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

the on-line edition

System Number: 09841
Date: 17 December 1892
Author: George and William Webb[1]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: [Paris]
Repository: New York Public Library
Call Number: E. G. Kennedy III/174
Credit Line: Edward Guthrie Kennedy Papers / Manuscripts and Archives Division / The New York Public Library / Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations
Document Type: MsLS[2]


E. C.

17 Decr 1892

Dear Mr Whistler,

We have perused Mr Kennedys[3] letter which you forwarded us. He seems to be under a complete delusion, both as to the law & the morality of the case. Mr Bancroft[4] did not behave honorably to you & outreached himself. He has no claim whatever against Mr Cavafy[5]. If he had, from the tenacity displayed in the history of the events with you we feel sure he would have proceeded with it. However he has absolutely none. He bids £600 for Mr Cavafy who never accepted it & who received a higher offer, the amount of which was paid to him. The pretension to any legal claim is absolutely absurd.

With regard to the moral claim, it seems to us that Mr Bancroft has forfeited all right if there were any but there is not & never was.

If Mr Kennedy thinks that something is due from him, or that to any person he should sell the pictures cheap or give them away, it is undoubtedly to the man who advised him to buy them, & whose judgment has been verified, to Mr Kennedys great profit. When this personality coincides with that of the man who created the pictures, a double claim in morals arises.

Can there be any stronger case than [p. 2] this? The man who painted these valuable masterpieces received only a trifle for them, a sum enormously below their value, as now appears by the price Mr Kennedy has got. He is the man who ought to have their full value, now that the golden age of morals is returning. He is in the position of having received an unfair price for his pictures, & the moral thing is to make the sum up to the fair price to give him the value of the work which he has done.

What claim has Mr Bancroft? What has he done? Has he designed or worked out the pictures? Has he done anything whatever to improve them or their chances or to make them valuable?

Has he paid any money for them?

He has neither invented nor worked nor done anything whatever except trying to do a shabby thing. There is no morality for him & there is a huge pile of it against him.

We think you should object most strongly to Mr Kennedy making any concession to Mr Bancroft, whose application for it seems to us in morals to add to the negative side of his account.

We have given this matter very full consideration, & we think there never was a case where law and equity combine so strongly as they do here against Mr Kennedy's suggestion. It would be a fatal, & we might almost say a criminal weakness, an act utterly contra bones mores.

Yours very truly

Geo. & Wm Webb

J. M. Whistler Esq

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  George and William Webb
George Webb (b. ca 1835), of G. and W. Webb. lawyer [more]; and William Webb (b. ca 1851), of G. and W. Webb, lawyer [more].

2.  MsLS
This letter was written by a clerk. There are several versions or copies of this letter (# 06173, # 06174, # 06176) which have not been transcribed.

3.  Mr Kennedys
Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), dealer with H. Wunderlich and Co., New York [more]. He had written to JW on 2 December 1892, #07207, regarding several paintings, The Last of Old Westminster (YMSM 39), Battersea Reach (YMSM 45), Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony (YMSM 56) and Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville (YMSM 64).

4.  Mr Bancroft
John Chandler Bancroft (1822-1907), politician, diplomat and collector [more]. He had written to Kennedy, 11 December 1892, #09844.

5.  Mr Cavafy
Dr John Cavafy (ca 1839-1901), physician and collector, son of G. J. Cavafy [more]. He had sold The Last of Old Westminster (YMSM 39), Battersea Reach (YMSM 45), Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony (YMSM 56) and Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville (YMSM 64).