The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06994
Date: 3 May [1867][1]
Author: William McNeill Whistler[2]
Place: Paris
Recipient: Deborah Delano Haden[3]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W983
Document Type: ALc

[monogram[4] with motto:] 'WMcNW VINCERE AUT MORI'


May 3rd

'* No protestant[5] service allowed in a catholic burying ground -'


My Dear Sister

Jemmie & I have just come back from Père La Chaise[6] - The information we accidentally recieved [sic] permitted us to reach the ground just as poor Traer's[7] coffin was put in the earth. He was not buried in the pauper's grave or fosse commune - Great [p. 2] interest exerted[8] on his behalf (so it was explained to us) 'lie'[9] saved him from this! He was buried for twenty three francs - It would have been fifteen but there were two extra men employed - otherwise there was no futile expense lavished - No clergy-man whatever - no service[10] - In fact if you've ever heard of a dog suddenly got rid of - you can imagine Traer's funeral * - You will be glad [p. 3] to hear that Jemmie & I were able to have a cross put on the grave with Traer's name in full - & the his title of Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of London - So that any Englishman who accidentally wanders among the graves of the paupers[11] 'lie' & the fosse commune[12] 'lies' may still be [p. 4] able to detect the last resting place of a gentleman -

You will percieve [sic] that I have read your letter & that I've taken into consideration all that has been done in the greatest kindness for the wife[13], by one whom you speak of as the only one she had who has to look to for help -

I beg to say that I've circulated no injurious impressions[14] whatever with reference to your husband - I was present when your husband insulted[15] my brother & saw the punishment he recieved [sic] for it -

This is all I have to say about it -

Affectionately Yours

Wm M. Whistler.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  3 May [1867]
Year date from reference to J. R. Traer (see note below).

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

3.  Deborah Delano Haden
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more], who was married to Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more]. According to W. G. Whistler (see letter to JW, #06995), the original of this letter was returned to him on 10 May by Deborah Haden, her husband having added his own annotations.

4.  monogram
Monogram 'WMcNW' with the motto 'VINCERE AUT MORI' (Lat., 'conquer or die') under the crest of a mailed arm and hand holding a dagger. This is the crest and motto of the McNeills of Colonsay. However, see #07452, in which JW claims to be a descendant of the McNeills of Barra, not Colonsay.

5.  * No protestant ... ground -
This links to the sentence in the midst of paragraph one. Annotation copying F. S. Haden's hand in top left-hand corner of sheet. All the annotations claimed by W. G. Whistler as being in Haden's hand are in the same ink as the rest of the letter text suggesting that the returned letter from D. D. Haden (see note above) was probably copied by him in order to send it to JW (see W. G. Whistler to JW, #06995).

6.  Pere La Chaise
The municipal cemetery on the Boulevard Ménilmontant, Paris.

7.  Traer's
James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more]. In April 1867 Traer died suddenly, reputedly in a brothel, of alcohol related causes (see document signed A. Brierre de Boismont, #11801). F. S. Haden arranged for Traer's burial in what JW and his brother William regarded as a disrespectful and perfunctory manner. The event and its aftermath led to a breakdown in relations between the brothers-in-law (see note below), much to the distress of Deborah Haden. She tried to intervene but without success (see D. D. Haden to JW, #01915, to W. G. Whistler, #01914, and to JW and W. G. Whistler, #01916).

8.  interest exerted ... to us
W. G. Whistler wrote in a letter to JW (#06995) that all the underlining in this letter was added by F. S. Haden.

9.  'lie'
According to W. G. Whistler (letter to JW, #06995), this annotation was inserted three times by F. S. Haden in this paragraph.

10.  no service
Double underlined.

11.  among the graves of the paupers
Double underlined.

12.  the fosse commune
Fr., 'common grave'; double underlined.

13.  wife
Louisa Jane Holloway Traer (b. ca 1839, m. 1856), née Savage, wife of James R. Traer [more].

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

15.  injurious impressions
See reference in D. D. Haden to W. G. Whistler, #01916. Deborah Haden wrote of hearing 'that you are saying injurious things of Seymour & giving a false impression of this wretched Traer affair.'

16.  insulted
On 26 April, a row blew up between the brothers-in-law over Traer in a Paris café and Haden fell (or allegedly was pushed by JW) through a plate glass window. Soon afterwards, JW and William made arrangements to have Traer's body returned to Traer's sister (see note below) in England, assisted by George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), art dealer in Paris [more] (see G. A. Lucas to W. G. Whistler, #02654) and a list of subscribers.