The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 04683
Date: [24 November 1896][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Rosalind Birnie Philip[2]
Place: Paris
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler P323
Document Type: ALS



Sunday - in black fog[5] - at Heinemanns[6]

Your little note to Mrs. Morgan[7], my dear Major, was very pretty - you always do these things very well - and of course I am pleased - But this shaking of carpets is monstrous & intolerable -

Still I fancy that with your nice tact you might manage the Morgans, Major, and the sooner the better before the Saleron[8] has ingratiated herself - and misrepresented matters -

Don't you think you might call? - and say in a friendly way that you are sure Mrs. Morgan cannot [p. 2] know what her servants are making it a habit of doing - and indeed I daresay she really does know nothing about it -

Tell her of the abominable conduct of the Saleron - and say that we were so pleased to know that they were coming into the house - as we are sure that such charming friends would feel with ourselves in all neighbourly matters - Say that I send my compliments to them and my thanks beforehand - Also you might mention that I shall be coming to Paris soon - and that I rely upon them being at the new trial - -

As to the Saleron, you had better see Messrs. Bodington & Alexander[9].

This is the letter to Walter Sickert[10] - with his card, sent back, enclosed - :

"I fear I really dare not Walter! - and doubtless I shall miss you. -

Benedict Arnold[11], they say, also was a pleasant desperate fellow - and our old friend[12] of the "30 pieces", irresistable! - . . I fancy you will have done it cheaper though poor chap! -

Yet be careful - Remember! And take nothing from the Baronet[13] in an envelope!

Adieu!" -

Not a word further from Walter -

[p. 3] Next move: The New English Art Club[14] have invited Sir William Eden to exhibit with them, and have hung his "work" in their Gallery. -

On the Committees - ("executive" - "selecting" - & c) Walter Sickert - Prof. Fred. Brown[15] - (who made little pilgrimages to the Rue du Bac) -

Mr Wilson Steer[16] - Mr Will Rothenstein[17], and others - -

I walked into the Chelsea Art Club[18] alone on the Monday night! - to see, as I said,

[p. 4] These gentlemen in the first throes of digestion with the "toad in their belly[19]["]! ha! ha!! -

[sketch of JW[20]]

The [Councils?] themselves were absent though Monday is the great night always - probably with the henchman over the Baronet's wine & cigars - but there was an excellent little group of members left - and the absolute stupefaction produced by my visit will remain with the Club for ages! and the "toad in the belly" is planted there forever.

The next day at lunch, I am told, [p. 5] the place was full, and the miserable Mr. Steer was asked across the table "How about that toad in the belly?" !

You can fancy the mystification first, and terror afterwards! - For though the dish be a National one, and Toad in itself respectable, still the Briton, at the moment gorged with it, is held by his brethren whose bellies are accidentally empty, to be an object for safe and legitimate torture and horseplay - almost scornful!

Funny isn't it! -

So you see Major that in a way some comparatively pleasant moments have been granted me - & I honestly believe I have not altogether misemployed them -

This - which as you see has been much interrupted through these continued black days - must go now - A most incomplete account of the Whistler raid upon Chelsea! and the mopping up of the pavement with his few fine English friends still lingering on all so loyally! - quels types[21]!

More in our next - and there is lots to come - also the correspondence with the Portrait Painters[22]!!

Love to you both - and send the report on to Bunnie[23] meanwhile for she asks about Walter Sickert -

What[24] shall I think Major if the official envelopes [contained?] outside letters with never a word to

the General

This document is protected by copyright.



'Nov. 24th 1896'

Mademoiselle Birnie-Philip
aux soins de
Monsieur McNeill Whistler
110. Rue du Bac - .
[stamp:] POSTAGE AND REVENUE / 2½d
[postmark:] BEDFORD ST. / (S.O) WC / 5 / NO 24 / 96


1.  [24 November 1896]
Dated from the postmark. The recipient also wrote the date on the envelope later.

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

3.  (1.)
Written in this form by JW, in the top right corner.

The embossed yellow letterhead on pp. 1 and 4 is that of William Heinemann (1863-1920), publisher [more].

5.  black fog
Double underlined.

6.  Heinemanns
William Heinemann (1863-1920), publisher [more].

7.  Mrs. Morgan
Mrs Morgan, neighbour of JW at 110 rue du Bac.

8.  Saleron
Mme Saleron, JW's neighbour at 110 rue du Bac [more]. Her carpet beating was a frequent cause of aggravation.

9.  Messrs. Bodington & Alexander
Oliver Eaton Bodington (1859-after 1936), barrister and author [more] and possibly Henry Addison Alexander, notary and advocate [more].

10.  Walter Sickert
Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), artist and writer on art [more]. The letter quoted is #05445.

11.  Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold (1741-1801), who fought for both sides in the American War of Independence [more]. See #05445.

12.  friend
Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Mark 14.43-6).

13.  Baronet
Sir William Eden (1849-1915), painter and collector [more]. He had paid JW what the latter considered an inadequate sum for Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408). He had put the money, as JW said, in an envelope.

14.  New English Art Club
JW sent work to the first exhibition of the NEAC, but had no real role in its establishment or government. Sickert and Steer were among the leading members.

15.  Fred. Brown
Frederick Brown (1851-1941), landscape painter [more].

16.  Wilson Steer
Philip Wilson Steer (1860-1942), painter [more].

17.  Will Rothenstein
William Rothenstein (1872-1945), artist [more].

18.  Chelsea Art Club
A long established and still popular club for Artists and those interested in Art, of which JW was still a member.

19.  toad in their belly
A pun on 'toad in the hole', a traditional English dish with sausages cooked in batter. Eden is apparently thought of as the 'toad' absorbed into the 'batter' of the Chelsea Art Club.

20.  sketch of JW
Whistler raiding the Chelsea Arts Club (M.1482).

21.  quels types
Fr., what types.

22.  Portrait Painters
The Society of Portrait Painters; see the letter from A. J. S. Wortley to JW, 10 November 1896, about their objection to JW's catalogue entry for Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408), which targetted William Eden, #07135.

23.  Bunnie
Ethel Whibley (1861-1920), née Philip, JW's sister-in-law [more].

24.  What
Written diagonally in the left margin.