The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 05959
Date: [June 1890?][1]
Author: Emilia A. Venturi[2]
Place: [London]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler V48
Document Type: ALS

Carlyle Cottage


Wonderful Jimmie that hath solved the problem of being both new and true!

I always weakly wondered within me whether "Ten O'clock[3]" was really all that I thought it when I heard it; because (oh mean because!) it was so admirably delivered that it might have been less and yet carried one away. But now I have read it under every possible disadvantage, a permanent ill temper, worn out brain, still more worn out eyes, and a physical, as well as moral heartache!* * excusez du peu[4]. It is not only all that I thought it, but very much more so!

Nevertheless - one must [p. 2] revenir à ses moutons[5] and I still feel I should have never forgiven Beethoven[6] if he had left off composing in order to slaughter his critics - that's all. He had them, you know, quite after their kind - Did not our Philharmonic Society protest and refuse to play such bosh? Critics are as the flies that walk over pictures and leave their traces behind them. But Time, like a gentle housemaid, follows and, with a soft silk handkerchief, sp wipes those traces away.

There is one most amazing and ever renewed delight in this book - the dear, impossible butterfly; now gentle as a sucking dove, now [p. 3] [defiant?] dangerous as a wasp; now artful as a mousquito[7] that pricks so delicately you dont how [sic][8] where the sting entered, yet the flesh blisters and cannot forget that it did enter with a vengeance; now coy, now pert now playful, now rampant, now defiant, but always new, always graceful and "gentle"(!) Quand même[9] -

I don't come, because I am a wretch not fit for polite society - I either lie in beds or wander loose around [wi?] in the mud, to get rid of the heart ache aforesaid; but it is like the black friar of Newstead Abbey[10] "it will not be driven away". So I don't inflict myself, but only declare myself your lord and ladyship's[11] dolorous but sincere servant to command,

Emilie A Venturi

[continued at top left corner of p. 1] This paper is a caution but I have written in bed and had to take this or none.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [June 1890?]
Dated by references to Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890.

2.  Emilia A. Venturi
Emilie Venturi (d. 1893), née Ashurst, wife (1) of Sydney Hawkes, and (2) Carlo Venturi [more].

3.  Ten O'clock
JW's 'Ten O'Clock' Lecture, originally given in 1885, and published in Whistler, James McNeill, Mr. Whistler's 'Ten O'clock', London, 1886, was re-published in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890. The reference to varieties of butterfly suggests that she is referring to the 1890 publication.

4.  excusez du peu
Added at foot of page. Fr., no more than that!

5.  revenir à ses moutons
Fr., return to the subject.

6.  Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), composer [more]. She implies that JW's attacks on critics are a waste of his precious time.

7.  mousquito
An earlier spelling of mosquito.

8.  how [sic]
Venturi has written 'how' instead of 'know'.

9.  Quand même
Fr., all the same.

10.  black friar of Newstead Abbey
Newstead Abbey was the ancestral home of George Gordon Byron (1788-1824), Lord Byron, poet [more]. The Black Monk is said to have appeared to members of the Byron Family at Newstead to warn them of impending doom. Byron claimed to have seen the monk on the eve of his future wife's acceptance of his marriage proposal. The marriage was disastrous.

11.  ladyship's
Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more].