The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 05208
Date: 19 February [1888][1]
Author: James Rennell Rodd[2]
Place: Berlin
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler R108
Document Type: ALS

[embossed crest of lion and unicorn]


Feb. 19.

If I had my way, my dear Maestro, you should long since have given us the picture of the 'iron man'[3] in a less perishable material, but your assumption that I am responsible for all these things, is perhaps the only mistake I have ever known you make. However, passons[4]! I shall send to Munich tonight the joyful tidings of [p. 2] your note[5] and commend to my Colleague Henry Cadogan[6] the important charge of your interests, for I may be before long in the shadow of the Parthenon[7] or sea[r]ching for the postern gate which communicates more directly with the Harem, on the banks of the Bosphoros. H. C. is at Munich and will do you the honours worthily if you get there, meanwhile I will excite the national [p. 3] enthusiasm by the medium of the Reichspost.

I dont think you would quite have appreciated the somewhat barbaric habits of Friedrichsruhe[8], nor find Berlin very congenial.

"Berlin ist[9] dumm   Berlin ist blind,
Wird täglich abgeschmächter,"

to trifle slightly with the poet[10]. But Munich has a lighter and a less Boeotian[11] air.

Now as to the translation I should like to help that though could [p. 4] you send me a copy of the 10 o clock[12] as soon as may be. and I'll consult. I have myself a new book in the press, chiefly translations of Heine[13] but a few things of my own too.

Perhaps before many weeks I shall see you at the Beefsteak[14], or at Paris whither I meditate a week in April.



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1.  19 February [1888]
Year date from reference to Munich and J. R. Rodd to JW, #05207.

2.  James Rennell Rodd
James Rennell Rodd (1858-1941), 1st Baron Rennell, poet and diplomat [more]. Rodd was then third secretary at the British Embassy in Berlin.

3.  'iron man'
The point of this reference is unclear. It may refer to Otto Eduard Leopold, Fϋrst von Bismarck (1815-1898), Prime Minister of Prussia [more], the 'Iron Chancellor.' In a letter dated 12 January, Rodd wrote urging JW to visit, telling him that William Blake Richmond (1842-1921), portrait painter and sculptor [more] had recently painted Bismarck and JW could do likewise. See J. R. Rodd to JW, #05207.

4.  passons
Fr., 'Let's move on'.

5.  your note
Letter untraced. In the letter, JW probably told Rodd of his intention to send his works to the 3rd Internationale Kunst-Austellung, Munich, 1888 which opened in July. JW sent a large group of works - thirteen oils, twenty watercolours, seven pastels and thirty etchings. Amongst the oils was Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (YMSM 242). He was awarded a second-class medal by the exhibition committee.

6.  Henry Cadogan
George Henry Cadogan (1840-1915), 5th Earl of Cadogan, politician and diplomat [more].

7.  shadow of the Parthenon
Rodd was about to be transferred to Athens on a three year posting.

8.  Friedrichsruhe
The 'peace', or 'rule,' of Friedrich. Rodd wrote a biography of Frederick, Crown Prince and Emperor (1888) which caused great offence in imperial circles at Berlin (see entry in DNB). See also Rodd's earlier letter to JW (#05207) in which he advised JW to send his works to Munich rather than Berlin.

9.  Berlin ist ... abgeschmächter
Ger., Berlin is stupid, Berlin is blind, develops worse taste every day.

10.  the poet

11.  Boeotian
Meaning dull or stupid.

12.  10 o clock
The 'Ten O'Clock Lecture' was JW's chief public statement of his aesthetic ideas. JW first delivered the lecture in London on 20 February 1885. It would be published by Chatto & Windus on 11 May 1888. See Whistler, James McNeill, Mr. Whistler's 'Ten O'clock', London, 1888.

13.  Heine
Christian Johann Heinrich Heine (1799-1856), poet [more].

14.  Beefsteak
A London dining club of which JW and Rodd were members.