The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06996
Date: [6/8 May 1867][1]
Author: William McNeill Whistler[2]
Place: [Paris]
Recipient: Edward Forbes[3]
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W985
Document Type: ALS[4]


Dear Sir -

I would be exceedingly obliged to you if you would tell me whether or not the burial service of the church of England, may be read at the grave of an Englishman - in the cemetery of Pére La Chaise[5].

I take the liberty of trespassing so far upon your valuable time, as to beg that you would let [p. 2] me have an answer at your earliest convenience; for I was excessively shocked on going to Pére La Chaise the other morning, to witness the funeral of a deceased friend[6] - to find no clergyman at the grave, no service whatever - The notice that my brother & myself recieved [sic] only enabled us to arrive at the cemetery as the coffin was lowered in the grave - There was no one present but the bearers & the undertaker - We asked if even at [p. 3] that late moment some clergyman of the Church of England might not be called - but were told that then it was too late. The undertaker said that before the convoi [sic] started for the cemetery he asked whether there was to be no clergyman present to but was told there was not. The family of the deceased were absent - as they reside in England - & the gentleman[7] who came to take charge of the burial, we were informed had returned to London two days before - I have since [p. 4] been told by him that it could not be otherwise than it was - because no protestant service is allowed[8] in a catholic burying ground - I cannot believe this to be so & I therefore take the liberty of applying to you, a clergyman of the church of England, to know whether in France - the sacred right of Christian burial is denied by law to any one -

I am, my Dear Sir-
Very Resp - Your Obt. Servt

Wm M. Whistler

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1.  [6/8 May 1867]
Dated from W. G. Whistler to JW, #06995, and Edward Forbes' reply, #01435.

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

3.  ALS
Written on narrow bordered mourning paper.

4.  Edward Forbes
Rev. Edward Forbes (1817-1882), Chaplain of the English church in Paris [more].

5.  Pére La Chaise
The municipal cemetery on the boulevard Ménilmontant, Paris.

6.  friend
James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more]. On 23 April 1867, Traer died during a trip to Paris of alcohol related causes (see document signed A. Brierre de Boismont, #11801). Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], arranged for Traer's burial, in what JW and his brother William regarded as a disrespectful and perfunctory manner. The incident led to a permanent rift between the Haden and Whistler families.

7.  gentleman
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more]. For a different version of the story written by Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more], and wife of F. S. Haden, see D. D. Haden to W. G. Whistler, #01914.

8.  allowed
According to W. G. Whistler (see letter to JW, #06995), F. S. Haden wrote at the top of his letter to D. D. Haden, #06994 (subsequently returned by Haden to him): 'No protestant service allowed in a catholic burying ground.' #06995 is possibly the copy of it sent by W. G. Whistler to JW (see #06995).