The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 02240
Date: [19 December 1867][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Louis Huth[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler H336
Document Type: ALd

No. 1[3]

My dear Mr Huth - -

The Burlington Club[4] called a general meeting on Frid[a]y D. 13 - for the purpose of considering the inexped[ienc]y of my remaining a member - because of certain charges[5] brought to their notice by Mr S. Haden[6] Com[m]encing with one in wh. he himself was the aggrieved aggrieved party and bar fortified by several others wh. he had collected from various sources - In spite of various appeals made to me to justify myself, I felt so strongly as I in common with several friends I had done from the first that the club was altogether matter was one with wh. the club was in no ways authorized to meddle, to (in this we were perhaps mistaken but cannot even now think so), that I declined point blank to entertain the charges at all, unless some expression of regret was first offered by the Committee for the affront of such informal and summary proceedings -

[p. 2] * The result as you know was my expulsion[7], but I am happy to know that this has not altered the good opinion of my friends, * and especially to find that you as my seconder at ellection express yourself willing anxious to receive what I am most pleased to offer - an a full explanation of my conduct -

This I do in as few words as possible and could only wish that I had before me the Com. collected table of charges - in order that I might answer each particular - This however I believe I shall do in the main -

No. 1. Assault upon a person in charge of a building in Paris - This whi. occured [sic] 3 yrs ago - was a case in wh. I was roughly pushed from the pavement by a mason for such was the person, in charge of repairs [p. 3] with the insolence familliar [sic] to every one in the smallest Parisian official - In the heat of the moment I instantly punished him - and he afterwards the magistrates on the voluntary evidence of respectable shopkeepers in the street, of passersby and even of a fellow workman, found that practically expressed in sympathy on my side by saying that as the man's cap had been lost, I might if I pleased give ten francs in consideration of that fact, - which were handed by him to the mason accompanied with severe reprimand for brutal rudeness - Using the words Il faut etre poli![8] et vous ne saurez jamais trop l'etre. The absurd misrepresent[at]ion here will be obvious, and is willfull [sic] on the part of the accuser, inasmuch as the source from wh. he had the [p. 4] story was myself, in an unguarded moment at his own table!!! -

Little dreaming that my brother in law was mtaking notes on this and the other matters wh. I shall ment follow for future occasion of private revenge[.] He will remember the lightness with with [sic] it was told and the annecdotes [sic] it elicited from him of former prowess on his own part!! -

No. 2 - Assault on a passenger on Steamer[9] - This passenger was simply a Niggro [sic] among many several forced upon our company on board who The degree to wh. he offended my prejudice as a Southerner who for the first time found negros at the table led finally to our coming into collision -

His afterwards rushing out with a drawn sword led to the Captain's courtiously [sic] for safetys sake to remain in my cabin, wh. I at once acceeded [sic] to

[p. 5][10] (No. 2.)

In this affair the good opinion of the Military and Naval Officers and Gentlm on board was heartily with me, and my Cabin filled with them expressing openly that the black scoundrel deserved his kicking - The Capt - himself calling and smoothing pleasantly all matters and that with a view to my comfort sending full permission to smoke in my cabin quite an unusual courtesy on shipboard - This storey [sic] also was the bitter fruit of pleasant but imprudent after dinner talk at my brother [in] law's fatal table! - Thus too he was enabled to to open a correspondence with Capt. Wake[11] whose case follows - No. 3. Assault on Capt W. - This is in no ways the heroic Wake of the famous Bulldog - [p. 6] nor was he, as appeared to be the impression on Friday night the Capt of the [Star?] Mail steamer - He was the Mail Agent only, and had no right whatever of interference on board - His sole powers were confined to the demanding [of] a boat in which to carry back and forth bags supposed to contain letters when stopping at any port - The

The morning after the Negro be affair was Sunday and we were to [enter?] reach Southampton that afternoon - Capt. Wake in full uniform came to my cabin - I received with cold politene politeness, imagining that he came to apologize for insulting me expressions used language used towards me on the previous day by him alone amongst those on board he being a strong abolitionist - I had refused to notice this at the time as I told him because of the difference in our ages - Judge then [p. 7] of his conduct - After preluding He served me with[12] a long and impertinent sermon upon in wh. God Almighty in which Providence and the Negro race played equal parts - the whole thing being of a sabath [sic] baptist meeting tone - After listening patiently at his request to it all, I said this is all very well but not the not to the purpose - I supposed that you came to apologize for and restraint your insulting ungentlemanly tone language to me yesterday - Hereupon my preacher changed his style - and forgetful of peaceful intentions mission purposes loudly proclaimed that it was perfectly true that he had insulted me and hd done so int deliberately and wished it to be understood that he then did so again - Moreover that nothing but cowardice on my part would have prevented me before or could [p. 8] now prevent me from resenting it - and upon my again, even then, asserting that I must not strike an old man he called out That is nonsense and if you were not an a a coward you would strike me now! - Whereupon unable to stand these repeated outrages I slapped his face with my left hand, my right being utterly maimed and disabled since the day before having I being forced to wear it in a sling, a fact patent throughout the whole saloon, and which probably brought the valliant [sic] Capt, to the charge - He thereupon rushed at upon me and breaking beating down easily my disabled arm struck me a violent blow in the eye with what must have been a ring on his finger - The Marine on guard immediately sprang in and tore him off - when two gentlemen who

[p. 9][13] (No. 3.)

liquor cut - This amounts merely to a case of universal conviviality returning to England - on which occasion myself and another friend some of us I c had I confess possibly a little exceeded - And The Captain with kindest intentions sent word to the bar that we two had better be suplied served with no more liquor wine that night - Which embargo he took off in the morning and of course never renewed - He himself treated the matter lightly and receiving us with the same cordiallity as ever -

* were present at the whole affair came up to express their loud indignation at this foolish and outrageous conduct! - This [p. 10] indignation and ang disgust was so thoroughly participated in by the Officers and Gentleman [sic] on board that they showed [it] openly at the dinner table - And Dr Crosbie[14] a naval officer returning from Jamaica went to the Capt of the ship and stated distinctly that Capt Wake had by his proceedings disgraced the cloth he wore! - . I was by them all strongly begged to carry the matter before the American authorities thro' the American Consul that Capt. W - might be punished and removed - For this purpose Major Smith[15] of the Peruvian Artillery one of the Gentlemen p who were eyewitnesses accompanied me to the Consulate at Southampton, and the other gave me a written statement of wh I enclose a copy - enclose, begging that you will kindly keep it for me till I see you, and of course should you feel it advisable to do so - still possess - - Again this story was one of [p. 11] the passing [solaces?] of our joint leasure [sic] of over my brother in laws dangerous wine and walnuts! -

In conclusion I refer to the passing charge that my liquor was stopped by the Capt -

* No. 4. Assault upon Capt. Doty[16] with betrayal seduction[17] etc - also ejection from a club at Valparaiso -

This affair is beneath all contempt and you may even recollect that a comment of the kind was immediately made by members new to the question who were present at the meeting on friday night - Where it was openly stated with sudden indignation that all anyone could see that that was not the a letter written by a Gentleman -

To the Gentlemen in Valparaiso, such as Admiral Tucker[18] and his staff, Captain McCorkle[19][,] Captain Butt[20], Capt. Hunter Davidson[21] and [p. 12] Capt Edenborough[22] he became by his conduct and his charges against me, an object of scorn and derision! - And they one and all withdrew all regard their society intercourse from[23] him, that they might more strongly show their friendship for me -

Moreover all his charges of seduction wh. I was at first disposed to meet seriously with full satisfaction such as is usual among a society of officers, - because from[24] which position however he hurriedly retreated and the whole thing became too ridiculous for any treatment but after dinner banter - First however Doty publicly begged to withdraw all his allegations against me - wh. were as[25]

[p. 13][26] (No. 4)

numerous and hetergenous [sic] as the many people among whom he has gobbled -

They had been heard equally in Valparaiso in the privatecy of a sollicited [sic] interview with an Officer in high position for alleged purpose of seeking his aid as "seccond" [sic], and again much more recently by perfect strangers in maudlin outporings [sic] at the casual table of a London Music hall - In short Doty is known to every one only as a liar and a humbug and as such I hand leave him to Mr Haden for what he can make of him - I cannot but ask in conclusion whether any one can wonder after the proofs I bring [p. 14] of his worth that the astounding impudence he displayed in speaking to me on my arrival in London should have been met as it was by a sudden outburst of passion[.] I beat him then and there - so far his statement is correct, the other he for details are culled from his ordinary conversation over the bottle - In dismissing the matter I may say that his the ejection from a Club in Valparaiso is a lie only differing from the others in that I believe it is a new one. -

No. 5. Assault on Mr Legros[27] -

This is a simple matter of provocation and I must be can only trust to the probability of your own sense in such [p. 15] a matter coinciding with mine, when I add that what I did followed immediately on the words "Ce n'est pas vrai[28]!" addr insultingly addressed to me regarding a statement I had just made - Mr Legros seems to forget in his further details when he says that he was kept to his room for 4 or 5 days that he appeared showed him the same evening at a house of some friends where he even thought himself able proper to be seen by the ladies of the familly [sic] - I shall leave you to judge whether it be the "right thing" for him to furnish offer his wounds griefs together with his doctor's diagnosis to the club months afterwards as a means of [rever?] satisfaction -

[p. 16] No. 6. Assault upon Mr H. in a Café in Paris - I must remind again to my humilliation [sic] that Mr H - is my brother in law - and that the final quarrel between us in Paris brought to a conclusion years of insufferable insolence[29] and cowardly insult endured at his hands as he knows well for familly peace and because of contained in and thro' family intercession - Having said this the club must at last perceive how utterly out of their province is Mr H.s vengeance! On the occasion in Paris already deeply grieved by the coarse and brutal way he spoke of a dear friend[30] just dead I was at last spurred roused beyond endurance by the insults he chose to address to myself - I struck him and beat him chastise - [beaten?] and he knows

[p. 17][31] (No. 5)

well that the issue of the conflict was quite different from what he represents - but into this I care not to enter as it is no part of my present undertaking - stopping only to denounce as utterly false What it appears he has said but did not venture to bring forward at the meeting concer relative namely the calumny that my brother who was present and after tried to seperate [sic] us had lent his aid to me - This was confuted by a gentleman at on the spot and afterwards when before the magistrates Mr H after making a half attempt at asserting it was compelled to say finally "Je n'[oserai] pas dire celà[32],"

[p. 18] My brothers career[33] in Genl. Lee's[34] army was is a sufficient answer to any slanders of this order, if indeed they needed any refuting -

This then is the nucleu real sum total of the mass of offence wh. Mr H. would have brought to bear dishonorably upon me - gather as I hasten for [care conr?] at his own table, I sat & ferrettings disgraceful in any sort disgraceful

I may add in ending that we my brother & I were simply discharged when the case came before the authorities and that finally when the magis. said as we were leaving the office Gentlemen - Seulement mes[sieurs][35] je vous previens [p. 19] ceci est une mauv[aise] note contre vous, and I objected to this as at variance with his having himself dismissed the charge - he added with a bow and the explanation, Ah une c'est[36] à dire une mauvaise note pour tous les trois -

I leave it to you *, to with thanks before hand for the friendly patience it must have needed to reach this point in my letter -



* whether upon such grounds as these the attempt to the club should have ass lent it's aid to Mr H - my brother in law's vengeance, even if in an official [p. 20] sense it could properly have been made the channel for such a purpose -

* gathered as I have shown from careless conversation at his own table, and thro' subsequent means, praiseworthy perhaps in Bow Street - —

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [19 December 1867]
The date is given by Huth in his reply of 25 December, #02241. The text is similar to that of JW's letter to W. Boxall, 24 December 1867 (#00498). The final version has not been located.

2.  Louis Huth
Louis Huth (1821-1905), collector [more].

3.  No. 1
JW's numbering at the top of each new sheet of paper (folded into four pages) is intended as a guide to which of the six cases is being detailed, supplementing the numbered heading he gives at the start of each case.

4.  Burlington Club
The Burlington Fine Arts Club, a club for artists and connoiseurs.

5.  charges
In April 1867, JW quarrelled with Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], over Haden's treatment of James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more]. Traer died on a trip to Paris, allegedly after visiting a brothel. Haden arranged for Traer's burial, with what JW and his brother William regarded as unseemly haste. Haden later claimed that in the resulting confrontation, JW had pushed him through a plate glass window. Both JW and Haden were members of the Burlington Club and in the aftermath of the Traer affair, Haden campaigned for JW to be excluded, having brought to the club's attention several alleged previous incidents of assault involving JW. He was asked to resign on the threat of expulsion in June 1867 (see R. N. Wornum to JW, #10442). Despite his protests, he was expelled on 13 December (see note below). However, on 16 December, determined to carry on his defence, he declared his intention to draw up 'an explanation and refutation of the charges brought against me [...] which I shall give to Boxall and Huth - that they may hand it in to the Committee' (JW to W. M. Rossetti, #09390). This letter was the result (see also JW to W. Boxall, #00498). Huth was on the committee of the Club. He had also been one of JW's proposers when JW joined the Club on 22 February 1867. Huth seems to have responded favourably; JW later told Henry Edenborough (see note below) that Huth viewed 'those documents a telling of the truth' (see H. Edenborough to JW, #01043).

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

7.  expulsion
JW, aggrieved with the summary way in which he felt the Club had treated him, refused to entertain the charges against him. He claimed (as this letter shows) that the Club had no right to interfere in a private matter. The Club moved to expel him at a Special General Meeting on 13 December 1867 (see circular to members, #00445).

8.  Il faut ...
Fr., You must be polite! and you can never be too much so.

9.  Steamer

10.  [p. 5]
JW has numbered this sheet '(No. 2.)'.

11.  Capt. Wake
Captain Baldwin Arden Wake (1813-1880), officer in the Royal Navy [more].

12.  with
This deleted word is reinstated by means of a dotted underline.

13.  [p. 9]
The first paragraph on this page appears out of sequence to the incidents being told by JW so far, and has a large 'X' placed through it. The story continues from p. 8 in the second paragraph on p. 9. JW has numbered this sheet '(No. 3.)'.

14.  Dr Crosbie
Dr Alexander Crosbie, assistant naval surgeon [more].

15.  Major Smith
Major Smith, officer in the Peruvian Artillery.

16.  Capt. Doty
Captain Horace H. Doty (b. 1824 or 1825), officer of marines, specialist in signal lights and lighthouse illumination [more].

17.  betrayal seduction
Regarding Astive Doty (b. 1840 or 1841), née Froidure, wife of H. H. Doty [more]. These two deleted words have been reinstated by means of a dotted underline.

18.  Admiral Tucker
Rear-Admiral John Randolph Tucker (1812-1883), naval commander [more].

19.  Captain McCorkle
Captain David Porter McCorkle (b. 1822/1824), staff officer to Admiral Tucker, Peruvian Navy [more].

20.  Captain Butt
Commander Walter Raleigh Butt (1830/1839-1885), staff officer to Admiral Tucker, Peruvian Navy [more].

21.  Capt. Hunter Davidson
Captain Hunter Davidson (1827-1913), Senate of the General Assembly of Maryland [more].

22.  Capt Edenborough
Henry B. Edenborough (b. 1840?), Captain of Corvette, Peruvian Navy [more].

23.  from
This deleted word is reinstated by means of a dotted underline.

24.  from
This deleted word is reinstated by means of a dotted underline.

25.  allegations against me - wh. were as
Written in right margin of page 12.

26.  [p. 13]
JW has numbered this sheet '(No. 4)'.

27.  Mr Legros
Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), painter, etcher and art teacher [more].

28.  Ce n'est pas vrai
Fr., That is not true.

29.  insolence

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

31.  [p. 17]
JW has numbered this sheet '(No. 5).'

32.  Je n'[oserai] pas dire cela;
Fr., I shall not venture to say that.

33.  brothers career
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

34.  Genl. Lee's
General Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870), Superintendant of USMA, West Point, and later Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate States of America [more].

35.  seulement mes[sieurs] ... vous
Fr., Only gentlemen I advise you that this is a bad mark for you.

36.  c'est ... trois
Fr., That is to say, a bad mark for all three.