UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Transcription/Database Record

the on-line edition

System Number: 04366
Date: [22 March 1882][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Samuel Wreford Paddon[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler P4-5
Document Type: ALd[3]


If there is anything I hate in this world, my dear Paddon - it is a long dragging letter - A short crisp encounter you know I rather like but I fear I soon tire and even cruelty to an owl[4] begins to pall upon me - Besides I am afraid you rather have a little failed me as an audience - for unless your two letters are themselves capital also well executed jokes (which would be delightfull, [sic] and would score one to you for my dulness,) unless in short you can reproach me with dullness [sic] - I am obliged to suppose that you have not perceived that it has been my joy to roast the old wicked though tough old bird before you - thus joining ingeniously pleasure amusement with moral instruction - For this reason I have put him through his facings both at my table and your own - I offered him the Gerard Lee[5] case - about which you can readily inform yourself - and I turned on the Beaconsfield[6] tap in order that you might clearly know appreciatethe Angel [you] were entertaining unawares -

I am not absolutely surprised at the upshot of all this - It is not perhaps altogether sportsmanlike - but it is certainly what might be called completely Howellian - You see we [p. 2] all know him so well - Howell has run the shows of the lot of us - - You say that he does not run yours - in this we may congratulate you - but if you want to join business with the wild farce of the Pantomime in which the clown steals the clock and sits on it while it strikes, you should connect the Owl with your establishment - Meanwhile certainly Frank Miles[7] assures us that Howell had stated that you had appointed him your Executor - or were about to do so - in which case look out for larks. -

And here I might perhaps forestall a natural question - How is it, if I know our friend to be so unmitigated a rogue, I tolerate his acquaintance - even intimacy. Perhaps I am not going too far in supposing that Howell himself is hereat puzzled, and exercised - Well first I fear me in truth I must acknowledge rather a pernicious taste for low company - and I think that criminally speaking the Portugue[se] is an artist - though lately he has disappointed me in his resources - and has been dull - but beyond the fact of his having hitherto had a right to my indulgence as the best bad company going, rogue itself has become a species of title of endearment I really have chosen to remain cleave to him rather than to simply quarrel with and sulk away from like so many others - When I returned from Venice having comparatively time and money, I devoted myself with the pertinacity of the red skin to the scalping of Howell - for this reason I never left him - for the and in continuance of my plan I accompanied him to Paris - where as you put it tersely he introduced me to you - I think I would like you to notice here that had I introduced you to Howell I should really have been most culpable without excuse indeed - I never dream of presenting Howell to any one unless in the same breath I were to explain - the Owl - bird of prey - my own [prov?] as Genl. Ripley[8] used to say of Surat[9] with whom he crossed the Atlantic - and for whom he formed an affectionate toleration - Mr Suratt - private Assassin! -

I am reckless [and?] by a] may be reproached with recklessness - and I suppose I am the only one who has dared to walk down Bond St - or a portion of it - in broad day light with this entertaining scamp - I believe do you know that I like to [p. 3] shock my best friends - [and?] it is such a pleasure to be pardoned as a privilege! - Often have I been remonstrated with - and one of the best most brilliant things I ever said at [sic] I am told so, was to Berty Mitford[10] when he rebuked me for going about with Howell - My dear Whistler he said, come, you cannot brave the people any longer - Howell you know is a robber - Well my dear M - I said - so was Barrabas[11] [sic]! - [During?] When I point out to you that Mitford is the son in law of Lord Airlie[12] whose death Howell wept over in Paris, I think I give you the straight tip for some of my keen [excruciating?] most exquisite enjoyment during that visit - Possibly you remember that as a key to our relations, that when you said to me one evening at the Hotel Continental in your new born enthusiasm, What a splendid fellow is Howell - I consented in rather a [illegible] tone consented slightingly [disapointing?] yes - he is an amusing cuss - which doubtless at the time you put down to ungenerous envy -

And now though I fear we are running in to much paper let us quietly look at this last correspondence - As far as you & I go - and the rest of the clique - it would be a pity to think that there should be any arrière pensée - and therefore I will put on no gloves to tell you that you are scarcely as nice as you mean to be, judging from the genial tone of your first letter throughout, when you say to me [p. 4] [... text missing] own identification - This seems to be all you have to object to in my version * - unless you mean to infer that H alone [has?] in fancy free named "Lanes" Hughenden[13] - in which case one would wonder at his folly in writing to any body else about it what they who could not possibly understand him - Are you not my dear Paddon slightly hyper critical in refusing the hotel as a tavern though while accepting it as Hughend[en]? Is it not rather straining at my thoughtless careless little gnat and swallowing Howells camel whole - hump hoofs and all! -

I think that taken Altogether your letter is more one of kind feeling through which we have all passed than of simple logic - In this phase you aim to propose sentiment in lieu of reason - and strangely enough like Howell himself you continuously suggest ill feeling as sufficient explanation of all the difficulties in his possible justification - So you say that I have written in such a way to Mr McNay[14], as to put him in a most awkward position & to cause him to give any thing but an impartial reply - Now how in Heaven's name shall it matter! - his reply must compass the fact the H. had or had not the habit of calling Mewburn[15] Beaconsfield, and Lane's Hotel Hughenden . - no partiality can alter that - and it's avowal cannot possibly place any gentl[man] in an awkward position! -

[p. 5] By the way You think it unkind in me to drag in Mr Mewburn - who you but I fancy he would think it more unkind were he left out of the running - tho it is true as you [say] that he is not called upon to confirm any thing.

You rather take me to task for putting Howell as a guest at my table upon his trial - "when as a matter of trust his veracity should be as unimpeached as yours or mine" .... My dear P[addon]n so it should! -

[p. 6] [P. S.?] In looking over your letter again I find [...]


This document is protected by copyright.


Notes:

1.  [22 March 1882]
The final version of this letter was published in Whistler, James McNeill, Correspondence. Paddon Papers. The Owl and the Cabinet, London, [1882], Letter V, pp. 3-5 and dated 22 March 1882.

2.  Samuel Wreford Paddon
Samuel Wreford Paddon (b. 1843), diamond merchant and collector [more].

3.  ALd
For full annotation of the publication, see JW's letter to S. W. Paddon, 10 March 1882, #09519.

4.  owl
Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more].

5.  Gerard Lee
Gerard Lee, unidentified.

6.  Beaconsfield
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1882), Prime Minister of Great Britain [more]. This relates to an incident recorded by JW in Whistler, James McNeill, Correspondence. Paddon Papers. The Owl and the Cabinet, London, [1882]. It concerned Howell's rather ill-judged boast that he knew Disraeli.

7.  Frank Miles
George Francis ('Frank') Miles (1852-1894), painter [more].

8.  Genl Ripley
James Wolf Ripley (1795-1870), Brigadier General in charge of ordnance in the Union army from 1861-1863 [more].

9.  Surat
John H. Surratt (1842-1916), son of Mrs Surratt, whose Washington boarding house was the headquarters of the conspirators who assassinated President Lincoln [more].

10.  Mitford
Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford (1837-1916), Lord Redesdale (1886), diplomat, Secretary of the Office of Works, and collector [more].

11.  Barrabas
Barabbas was the condemned thief released at the Passover in place of Jesus (Matt. 27.16).

12.  Lord Airlie
David Graham Drummond Ogilvy (1826-1881), 5th Earl of Airlie [more].

13.  Hughenden
Home of Disraeli.

14.  Mr McNay
John ('Jack') Edward MacNay (1834-1893), General Manager of the Stockton and Darlington Railway [more].

15.  Mewburn
Frank F. Mewburn (b. 1820 or 1821), solicitor and collector [more].