The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 01936
Date: [26 April 1867][1]
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: Francis Seymour Haden[2]
Place: [Paris?]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler H37
Document Type: ALcS

Copy -


338 Rue St honoré

There was no time this morning to say what might have been - You were never more mistaken than when you accused me of speaking of what I know nothing! - I know all[4] - Traer[5] was my intimate friend poor fellow! - He was loved and honored by us all - and I know the villanous [sic] part you have played towards him - how you pursued him, and how in that stealthy way peculiar to your nature undermined and ferreted about him - casting slurs and slandering him behind his back! - I know how you have insulted him! I know, for it is well known, in what dastardly terms you lately spoke of Traer before the board of Commissioners[6]! - how you said of this gentleman and distinguished surgeon, that he was "ignorant and a disgrace to the profession!" - You called him ignorant! my God! - I know this, and I know how for years you have persistently bullied and brow-beaten a man, on whose highly impressionable nature, and sensitive heart the effect was sure! - Poor dear fellow! - I have often cheered him [p. 2] and assisted him to endure it simply because lately we hoped that you might commit yourself sufficiently to bring about the separation you sought - Death came upon him - and he is now beyond your reach - But my God! that in his coffin he should be still hounded down by you! that you of whom he had such a horror, should, after what we, as true friends had done to prevent it, come to take into your hands his burial is indeed an outrage! By God it is too bad! - and enough to make the poor boy turn in his grave! - Ah well! he is remembered in the hearts of many - a true honest Gentleman - respected by his confrères for his brilliant talents - his position was achieved by well proved knowledge - His kind good heart, and bright brain and skillful [sic] hand have gone from among us and will be missed, but never forgotten! -

You live in the belief that things are not known - and that you may impose yourself on those around you as though they were all blind and foolish! Bah! you delude no one but yourself! - I know you Seymour Haden! - a very Pecksnif[7]! [sic] with your fulsome perfection, and [p. 3] "completeness" and solemn priggishness! Do you suppose you are believed in!! Your whole life is one foolish lie - Every one knows you as a transparent humbug and you have been endured long enough - You spoke of you putting me out of your house long ago - did you ever think I feared you!! Your brutal insolence to every member of my family, not excepting my Mother[8], 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[9] - You knew this! you bully of women - or I would have done what I did for you today, long ago!

How meanly you appeared in the police office[10]! how you lied! -

I have now done with you - and only regret that your very cowardice prevented your receiving more punishment at the moment -

J A McN Whistler -

(Seymour Haden Esq)

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1.  [26 April 1867]
Dated from JW's confrontation with Haden; see below

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

3.  '4'
Written in pencil by another hand in upper right corner.

4.  all
A reference to JW's quarrel with Haden in late April 1867 over his treatment of James Reeves Traer. Traer died suddenly in Paris on 23 April (having reputedly been found in a brothel), of alcohol related causes (see document signed A. Brierre de Boismont, #11801). Haden arranged for Traer's burial on the cheapest terms, with what JW and his brother William regarded as unseemly haste. On 26 April, referred to by JW below as 'today', a violent row blew up between the brothers-in-law in a Paris café and Haden fell (or allegedly was pushed by JW) through a plate glass window. The affair caused a major family rift, despite the intervention of Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more], and George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more] (see D. D. Haden to JW, #01915, to W. G. Whistler, #01914 and to JW and W. G. Whistler, #01916, and G. Wm. Whistler to F. S. Haden, #06681) to no avail.

5.  Traer
James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more].

6.  Commissioners
Probably meaning the Board of Medical Practitioners.

7.  Pecksnif
A reference to the character Seth Pecksniff in Charles Dickens' novel Martin Chuzzlewit (1844). Pecksniff was a hypocritical, self-serving character who attempted to endear himself to the wealthy, elderly Martin Chuzzlewit in order to advance his fortunes.

8.  sister
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more]. JW seems to have offered to send a copy of this letter (indeed, this copy may have been sent) to Deborah Haden (see JW to D. D. Haden, #01917). However it would not have been welcomed by her as she was greatly upset by JW's assault upon her husband.

9.  Mother
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more].

10.  police office
The violent quarrel between the brothers-in-law resulted in their appearance before the local magistrate (see JW's version of the events in JW to W. Boxall, #00498).