The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 01912
Date: [October 1858][1]
Author: JW
Place: [Paris]
Recipient: Deborah Delano Haden[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler H13
Document Type: Lc/ALc[3]

[...] How, after having hopelessly waited for an answer to my letter, during ten long days, Erneste[4] and I made up our minds (and our sacs) for the worst, - how we, or rather I, explained to Mynherr Smetz Schmitz[5], that there was no use putting off any longer, - how Mynherr Schmitz suffered severely from doubts as to the value of our property, - how we nearly wept "tears of anguish" on being obliged to trust the same in his coarse unappreciating hands - how we sorrowfully took leave of our host and our collection of drawings[6], the result of so much happy hearty work - of my serries serrus (sic) of etchings - my chefs d'oeuvres upon which I had built so bright and so certain a future - [fol. 1] how we [7] then set off, with nothing but a blouse on our backs - [drawing][8] with two groschens[9] in my pocket = four sous[10], which Lina, the pretty little servant girl had the evening before in a sudden and unexpected gush of sympathy thrust into my hand and immediately afterwards burst into tears crying out Ich bin[11] auch eine Fremdin - meine Herren - ich bin eine Coblentzerin - how, we then commenced our journey on foot from Cologne to Aix la Chappelle - only 9¼ German meilen, i.e. nearly 50. English miles! -

How the real honest hard miseries of this pilgrimage would have effaced all poetry and romance from any minds but our own, I now really think marvellously gum-elastic ones! - how we walked until I actually could[12] not make one step more - how the first night I made a portrait [fol. 2] in pencil (we happily had saved a sheet of paper) for a plate of soup for Erneste and myself - how we slept in straw and were thankful - how my wretched Parisian shoes got rid of a portion of their soles [drawing, Whistler's Parisian shoes[13]] and a great part of their upper leather - how I remembered the good Samaritan and the pouring of oil in wounds, how I went thro' agonies and accepted gratefully a piece of "chandelle[14]" from a kind hearted comb-maker, instead of the Jewish recipe - how we walked 22 miles one day, and then I was unable to move out of the way of a mob of hooting Prussian children such as the Prophet Elijah[15] would certainly have set all the wolves in his power upon, how we were weary and miserable, - how I, for a glass of milk I had to make the portrait of one of my young tormentors [sic] - the ugly son of the woman who took our only two groschen for a bed which she made on the floor with an armful of straw, [drawing, A bed of straw[16]] and for the pillow a chair overturned, which was violently withdrawn the next morning at dawn so that the consequent bump of the head on the ground might awaken us - how for another portrait[17], we had a piece of black bread[18] and an egg the white of which went to heal my bruised feet - how sunnier moments were also on our road - how we came upon a Dorf[19] where there was a fair - how I there made portraits[20] of "butchers and bakers and candlestick makers" for five[21] groschen a piece that is a little more than fourpence!! What would George Chapmann[22] have said to such an utter disregard for the dignity of art! and yet I did my best - and each one of the eighteen portraits, was a drawing such as Seymour[23] would have been pleased to see come from my hand! How at last we reached Aix la Chappelle, where Mr French[24] (who had been absent on a summer's tour and had therefore not received my letter from Cologne) received us in the most kind and gentlemanly manner and lent me 50 francs - How the French Consul at Liege advanced Erneste 20 more with which sum we finally got to Paris this morning at 4 o'clock, worn out and yet in marvellous health - how my friend charged with the forwarding of my letters in my absence explained that he had actually sent my letter from George to Rotterdam, where it now is!! and consequently the whole fault of our misfortunes is in the dreadful negligence of the Post (     ) officers of that city - All this and more my dear little Sis I will tell you about in detail another time[.] We have clean consciences and can hold up our heads, for during this extraordinary journey we have worked very hard - have made more progress than we could have made otherwise in three times the number of months - Erneste has nearly 100 [...]

[fol. 3] enfin, tout[25] ce que vous voudrez - et puis voilllaa! [sic] - Shall I say that the man who gardes [sic] the life of his Emperor understood the neatness of my argument. [drawing, Whistler bribing a gendarme][26]

My dear little Sis, I only wish I had sent you this a couple of weeks ago instead of putting it away to finish the "next day" - but what will you? I have scarely had a moment since my return - By the way every body here believed me dead and burried! [sic] poor Miller[27] had really been very sad and my entré [sic] at the Café Voltaire[28] on Sunday evening was of the most triumphant! - [drawing, Whistler's return to the Café Voltaire[29]] Comment! t'es pas mort[30]! pas mort! - C'est toi! c'est lui! "Oui c'est toi!["] c'est moi! "C'est lui même["] ah quelle blague atroce. Figure toi moi mon cher! etc. Un café! pour le petit Americain! - Comment un café! garçon! des cafés pour notre Americain! "Car il n'est pas mort larifla! fla fla!" Non c'est qu'il dort" "Pour le reveiller[31] trinquons nos verres[.] Pour le reveiller trinquons encore!" Et heu mon cher et ces Anglais hein! leur peinture contes nous ça un peu etc:

I'm working hard a[32] [...]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [October 1858]
JW had just returned from an etching tour of the Rhineland and Northern France during which he worked on some plates for the Twelve Etchings from Nature, 1858 (the 'French Set', K.9-11, 13-17, 19, 21, 22, 24). (excat 3).

2.  Deborah Haden
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more].

3.  Lc/ALc
The original version of this letter has not survived; neither has a record of the first page(s) of text. The beginning of this transcription ('How, after certain a future -') is taken from a manuscript copy in an unknown hand (Glasgow University Library, Whistler H13). The following text, labelled in this transcription as fol. 1-2, comes from a photograph in the Library of Congress (see Sketches of the journey to Alsace (M.286)), showing two sides of the original letter. Fol. 2 ends at the words 'a piece of black', whereafter the GUL H13 text is again resumed. This section ends 'Erneste has nearly 100'; the following section ('enfin ... Non c'est qu'il dort') comes from a second photograph of the original letter from the Library of Congress ([fol. 3]). After 'Non c'est qu'il dort', the GUL copied version runs to the end. The letter was published in Thorp, Nigel (Editor), Whistler on Art: Selected Letters and Writings 1849-1903 of James McNeill Whistler, Manchester, 1994, and Washington, 1995, no. 3, pp. 6-8.

4.  Erneste
Ernest Delannoy (d. 1860/1870), art student, JW's travel companion in 1858 [more].

5.  Schmitz
Schmitz, landlord of the inn at which JW stayed in Cologne.

6.  collection of drawings
During their tour, JW and Delannoy ran short of money to pay for their lodgings at Cologne. JW was forced to leave his drawings (possibly M.229-281) with Herr Schmitz as security until he could send the money from Paris to pay the bill. He may also have left his copper-plates (K.16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24), some of which were etched from nature, some completed on his return to Paris. They formed the core of the 'French Set' which also included etchings done in London (K.9-10) and Paris (K.11, 13-15). The set was proofed by Auguste Delâtre (1822-1907), printer [more], in Paris, and published as Twelve Etchings from Nature, 1858 (the 'French Set', K.9-11, 13-17, 19, 21, 22, 24). (excat 3) in London in 1858, with the help of Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], to whom it was dedicated (title-page, K.25).

7.  [fol. 1] how we ... a piece of black
Transcribed from a photograph of the original (Library of Congress).

8.  [drawing]
Sketches of the journey to Alsace (M.286) .

9.  groschens
Ger., a groschen was a penny or ten pfennig piece.

10.  sous
Fr., a sou was equivalent to 5 French centimes.

11.  Ich bin...Coblentzerin
Ger., 'I am also a stranger here, sir, I am from Coblentz'.

12.  could
Underlined twice.

13.  Whistler's Parisian shoes
Sketches of the journey to Alsace (M.286). The light, soft leather shoes, almost like slippers, habitually worn by JW.

14.  chandelle
Fr., candle. JW would have rubbed his feet with tallow to prepare them for walking.

15.  prophet Elijah
JW is probably confusing the biblical prophet Elijah with his successor Elisha, who is recorded as having set a curse upon children in 2 Kings 2.23-25 - 'And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and did tear forty and two children of them to pieces. And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.'

16.  A bed of straw
Sketches of the journey to Alsace (M.286). The ink has oxidised, making the paper brittle, and there is a hole through the drawing. The word 'an' is written to left and 'armful' to right of the drawing, 'of straw, and' to left, 'for' to right: the writing is uneven and the drawing may conceal other words.

17.  another portrait
Prussian portraits (M.282).

18.  bread ... nearly a 100
The next section of the transcription, 'bread ... Erneste has nearly 100', is taken from GUL MS Whistler H13.

19.  Dorf
Ger., village.

20.  portraits
Prussian portraits (M.282).

21.  five
Double underlined.

22.  George Chapmann
George R. Chapman (b. 1834), artist [more].

23.  Seymour
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

24.  Mr French
Possibly H. French, American consul at Aix-la-Chapelle (see #01604).

25.  enfin ... voilllaa!
Fr., so everything that you would wish, see here! At this point the transcription ([fol. 3]) continues from a photograph of the original (Library of Congress), which ends at 'qu'il dort.' This page is numbered in the top right corner of the original as page '7'. There must have been at least one sheet before this, which is missing from the copy and photographs that have survived.

26.  Whistler bribing a gendarme
Sketches of the journey to Alsace (M.286).

27.  Miller
Miller, an acquaintance of JW in Paris.

28.  Cafe Voltaire
Meeting place of writers and artists at the Place de l'Odéon.

29.  Whistler's return to the Café Voltaire
Sketches of the journey to Alsace (M.286).

30.  Comment...mon cher
Fr., What! you aren't dead! not dead! - It's you! It's him! "Yes it's you["] it's me! "It's the man himself" oh what a great joke. Just imagine my dear fellow! etc. A coffee! for the little American! - What, one coffee! waiter! lots of coffees for our American! "Because he's not dead! te tum te tum!" No, he's asleep." "Let's clink our glasses to wake him up! Let's drink again!" Well now, my dear fellow, what about these English! tell us something about their painting etc.

31.  Pour le reveiller
From here to the end the transcription is taken from GUL MS Whistler H13.

32.  I'm working hard a
These words, deleted here, form the start of another incomplete letter from JW to Deborah Haden, dated [January 1859] (#01913). It may be that the transcriber started to copy another sheet, and then realised that it came from a later letter.