The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 05931
Date: 11 January [1879][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Vanity Fair[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler V20
Document Type: ALdS


Well hit! my dear Vanity -

and I find on searching again that historically you are quite right as to the relation thereby doubtless

ThisThe fact doubtless explains the conviction of the race in this mission - but I fancy you will admit that this is the only Ass[3] on record who ever did sees the Angel of the Lord - and that [p. 2] we are past the age of miracles -

Ever Yours

J A McN. Whistler

The White House -

Jan 11. -

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1.  11 January [1879]
Year deduced from address and reference to Vanity Fair (see below).

2.  Vanity Fair
Rasper, 'Balaam's Ass,' Vanity Fair: A Weekly Show of Political, Social, and Literary Wares, vol. 21, no. 2, 11 January 1879, p. 26-27, reprinted in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, pp. 41-2. 'Rasper' wrote a long review of Whistler, James McNeill, Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics, London, 1878. The critic contended that, following JW's argument, no critic could ever say anything about a work of art, except in ignorance. He reminded JW that it was an artist's job to communicate, and insisted that the public was the final judge of greatness. JW omitted most of Rasper's argument when he republished the correspondence, but included the concluding paragraphs about Balaam's ass. JW's letter, with minor variations, was published in Vanity Fair, vol. 21, no. 3, 18 January 1879, and republished as 'The Point acknowledged', in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, p. 43; see Getscher, Robert H., and Paul G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Two Annotated Bibliographies, New York and London, 1986, A.3f).

3.  Ass
The account of Balaam's Ass may be found in Numbers 22.21-35. The ass stopped because he saw the angel of the Lord, but Balaam, who saw nothing, beat him for it.