The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 10442
Date: 11 June 1867
Author: Rodolph Nicholson Wornum[1]
Place: [London]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler B214
Document Type: MsLS[2]

The Burlington Fine Arts Club[3]

June 11th 1867:


I am desired by the Committee to write to you on a subject, which they very much regret they cannot leave unnoticed - It has been formally brought before them, that on the 26th of April last, in a café at Paris, you assaulted Mr F. Seymour Haden[4] another member of this Club. -

Under the circumstances the Committee are unanimously of opinion that it is inexpedient that you should remain a member of thise Club.

But on the other hand the Committee are willing to save you unnecessary annoyance, and they hope that instead of obliging them to bring the whole matter before a general meeting (according to Rule 27 pp 10. 11. of the Rules and Regulations *) you will see [p. 2] the fitness of withdrawing[5] your name from the List of Members; in which case, as the money has been so lately paid, the Committee will not object to return, your entrance fee, and year's subscription.

I am Sir
Your Obedient Servant

R. N. Wornum

Honorary Secretary

J. A. Whistler Esq

* "A special general meeting may be called to consider the Expediency of expelling any member from the Club. Any one who may be expelled forfeits all claim to the property of the Club. These special general meetings to consist of not less than fifteen members"

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1.  Rodolph Nicholson Wornum
Ralph Nicholson Wornum (1812-1877), history painter [more].

2.  MsLS
A copy of this letter is in the Minutes of the Burlington Fine Arts Club Committee, 11 June 1867 (V&A, NAL, 86. KK. 11, #11954).

3.  Burlington Fine Arts Club
The Burlington Fine Arts Club was founded early in 1866. It was located at 177, Piccadilly. JW was proposed as a member on 22 February and elected on 12 March 1867 (see letter to the club from the proposers, 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], 22 February 1867, #11957).

4.  assaulted Mr F. Seymour Haden
In April 1867, JW quarrelled with Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], over Haden's treatment of James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more]. Traer died on a trip to Paris, having allegedly been found in a brothel. Haden arranged for Traer's burial with what JW and his brother William regarded as unseemly haste. On 26 April a violent row blew up between the brothers-in-law in a Paris café and Haden fell (or allegedly was pushed by JW) through a plate glass window. The row caused such a commotion that the three brothers were brought up before the local magistrate. According to the Pennells' version, JW and his brother were fined, and according to JW's version, they were discharged (Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1, p. 142; and letter from JW to W. Boxall, 24 December 1867, #00498).

5.  withdrawing
Both JW and Francis Seymour Haden were members of the Burlington Fine Arts Club. In the aftermath of the Traer affair, Haden campaigned for JW to be excluded. At the Committee meeting on 11 June 1867, when the Marquis D'Azeglio, Marshall, Fisher, Wornum were present, 'Mr Haden complained that he had on the 26th April in a tavern in Paris, been grossly assaulted by Mr Whistler a member of the Club.' (Minutes, V&A, NAL 86. KK. 11; #11954). Haden later brought to the Club's attention several alleged previous incidents of assault involving JW (see JW to L. Huth, 19 December 1867, #02240, and JW to W. Boxall, 24 December 1867, #00498). This letter was the result. However, aggrieved with the summary way in which he felt the Club had treated him in this letter, JW refused to entertain the charges against him, claiming that it had no right to interfere in a private matter (see JW to L. Huth, op. cit.). Despite his protests, he was expelled on 13 December at a Special General Meeting of the Club (see R. N. Wornum to JW, 9 December 1867, #00445).