The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 01450
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 F382
Document Type: MsLd[4]

Dear Mrs Ford -

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 should have make at all rational the theory of my future embodied in this agreement.

When you Cabled, "Will you entertain proposal Foto etch under my direction'['] I answered "Yes", and then expected to hear further, instead of which you reserved this plan, and now - for the first time do I see clearly perceive, that you have harboured the possibility of absolutely possessing yourselves[5] of my ambition and prospects at the very height of my Artistic Career -

I doubt if even you yourselves realize the magnitude of the thing what you are asking / .

In the first place How could you suppose - for example that I could find myself to print a matter of 9000. proofs!!! I whom you had heard declare

How can you[6] suppose for a moment that I could promise to abstain for a time from exhibiting [and?] what even I thought beautiful of my work as it came hot from my hand for any consideration what so ever?

[p. 2] How should you suppose it likely that I should halt in my career -

And here we come to a Vital matter for your own interest's [sic] as well as mine - You propose that I should produce for your Syndicate some 60 plates - at least and that these plates should become there [sic] property - Now - you have heard me before now - in the Studio say most distinctly that I would never again sell[7] my plates for the reason that purchasers would nessersarily [sic] require sets of proofs - which I should have to print. While and that "I would rather make[8] 100 new etchings than print 100 proofs of one etching" - and, and - here now you are exacting that I should produ take a 150 each of these - 60 plates - Why - here you stultify all the rest of your agreement - for the printing alone would take months with out the possibility of attempting any thing else - Just think - 9000 proofs While - on again the other hand Also the Collector would certainly buy none other than my printing [...]

[p. 3] and waited for the proposal I was to entertain

for I was willing and always am willing to entertain any proposal, but must refuse to receive your reproaches or to be made in any way to appear responsible for your subsequent method in this matter,

I expected

It pleased you to reserve all further explanation until this moment when your sp I must upon unroll this parchment charter suspending Chart parchment and to come over here to England

for in your conversation I had no [idea?] that you entertained any such mistaken view - / my present, that should make at all rational the theory of my future embodied in this "agreement" -

And the [skettch?] first draft of the contract that I handed to George Lewis[9] and which he refused all together to entertain, for a moment you acknowledged to be more or a less of a joke -

Now My Dear Mrs Ford I have always had I know - What I thought you did mean judging from your past views of picture dealers &c was that you and Mr Ford where to were to become the agents for Whistlers etchings in America but not that I should be [illegible] [p. 4] even could I be persuaded to let my work pass through other hands - 'so that I should[10] become the slave of my press, and my painting would go entirely -

That I should not return to America for two years after the expiration of my agreement I could see the wit of - and I could understand such an item in a contract with of a theatrical nature being readily agreed to - but the painter cannot be trammelled in this way and must go where his whim takes him - and where he can bring forth good work - though in this instance I make no stray s' [...]

[small unidentified sketch, and sketches[11] of flowers and a Gothic window]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [27 September/4 October 1888]
Dated from M. B. Ford to JW, 27 September 1888,#01448, to which this appears to be a draft reply. See also additional drafts #01449 and #01451.

2.  [France]
JW was in France on a working honeymoon, after his marriage to Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more], on 11 August.

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

4.  MsLd
Chiefly written in the hand of Beatrix Whistler. The tiny sketches at the end of this draft on p. 4 are also in her hand (see Doors and window (M.1186)).

5.  yourselves ... asking
Text scored out with diagonal lines.

6.  How can you ... whatsoever
Text scored out with diagonal lines.

7.  sell
Tripled underlined.

8.  I would rather make ... etching
This appears to be an insertion in JW's hand.

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

10.  so that I should ... stray s
Written in JW's hand.

11.  sketches
In pen, by Beatrix Whistler.