The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 03279
Date: [1897][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Deborah Delano Haden[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Call Number: FGA Whistler 25
Credit Line: Charles Lang Freer Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Gift of the Estate of Charles Lang Freer
Document Type: ALS[3]

My poor dear Sis!

I have looked through Willies Paper[4].

What an amazing business it seems to be! & it all comes from getting hold of a thing by the other end & sitting up with it for two nights running. -

I never doubted anything! - for I never dreamed of anything to doubt! -

I had never heard this long story of "my Mother[5]" - as Willie calls her - though why she shouldn't be my Mother too - like the Grachii lady[6] - I dont know! - For Willie & I are the Grachii of today of course -

[p. 2] Now, lest the Doctor be impelled to write you another volume, proving with cruel detail that he has often told me this history, let me hasten to say that it is quite possible - & that it forthwithly went clean out of my head! -

What I said to you I thought very pretty - & that was that it occurred to me, now that I really brought my mind to bear upon the matter, that the miniature ought to be mine - but that if Willie would say that Mother had given him the picture, it should be his without a murmur -

See how simple - & how touching in its simplicity! -

I had even forgotten my unhooking the portrait from the wall of the Consulting room! - but I can quite see myself doing it - & gracefully conveying it to my pocket -

As to "subterfuge", that is merely Presidential! recalling my own ventures with the British Artists[7] - & nothing was further [p. 3] from my childish thought -

The moral of it all is that our dear Mummie was a true McNeill, - & had the right instinct - & having, very properly, determined that one of the sons ought to have his Fathers portrait[8], she, like a true McNeill, promptly gave it to the wrong one! -

However that son shall have it - It couldn't be in better keeping - When I get back to Paris, I will send the miniature to Willie -

There was some talk of my having it copied - perhaps he will have no objection to that - Voila -

Now, my dear Sis, as you complied with Willies request, & at once sent on his letter, to me, it would be but right that you should immediately let him have this note - & he may see that I make no difficulty at all - & be at his ease -

Always affectionately - et toutes mes excuses[9] for my share in your bother

[butterfly signature]

[p. 4] I am going to write to Arthur[10] - Have you any fresh suggestions to make? -

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [1897]
Dated from the sequence of correspondence between JW and D. Haden (see #13491). JW wrote it from 8 Fitzroy Street where he had a studio from 1896 to 1900.

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

3.  ALS
The paper has a deep mourning border.

4.  Willies
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more]. The 'Paper' is unidentified.

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

6.  Grachii lady
Cornelia, the highly cultivated mother of the reforming legionaries Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and Gaius Sempronius Gracchus, who devoted herself to their education in 2nd century Rome.

7.  British Artists
The Society, later the Royal Society of British Artists at Suffolk Street. JW was elected a member in 1884 and President on 1 June 1886.

8.  Fathers portrait
A miniature of George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more] (see Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1, p. 12). Since a miniature came with JW's estate to the University of Glasgow, it may be that JW did have it copied.

9.  et toutes mes excuses
Fr., and all my excuses.

10.  Arthur
Presumably Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, JW's nephew [more].