The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 04784
Date: [11 January 1901[1]]
Author: JW
Place: Marseille
Recipient: Rosalind Birnie Philip[2]
Place: Hastings
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler P424
Document Type: ALS




Major! -

I hope the health experiment - change of air and absence! has succeeded better with you than it has with me - "up till now"!

When I tell you that our attempts at Southern skies and struggles "out into the lattitudes" have pulled us up with our nose in two or three feet of snow and the friendly acquaintance of a doctor you will see about "where we are at"! -

However my dear Major I will [p. 2] not abuse the occasion by alarming you all - and hasten to tell you that the snow has melted! and the doctor - of course distinguished - has also been most brilliant and has given me a clean bill of health! - Only there is still an odd prescription or two about - and we are not painting in white ducks in Jamaica! - Of course it is now clear that we should have made a straight line for the West Indies. - there is really nothing southern but the South! - that's it Major - and all the rest is mere sham and Bradshaw[4]! - How long we shall still be wandering I can not tell you yet - and there have been moments when we have thought of warming ourselves at once by the old desperate means of a bright fire in Paris or the stove in the studio in London! - Ronnie[5] is delightful - As I told you, I knew he would be - just the companion for my own charming, though perhaps perilously depressed self! - When I tell you that I have more than once, called him "Major", you will know, Ma'ame[6], how nice I think him!

Well then Ronnie will have told you much of our travels - he has sent you a sort of journal - Only we have been too uncertain for you, with any safety to reply - Of course you will have known, Major, instinctively, that the picturesque places much vaunted of others, only "annoyed me very much"! Tangiers was entirely too "Eastern"! - and Algiers[7] too cheap! - like that sort of stuff you see in the small booths in the rue de Sèvres - or, I think in the Avenue de l'Opéra! - As to Gibraltar - I refrain from expressing myself, fearing you may fancy that it should behoove your patriotism to be agrieved [sic]! - No - Marseilles - and I have only been allowed to peep at it today (thursday) for the first time, is worth the whole lot a thousand times over! - and what beautiful things one could do here! - but it is not warm - not warm enough for me! We must come down again Major - - Perhaps in the autumn we may come down to Arles - close by - you know the old town where are the beautiful women of France - of whom Trixie[8], it was always said, was such a perfect type! - - -

But I am - - well well! - - - -

I do hope Major that you have not been careless, or wearied with the good Doctor Boyde Johnson's[9] régime!

How long were you in Hastings? or are you still there Ma'ame?

And this reminds us that there has been a Christmas! and a New Year! - Of which we wish you all the best! and many! -

The days were absolutely blank and unmarked to us - in two stupid hotels with bad dinners! - Of course there is a consciousness of accumulated bills from which we have playfully sailed away - Don't [p. 3] send me them all Major! Open every thing - and answer as you like - Major! - your writing to the "Inez[10]" was excellent! - And now that I am recklessly admitting, at this distance! my high sense of the Ward Lady's distinguished qualities, it is clear to me that you know well I must miss you! which naturally it has been of my perversity to hide from you - And what do you think Ma'ame of the Saleron's[11] letter! - You must take it out again Major and put it side by side with the answer, which I enclose - Could you have supposed she would have been such an ass! - I am greatly pleased - for she[12] wildly enters into this correspondence - and so permits me my very prettiest manners! - while it is absolutely incumbent upon me to answer! - What a beautiful occasion! - and as I said to Ratier[13], in sending him a copy, how completely she has given away not only herself, but the situation! It is a perfect revelation! - for it is now clear that she must be without either lawyer or adviser of any kind! - acting only upon impulse, anger and a sort of bewilderment at things having panned out exactly as she had meant! and so she comes and makes her little advances to me!! - and spreads out her carpets and ambles through her tactics - which are of the simple nature we know elsewhere - and "gets alongside and gives me beans!". - . . And - well I don't think I have forgotten any thing in my sweet reply - - do you Major?! - I think, Ma'ame, you must like the "amiable & distinguished neighbour"- .! .- and you see Major, we have at least the "terrible instrument, étrange and archaïque" ..!... Really nice it was now that we did return it at the time! - Well write me a long letter, telling me what you think of it and also all the rest about things - Of course I have much more to say - for I am greatly troubled about all the pictures - Vanderbilt's[14] - Farquhars[15] (I had a letter from him the day I left from Chicago! which I have determinately refused to open! that I may not have come these hundreds if miles for rest, uselessly!)

However these things must be gone into some time or other - and it is not my way to put them off - Still I have determined to do all I can for my new health first[16]!

Well there are other things - And as to work on the voyage and out here there has been none!! You wouldn't believe it - Perhaps it will be all[17] the better when it is done - What do you say Major.

Of course you must send on the Saleron letter to Bunnie[18] and she has seen the first - Tell her how pleased I was to get her note - and I shall write -

There is rather a big sea just now going on round about us - so we will probably stay here a while - This ought to reach you by Saturday - & you might send a rapid summary of things by Sunday's post - to this address - Further on we propose to go to Corsica!! and stay possibly to complete the "rest" -

Ronnie will be writing to you all again directly - and so with much affection Major, and best messages to you Ma'ame, & to the House of Dhu![19]

the General -

This document is protected by copyright.


'Jan. 11. 1901.'[20]

Miss Major Birnie-Philip.
36. Tite Street.
London -
Angleterre -
'Margam House[21]
1 White Rock

[postmark:] MARSEILLE / GARE / 4E 11 / JAN / 01
[postmark:] CHELSEA. S. W. / 9.30 PM / 12 JA / 01
[postmark on verso:] HASTINGS / STATION OFFICE / 6 AM / JA 14 / 01



1.  11 January 1901
Dated by postmark.

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

JW was taken ill at Marseilles and went on to Corsica when he recovered. The letter is written at right angles to the printed heading.

4.  Bradshaw
The essential book of timetables for railways etc.

5.  Ronnie
Ronald Murray Philip (1871-1940), civil engineer, JW's brother-in-law [more].

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

7.  Algiers
Whistler filled a sketchbook with drawings of Algiers: see At Sea (M.1642), Sketchbook (M.1643), Steps in Algiers (M.1644), Scene in the market, Algiers (M.1645), Scene in the Market, Algiers (M.1646), Shops (Algiers) (M.1647), A street in Algiers (M.1648), The Traders (M.1649), Shop, Algiers (M.1650), The Café - Algiers (M.1651) and Street, Algiers (M.1652).

8.  Trixie
Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more].

9.  Doctor Boyde Johnson's
Dr William Boyter-Johnson (b. ca 1853), JW's doctor in London [more].

10.  Inez
Inez Eleanor Addams (fl. 1898-1927), née Bate, painter [more]. She was in charge of the Académie Carmen during JW's absence.

11.  Saleron's
Mme Saleron, JW's neighbour at 110 rue du Bac [more]. JW had been trying to stop her beating her carpets into his garden; see his reply, #05366.

12.  she
Double underlined.

13.  Ratier
Antoine ('Antony') Ratier (b. 1851), lawyer and politician [more].

14.  Vanderbilt's
George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914), collector [more].

15.  Farquhars
William Richman Farquhar (m. 1897), husband of Marion Farquhar [more]. His wife's portrait, Portrait of Miss Marion Peck (YMSM 439), was never completed.

16.  first
Triple underlined.

17.  be all
'be all ... I shall write' was written in the left margin of p. 1; 'There is ... complete the rest" - ' in the margin of p. 2 at top left, and 'Ronnie will ... The General' at bottom left.

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

19.  House of Dhu!
Dhu House had been the home of the Birnie Philips in Chelsea.

20.  'Jan. 11. 1901.'
Written later by R. Birnie Philip.

21.  Margam House
The forwarding address was written by another hand.