UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 10550
Date: [29 March 1895][1]
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: Henry John Cockayne Cust[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PL[3]


SIR -

I find no objection to "Q.C.[4]'s" theory, that the law for painters and cobblers should be the same. He may be quite right, only he doesn't get far enough, and misses the point!

If a pair of slightest slippers be ordered, through wheedling of friend[5], on the understanding that they shall cost from half a sovereign to fifteen shillings, it is the cobbler only who shall determine when, in his own folly, and under the approving eye of the appreciative customer, the flimsy slippers have grown into elaborately dandy boots, and are off the last, whether half a sovereign or fifteen shillings, or, according to his sense of their beauty, any sum between shall pay for them.

And if, before his natural gentleness has allowed him to make out his bill, the very smart customer[6] cuts the ground from under him, and, in the sly form of affectionate "Valentine," forces the meaner sum upon him, hoping to make the situation of a delicacy beyond his tackling, he has every right, as noble cobbler, to be indignant, and send his pitiful client about his business!

If, however, the wicked and enthusiastic cobbler see through the trick, and wish to expose, publically, the ungrateful trickster, then he accepts the "Valentine," though only temporarily, and when, later on, the boots are demanded through sheriff and lawyer, he sends back the half-sovereign, and refuses to give up the boots - saying effectually: "Sue me for them! Come and claim them in open court. Come and tell the pretty story before the people, that the world may know, and my fellow cobblers be warned, and that you may go barefoot and horny among them ever after. Sooner than that you be shod by me I will rip off the uppers, or fit them to another!"

"Pourquoi[7], Monsieur" - I was prepared for the question - "pourquoi, si vous n'aviez pas l'intention de livrer le tableau, aviez vous accepté le chèque?"

"Pour qu'il vienne me le réclamer ici - devant tout Paris!"

Now, this is what has happened. His story is told! - and the whine of it remains in the ears, and the odour of it in the nostrils, of my confrères - and I doubt if the insinuating amateur will again [p. 3] unhook in a hurry any picture, humbly cozened for as sketch, from easel in any studio at home or abroad.

Yours, &c.,

J. MCNEILL WHISTLER.

Paris


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Notes:

1.  [29 March 1895]
Date of publication in the Pall Mall Gazette.

2.  Henry John Cockayne Cust
Henry John Cockayne Cust (1861-1917), editor of the Pall Mall Gazette from 1892-1896 [more].

3.  PL
Published in Whistler, James McNeill, Eden v. Whistler, [n.p.], 1897, pp. 22-24.

4.  Q. C.
Frederick Morton Eden (1829-1917), Barrister [more]; see his letter to the Pall Mall Gazette, [8 March 1895], #13197.

5.  friend
George Moore (1852-1933), novelist and art critic [more], who introduced JW and Sir W. Eden.

6.  customer
Sir William Eden (1849-1915), painter and collector [more], who paid for Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408) in the form of a 'Valentine' of 100 guineas, on 14 February 1894.

7.  Pourquoi ... Paris!
Fr., 'Why, if you had no intention of selling the picture, did you accept the cheque?' 'So that he would demand it here - before all Paris!'