The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 03549
Date: 11 July 1889
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Messrs Upton and Britton[1]
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler LB 7/84-87/1
Document Type: MsLc[2]

Messrs. Upton & Briton [sic]
51 Lincoln's Inn Fields

Gentlemen -

I have to apologise to you for not answering your letter before - In the matter of the business transaction with your client, Sir Henry Meux[3], the amenities customary in correspondence would I fear savour of sarcasm. I recall the methods of that cheery sportsman, and acknowledge that in the way of wiliness he certainly scored. You are doubtless also not without remembering he he [sic] withdrew to the banks of the, I really believe Nnarrow, Nile and from the top of a distant Pyramid haggled in safety over the cheque to be payed me for my work!

Acting upon your own kind and disinterested advice I accepted as pis aller[4] the offer - and thought myself lucky in receiving 400 guineas apiece for the pictures[5] instead of the 500 that was completely understood.

Not caring to go to law as I ought to have done - and this again is a lesson to the gentle in spirit - I took the twelve hundred instead of the fifteen I should have had for the three paintings and acknowledged [p. 2] the wisdom of him who said autres gens autres moeurs[6]. My loss at the moment was 300 guineas counted upon de bonne foi[7].

Sir Henry's cunning argument at the time I remember was based upon beer - which wholesale is cheaper than in the glass - wherefore three full length portraits should be less in sum that [sic] one by itself

Of these three fine pictures, two were completed before the Flight into Egypt, and are in the possession of Sir Henry Meux. They have been exhibited with the recognition that is now history and are finally and fatally consigned to the reckless care of the merry baronet and his joyous companions - risking the post prandial pot shot, I suppose during the shooting season daily!

The third portrait I have done my best to finish but the whims and uncertainties of the lady made it impossible - Without wearying you with many details let me refer you to the last interchange of telegrams:

To "Whistler[8],
454, Fulham Road, July. 29. '86
Can Alice come this morning - you [p. 3] cannot have the dress after this week as it will be made into a cloak - reply paid. Lady Meux[9]"

To "Lady Meux[10],
41, Park Lane, July 29. 1886.
Just received telegram being absent yesterday waited for your picture three weeks running absolutely impossible now must leave town cannot struggle with melting maids in altered furs ridiculous prefer to pay back money though as always charming will paint you to quite a new portrait new arrangement if you promise to stand for it yourself - Whistler"

To this generous proposal of mine no attention was vouchsafed!

Here I would have you mark that indifference and neglect in this business were initiated and habitually practised by your clients, who are apparently surprised that after two or three years silence I should not still be waiting their pleasure, and be able and ready to place myself at any moment and forever at their disposal.

However I am willing to terminate this [p. 4] matter à l'amiable[11] - but as Sir Henry Meux seems to think it would make a good fight, and as I am no match for his astuteness, I had better refer him to George Lewis[12] the great and good, out whose sense of justice outstrips even his knowledge of Law

And, I am, Gentlemen
Very faithfully yours

(signed) J. McNeill Whistler

The Tower House,
28, Tite Street,

July 11, 1889.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Messrs Upton and Briton

2.  MsLc
Copy in the hand of Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870-1935), engineer, son of JW and Louisa Fanny Hanson [more]. There are two other drafts, #05898 and #05899.

3.  Sir Henry Meux
Sir Henry Bruce Meux (1857-1900), 3rd Baronet, brewer and patron [more].

4.  pis aller
Fr., a last resort.

5.  the pictures
Arrangement in Black: Lady Meux (YMSM 228), Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux (YMSM 229) and Portrait of Lady Meux in Furs (YMSM 230).

6.  autres gens autres moeurs
Fr., other people, other ways.

7.  de bonne foi
Fr., in good faith.

8.  To Whistler

9.  Lady Meux
Lady Valerie Susan ('Susie') Meux (1847-1910), née Langdon, collector and patroness [more].

10.  To Lady Meux

11.  à l'amiable
Fr., literally 'private sale'; settle out of court, a private agreement.

12.  George Lewis
Sir George Henry Lewis (1833-1911), society lawyer [more].