System Number: 01917
Date: [c. 1 May 1867]
Recipient: Deborah Delano Haden
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler H18
Document Type: ALdS
VINCERE AUT MORI
My dear Sis -
I have done nothing that is a "cruel shame" -
I have as you know tolerated for years passively your husbands coarse insolence and the insults he has offered to each and every member of the familly [sic], for your sake and because of your intercession -
On many occasions
I have at your dictation and for your comfort when outraged by gross conduct such as no gentleman should be submitted to written peaceable notes to your husband - I have often put [p. 2] aside dignity and just anger and aton your asking me to do so even personal interests held out my hand & bowed myself down, that amicable relations might be continued. -
* * You may perhaps even remember my withdrawing altogether in a question where my personal interests were represented to me by you to interfere with his - I cannot perceive that I have gained by this previous course either in your good opinion or in the material satisfaction of knowing you to have been a bit benefited -
No one can exact that I should go through life submitting to deliberate insult - and therefore the other morning when he insulted me again, and dared in my presence to sneer at the Mother and sister of my very dear friend, Traer, - he received from me the punishment so long witheld [sic] -
I know that this is most regretable [sic] [p. 3] for your sake - but in repassing in your memory the marvelous patience I have shown - the humiliating
endurance pain I have suffered as a gentleman, - You must perceive that a limit might be reached - and passed -
This could not have ended differently - and I have in a letter, of which you can see a the copy, told your husband that I have now utterly done with him - and sorry as I am on your account my dear sister I mean it -
J A M Whistler
Many of the added notes in this letter draft (including all the insertions on p. 4) are in pencil.
Monogram and motto 'VINCERE AUT MORI' (Lat., 'conquer or die') under the crest of a mailed arm and hand holding a dagger. This is the crest and motto of the McNeills of Colonsay. However, see #07452, in which JW claims to be a descendant of the McNeills of Barra, not Colonsay.
James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more]. In April 1867, F. S. Haden, Traer and William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more], visited Paris for a medical conference. JW was also in Paris in March and April, as his works (including Wapping (YMSM 35)) were on view in the American section of the Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1867. During the trip, Traer died suddenly, allegedly in a brothel. Haden arranged for Traer's burial, with what JW and his brother regarded as unseemly haste. A violent quarrel ensued on 23 April. Later, Haden alleged that JW had pushed him through a plate glass window in the heat of the confrontation. Soon afterwards, the two brothers made arrangements to have Traer's body returned to Ellen Traer (b. ca 1837), J. R. Traer's sister [more] in England, assisted by G. A. Lucas.
Tensions between the brothers-in-law had been rising for some time. According to William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), civil servant and critic [more], JW told him that he had not been invited to exhibit in the British section of the Paris Exhibition. See W. M. Rossetti, quoted in Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1, p. 140, diary entry, 29 March. JW may have sensed Haden's influence over his exclusion (see note on 'the Kensington influence' over the display of JW's works in the American section in JW to G. A. Lucas, #09192). Traer's death marked the final breaking point of their relations. JW wrote an accusatory letter to F. S. Haden (#01936), charging him with brutality towards Traer and with showing contempt towards the Whistler family: 'Your brutal insolence to every member of my family, not excepting my Mother, your past insults to me, I have hitherto met with passive scorn and contempt, struggling to bear them because of the intercession and for the sake of my poor sister - you knew this! you bully of women - or I would have done what I did for you today, long ago!' (See #01936.)
8. when ... submitted to
Added from p. 4 by line. In pencil.
9. * You may ... his -
Added from p. 4 by asterisk. In pencil.
10. other morning
In a letter to Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more] (#06259), JW described this incident with F. S. Haden in the aftermath of Traer's death: 'how at last Seymour Haden came, full of insolence and brutality and hatred - to take charge of the whole matter - how he insulted the absent Mother and sisters, and was grossly insulting to me - until no longer able to put up with the fellow I struck him and then and there punished him and avenged not only poor Traer but all of us!'.
Mrs Traer, mother of James Reeves Traer.