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

the on-line edition

System Number: 05243
Date: 24 April [1867][1]
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti[2]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler R139
Document Type: ALS

16 Cheyne Walk

24 April

My dear Whistler

At the risk of my handwriting being cast at once into the sacrificial flames[3] by which you feel yourself surrounded, I must write a word or two further in explanation -

I was led to understand distinctly that I received from yourself a certain request, - otherwise I should assuredly not have volunteered any written opinion on your affairs; and moreover am quite ready to admit that, in the absence of such supposed incentive, I might by doing so have justly been considered intrusive. Indeed so sensible was I of this, [p. 2] that I sent my first letter to post through Luke Ionides[4], in order that it might reach you only if he was quite certain of his own impression as to your message to me -

I must also now admit that the exact words you give, "Ce n'est pas vrai[5]", seem to me also to be inevitably the precursors of blows, and only to be spoken, if at all, by one prepared for them; but when I wrote, I had not heard that such words had been used.

You say to me: - "I like [p. 3] not to believe[6] your friendship so weak in faith as to receive with readiness an evil impression of the absent friend, or listen at all to aspersions cast on him." I am not surprised at your unwillingness to believe this, as such belief would be inconsistent with your impressions of my conduct formerly expressed to me when I have had any opportunity of remembering you in absence. In this case, (a friend of your own being my only reporter,) no "aspersions" had reached my ears; which is not the only cause, as your knowledge of me might suggest, which could prevent me from eagerly accepting such. [p. 4] Thus much as to a correspondence, which I should never have originated advisedly, though it appears I did so through a misconception not my own.

Believe me, dear Whistler,
Ever yours

D G Rossetti

Whistler -
re - Legros,'

[p. 5] 'Undated[8].
J. M. W'

'Whistler's letter to Rossetti & R's reply re the incident in Luke Ionides's office when J McN. W. t[h]rashed Legros[.] Also J. McN. W. to William Rossetti[9] on his failure to attend the late Gabriel R's unveiling[.] Ingratitude was Legros failing

R. B. P.'

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  24 April [1867]
This is a reply to JW's letter to Rossetti (draft, 20 April [1867], #05242). Published in The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, ed. William E. Fredeman. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 2003, vol. 1, 67.56.

2.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), artist and poet [more] (see Doughty, Oswald and John Robert Wahl, Letters of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 4 vols., Oxford, 1965-67).

3.  sacrificial flames
JW had first met Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), painter, etcher and art teacher [more], in Paris during the late 1850s. Together with Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904), artist [more], they formed the Société des Trois. However by April 1867, their friendship was over and they had a row which came to blows. JW's friends tried to intervene but the two men were never reconciled (JW to L. Ionides, 22 April 1867, #11312). The immediate reasons for their quarrel are unclear but there had been some argument over Legros' marriage and a protracted dispute about money dating back to 1864 (see Ionides, Luke Memories, Paris, 1925, reprinted with an afterword by Julia Ionides, Ludlow, 1996, p. 74; JW to A. Legros, 13 August 1864, #02505; and JW to D. G. Rossetti, op. cit., #05242).

4.  Luke Ionides
Lucas ('Luke') Alexander Ionides (1837-1924), stockbroker and businessman [more].

5.  Ce n'est pas vrai
Fr., 'That is not true.' Rossetti is quoting from JW's previous letter (draft, #05242).

6.  I like not to believe ... on him
Quoted from JW's letter (draft, #05242).

7.  Rossetti
'Rossetti ... Legros' added in another hand.

8.  William Rossetti
She is referring to the letter from William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), civil servant and critic [more], to JW, 21 July 1887 (#05250).

9.  Undated
This is a separate sheet, accompanying the letter. 'Whistler's letter ... R. B. P.' was written and signed by Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), JW's sister-in-law [more], with 'Ingratitude ... R. B. P.' at right-angles in the left-hand margin. 'Undated J. M. W' was added in an unknown hand at a later date.