartfelt tribute to true English artists to a master whose work and worth are justly rated by all whose opinion is authority. This appreciation found fitting expression in the speeches[6] of the chairman, Mr. Underdown, Q.C., Sir Coutts Lindsay, Mr. W. Q. Orchardson, R.A., Mr. Alfred Gilbert, A.R.A., Mr. Edmund Yates, Mr. Stuart Wortley, and Mr. W. Christian Symons. As one of them took occasion to point out, this was the unanimous expression of the obligations which the artists present felt that they owed to one "who had done more for the advancement of the true art of England than any living man".

When the chairman, in a singularly brilliant and felicitous speech led up to the toast of the evening, the feeling of the company found vent in a tempest of applause, which lasted long after Mr. Whistler had risen to his feet. He never looked better in his life, and the vibrations of his voice showed how this enthusiastic demonstration had touched the deeper chords of his always sympathetic nature.

"You must feel that for me," said Mr. Whistler, "It is no easy task to reply under conditions of which I have so little habit. We are all even too conscious that mine has, hitherto, I fear, been the gentle answer that sometimes turneth away wrath."

Falling, however, for a moment into his accustomed vein, he startled his hearers with some of those glittering paradoxes which they have learned to expect. "Gentlemen," said he, "This is an age of rapid results when remedies insist upon their diseases, that science shall triumph and no time be lost, and so have we also rewards that bring with them their own virtue. It would ill become me to question my fitness for the position it has pleased this distinguished company to thrust upon me."

The rounds of applause and laughter with which this was received may be imagined.

With a smile whose pathos was not lost, Mr. Whistler closed his speech. "It has before now been borne in upon me that in surroundings of antagonism I may have wrapped myself for protection in a species of misunderstanding - as that other traveller drew closer about him the folds of his cloak the more bitterly the winds and the storm assailed him on his way. But as with him, when the sun shone upon him in his path, his cloak fell from his shoulders, so I, in the warm glow of your friendship, throw from me all former disguise, and, making no further attempt to hide my true feeling, disclose to you my deep emotion at such unwonted testimony of affection and faith."

This document is protected by copyright.


My dear Duret -

Why were you not one of my distinguished hosts the other night? -

I send you herewith a short account -

Write me two words -

[butterfly signature]

Tower House. Tite Street. Chelsea.

Also I have [p. 2] another thing to say to you -

I am told that in the Gazette des Beaux Arts [three illegible words, deleted] has appeared the translation of a portion of my correspondence with the Society of British Artists -

I therefore send the complete thing to you, from the Athenaeum - Do me the kindness of reproducing that - for Gonse - or do you want me to write to him? - what do you say?


1.  [5 May 1889?]
Dated from press-cutting and references to Criterion dinner (see below).

2.  Théodore Duret
Théodore Duret (1838-1927), art critic and collector [more].

3.  ma correspondence
See 'The Society of British Artists and their Signboard,' Athenaeum: Journal of Literature, Science, the Fine Arts, Music and the Drama, no. 3209, 27 April 1889, pp. 543-544. The correspondence concerned JW's charge that the signboard he had painted for the Society during his Presidency had been altered.

4.  Gonse
Louis Gonse (1846-1921), writer and art critic, director of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts [more].

The remaining text is a press-cutting attached to the letter. A note identifies it as having been published in The Sunday Times, 4 May 1889. A draft version of this text by JW (in the hand of Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870-1935), engineer, son of JW and Louisa Fanny Hanson [more]) is at #06802. The dinner given in JW's honour to celebrate his awards took place on 28 April 1889 at the Criterion, Piccadilly.

6.  speeches
The speechmakers were Emmanuel Maguire Underdown (1831-1913), barrister [more]; Sir Coutts Lindsay (1824-1913), Bart., co-founder of the Grosvenor Gallery [more]; William Quiller Orchardson (1832-1910), genre and portrait painter [more]; Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934), sculptor [more]; Edmund Hodgson Yates (1831-1894), novelist, 'Atlas' columnist and editor-proprietor of the World [more]; Archibald James Stuart-Wortley (1849-1905), painter, first President of the Society of Portrait Painters [more]; and William Christian Symons (1845-1911), painter and designer [more].