The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 04676
Date: [27 September 1896][1]
Author: JW
Place: Dieppe
Recipient: Rosalind Birnie Philip[2]
Place: Paris
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler P316
Document Type: ALS[3]

[crest with ship, supported by mermaids:]


LE    18

'Sept. 27. 96.'

What do you think of this my dear Major - for a mild retreat! Of course it is my fate if ever I say to myself that I shall now save the saxpence [sic] I never have sufficiently nipped, forthwithly I proceed serenely up the hall of the most expensive hotel in whatever place I may find myself! -

No use Major - born so I suppose -

At this moment, if you believe me, they are handing round strawberries in a large dish at [p. 2] the dinner! - I am writing you this charming letter at a very smart little table in a nice corner of this very chill salle à manger, and just by the head of the long table d'hôte -

So I find myself almost among the gathered Britons who have formed a sort of clan camp at the top - A choice lot - in the way of hair and long hearty 'bay teeth'. - We will say nothing of the men - who of course have very little hair at all - and whose round pink scalps quite glisten - while high up and cutting way into their healthy ears are the broad hard enammled [sic] collars that leave three inches proud space between them and their smoking jackets - All this grande tenue[4] long after all season - but solemnly sported as a proof of superior custom! - Naturally they are all loudly talking as is their simple wont of the most intimate family matters and personal impressions - Hello! a scene! -

Yes - and here you must imagine an interlude - I am interrupted - and the whole room has risen. - One of the British Matrons has fallen clean off her chair on to the floor! The poor woman fainted I believe - But the wonderful thing was that none of the group seemed to know what to do - and while the men were all hesitating and looking shy, a tall and very beautiful and very black Frenchman - who goes about with a very Vie Parisienne[5] kind of a lady - his wife of course - calmly strode across the room, seized the long prone figure round the waist and abruptly put her on her feet again! - The wits of every one came back to them at once - and you should have seen the glass of brandy and water they immediately urged upon the invalide[6] [sic]! - The sort of stiff thing the captain of a Channel Steamer gives the pilot! - Well they walked her out - and I do not exaggerate - since then more [p. 3] brandy and water has been continually on the go through the door at my back! - Another event! - Here is the storm again! With a wild rush the rain in torrents and the wind great guns! - What are we to do! Constant[7] & I! -

Well this must go - Dieppe is a lovely place - Wish I had come here before - But I do not know that I shall get nothing out of it I am afraid - for many reasons - and I ought to get off - but I must stay until the crossing is possible -

If Perhaps you had better post me tomorrow, registered, a hundred franc note - If I dont need it, I shall send it back -

Give my love to your Mother[8]

Always affectionately my dear Major,

the General -

Sunday night

This document is protected by copyright.



'Sept 27 1896'

Mademoiselle Birnie Philip.
aux soins de
Monsieur Whistler
110. Rue du Bac
[postmark:] DIEPPE A ROUEN / 3C¦ 27 / SEPT / 96


1.  [27 September 1896]
The postmark confirms the date added later by the recipient on the letter and envelope.

2.  Rosalind Birnie Philip
Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), JW's sister-in-law [more]. JW called her the 'Major' and himself the 'General'.

3.  ALS
Written in pencil.

4.  grande tenue
Fr., grand turn-out/costume.

5.  Vie Parisienne
Fr., literally, 'Parisian life', but also the title of a famous opera by Offenbach.

6.  invalide
Fr., invalid.

7.  Constant
T. C. J. Constant, JW's servant and valet [more].

8.  Mother
Frances Philip (1824-1917), née Black, JW's mother-in-law [more].