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

the on-line edition

System Number: 06180
Date: 29 May [1894]
Author: William Webb[1]
Place: London
Recipient: Harper and Brothers[2]
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W177
Document Type: MsLc[3]


11 Austin Friars Old Broad Street
London E. C[4]

29th May


We are instructed by Mr. J McNeil Whistler to apply to you with regard to the libel upon him in a novel called "Trilby", written by Mr du Maurier[5], and contained in the March number of "Harpers Magazine".

Mr. Whistler instructs us that proceedings will be commenced against you for an injunction unless you comply with the following requirements:-

Mr Du Maurier's work containing the libel must be stopped.

The March number of the Magazine must be destroyed and a satisfactory apology must be published wherever reasonably required, and an understanding not to repeat the libel when the work is published in the book form.

As to the damage done to Mr Whistler's reputation [p. 2] by the libel which has been circulated over the civilized world, this will have to be dealt with and provided for by you if proceedings are to be stayed.

Be pleased to let us hear from you what you intend to do, in the course of a week from this date, and if you are not willing to comply, please furnish us with the names of your Solicitors.

Your obedient Servants

Geo. & Wm. Webb

Messrs Harper & Brothers
45. Albemarle Street

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  William Webb
William Webb (b. ca 1851), of G. and W. Webb, lawyer [more]. This copy letter was sent with Webb's letter to JW of the same date (#06179).

2.  Harper and Brothers
New York publishers of Du Maurier, George, Trilby: A Novel, New York, 1894.

3.  MsLc
Extract published in Ormonde, Leonee, George du Maurier, London, 1969, p. 472. The letter is copied on thin brown tracing paper.

4.  London E. C
'Copy ... London E. C' written in blue pencil.

5.  Mr du Maurier
George Louis Palmella Busson Du Maurier (1834-1896), author and caricaturist [more]. When Trilby first appeared in serial parts in Harper's Magazine in 1894, JW objected Du Maurier's portrayal of himself in the character of Joe Sibley, the 'Idle Apprentice' in the March issue. Harper's subsequently apologised and Du Maurier toned down the references to JW. When the book was published in 1894, drawings of JW were also omitted.