The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06681
Date: 6 and 18 February 1868
Author: George William Whistler[1]
Place: St. Petersburg
Recipient: Francis Seymour Haden[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W675
Document Type: ALc


St. Petersburg

Feb. 6 / 1868.

[embossed design on page]

My dear Haden -

Reluctantly I write you this note on disagreeable family affairs[3]. I had hoped that there would never arise the necessity for my offering, what might appear, & may be, improper interfearance [sic] by advice in the affair between you & my brother[4] - Whatever course you may feel obliged to pursue, I am sure that our good relations during all time past will secure for me a candid & sympathetic hearing from you, & you will believe in writing you, I am actuated by the kindest feelings for you & yours.

My [deleted word, illegible] occupied time, & my inclinations prompt me to say what I have to say in as short a space as I clearly can, so you will excuse my short sentences. [p. 2] While I have steadily persisted in keeping free from entering into a general discussion of this affair, I have not allowed my sympathies for my Mother[5], Brother, Yourself & Sister[6] to slumber altogether, & have occasionally to each, as that sympathy was asked, given expression to my feelings. I may have done some injustice to all, so difficult is it to judge under such circumstances - but I think all will say hereafter that I tried to see this affair in its true light, & to guide the younger & less experienced to what I believed was right & honorable.

My Brother and Yourself know that after reading the statements of both sides of the Paris affair, my opinion was, & is still, that they[7] were not justified in their attack upon you, [p. 3] with this conviction I wrote Jim & advised him that he should apologize to you for his personal attack upon you.

Of the Burlington Club[8] affair, I have only to say that upon the reception of some information from Jim I telegramed[9] him as follows June 7/19 1867. (here follows copy of telegram which Jim has). This affair I understand is finished, & I know too little of it, even if I were inclined, to offer any opinion upon its merits.

My constant advice to my Brother has been, that they should neither talk nor write further on this family difference, no one, certainly not ones friends wish to hear of the private differences of others - they may have acted upon my advice but of this I do not know how far - the only [p. 4] tangible matter that has come to my knowledge since the Burlington affair is the copy of your lawyers letter[10] to Jim which for[e]shadows much disagreeable.

I am aware my dear Haden how very delicate a matter it is even for me to suggest whether it may not be possable [sic] for you to forgo a justification by laws[.] I know not your exact motive, or the necessity you may feel for this course, but is it not possible that a just end may be obtained without this last resort? I have no arguments to advance, mine is a simple appeal to your good feelings, that you will consider the great interest which I as the oldest of my family have, that if possable this distressing affair shall go no further - I am aware I am asking much, very much, for I am not unmindful of your position, & your duties -

from yours very sincerely

(signed) G. W. W -

'Copy of letter from George Whistler re Burlin[gton] F A[11]'

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  George William Whistler
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more].

2.  Francis Seymour Haden
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

3.  family affairs
A reference to the JW's long-running quarrel with F. S. Haden. In April 1867, Haden, James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more], and William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more], were in Paris. Haden was a member of the British Jury for the Paris Exposition (see Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols., London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1, pp. 141, 143). JW was also in Paris in March and April, as his works, including Wapping (YMSM 35), were on view in the American section of the Paris Exposition. On 23 April, Traer died suddenly on of alcohol related causes. Haden arranged for Traer's burial with what JW and his brother regarded as unseemly haste. On 26 April, a violent row took place between the brothers-in-law in a Paris café and Haden fell (or allegedly was pushed by JW) through a plate glass window. Soon afterwards, the two brothers made arrangements to have Traer's body returned to Ellen Traer (b. ca 1837), J. R. Traer's sister [more] in England, assisted by George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), art dealer in Paris [more], and a list of subscribers. The row between Haden and the Whistler brothers rumbled on however (see note below) and caused a permanent rift between the two families, despite the intervention of George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more], and Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more] (see D. D. Haden to JW, #01918, and to W. G. Whistler, #01914).

4.  brother
That is, JW.

5.  Mother
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more].

6.  Sister
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more].

7.  they
JW and William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

8.  Burlington Club
A reference to the Burlington Fine Arts Club, founded in c. June 1866. It was located at 177, Piccadilly. JW was proposed as a member on 12 March 1867 (see William Boxall (1800-1879), portrait painter, Director of the National Gallery [more], Louis Huth (1821-1905), collector [more], and the Vittorio Emanuelle Taparelli (1816-1890), Marquis D'Azeglio, Sardinian Ambassador and collector [more], proposers, #11957). F. S. Haden was a founder member and on the club committee. In the aftermath of the Traer affair Haden campaigned for JW to be excluded from the Club, initially citing the Paris incident as evidence against him but later bringing to its attention several alleged previous incidents of assault (see JW to L. Huth, #02240). JW was expelled at a general meeting of the Club on 13 December (see JW to W. Boxall, #00498).

9.  telegramed
Telegram untraced.

10.  lawyers letter
Probably a reference to a letter from Wrentmore & Son, Haden's lawyers to JW, #11981, dated 4 February 1868. Haden alleged that JW had been making defamatory statements about him in public.

11.  Copy of letter from George Whistler re Burlin[gton] F A
Written in another hand.