The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 01449
Date: [27 September / 4 October 1888][1]
Author: JW
Place: [France][2]
Recipient: Mary Bacon Ford[3]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler F381
Document Type: MsLd[4]

No. 1

My dear Mrs Ford -

My Telegram the other day, when I received your dispatch should have been "Am reading" instead of "am writing" for had I written on the spur of the moment I fear I might have lost your friendship forever risked offending you -, What could have possesed [sic] you dear Mrs Ford to send me all this![5] - - If you had your own way you would make of yourselves a terror to me. No! No! Certainly not I would never dream of signing any such contract - It is even almost useless to go into it at at [sic] all, so absolutely does it differ from anything [p. 2] I could have looked forward to - Indeed - it suggests to me nothing - excepting perhaps a modern and New-York version of a bewildered puzzled Dr Faustus[6] signing away his soul to a very brilliant and charming but altogether one too many for him "Mephisto" - Mind you - The soul of another and a cheaper world, mind you, if you could care to have it - is at your disposal - but my etching, painting thinking, existing at all for the next two or three years - I cannot possibly fold up - in a napkin and hand over into to the keeping of any one no matter how wise or capable -

In short your letter and the enclosed agreement has come upon me as a shock for I had no idea that you could have entertained any such mistaken view of my present that as should make at all rational the theory of my future embodied in this agreement therein -

When you cabled "Will you entertain proposal to etch under my direction["] I answered 'Yes,' and then waited for the proposal I was to entertain - for I was willing and always am willing to entertain any[7] proposal [p. 3] but I really must absolutely refuse Dear - Mrs Ford to receive your reproaches or to be made in [any] way to appear responsible for your subsequent method in this matter - It pleased you to reserve all further explanation until now[8] - when you unroll this monumental agreement for in your [communication?] I had no idea entertained any such mistaken view of my present that should make at all rational the theory of any future embodied in this "agreement" and for the first draft [by?] of the contract handed to George Lewis[9] (and which he refused declined all together to entertain consider for a moment) you acknowledged yourself to be more or less of a joke.

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1.  [27 September / 4 October 1888]
Dated from M. B. Ford to JW, #01448, letter dated 27 September, to which this is evidently a draft reply. See also additional drafts at #01450, #01451.

2.  [France]
JW was in France on a working honeymoon, after his marriage to BW on 11 August.

3.  Mary Bacon Ford
Mary Bacon Ford, née Martin, art agent [more].

4.  MsLd
Written in the hand of Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more].

5.  to send me all this! -
Possibly in JW's hand; the other drafts of this letter include his insertions.

6.  Dr Faustus
A reference Johann Faust (in Latinized form Johannes Faustus), the fifteenth century astrologer and divine, reputed to have sold his soul to the Devil. See OED.

7.  any
Double underlined.

8.  until now ... joke
The rest of the text is scored out with diagonal lines.

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