The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 11020
Date: [5 March 1895][1]
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: Henry John Cockayne Cust[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PL

The Baronet's[3] Indiscretions

To Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette.

Sir, -

You will have seen, in the papers, that the Baronet has brought out his basket, and that the scavenging interviewer[4] has left him not a rag! -

It is curious, and, in an unchristian way, pleasant, to note how a thrifty Mæcenas[5], who, through life, surely never gave away anything, now, at the sweet singing of the insinuating Secretary bird, unreservedly & ungrudgingly, gives away... himself! -

Mr. Moore[6] also "was present" - and of course was tossed in with the linen. In the warmth of the moment, I notice that his patron palmed him off as an "expert" (sic). Expert Moore!

Expert Moore, then, was made to lift up his voice and curse the work of the one, in praising whom, for years past, he has sold reams of copy, and made for himself a spurious reputation as advanced connoisseur and cultured critic.

Between them these two profound conspirators establish the worthlessness of the picture[7], to obtain possession of which the ardent sportsman has come into Court - or, for the loss of which, he is asking ten thousand francs! -

In his plaint, this honest gentleman swears that the picture was "paid for in advance," but don't you believe it; he now says to the irresistible taker of notes, "the picture was completed, and I sent the 100 guineas!" - Doubly careless; - for, as a silly matter of fact, at the moment of perpetrating his "confidence trick," this Bunko Baronet handed me the mysterious envelope, à brule [sic] pourpoint[8], in the studio, begging me not to open it until I should have reached my own house, and he was safely on his way to South Africa.

In the Court again, our "Sir Eden," as they delight in calling him here, declares that the portrait was "commissioned at one hundred guineas," and here, in his confession - tardy, but complete - he is very clear that no fixed price was arranged for, in any of the negotiations, other than the general estimate of 100 to a maximum of 150 guineas. Awkward this!

And there is more of it - sad, it seems to me, in its shifty forgetfulness and inability boldly to do evil.

Also it would go to show that a few ancestors seizing upon odd droves of oxen, as set forth in Burke[9], is but poor backing for a modern Baronet in his clumsy commercial struggles.

For the great Napoleon[10] was perhaps partly right! "Grattez[11] le Baronnet, et vous trouvez - (quelque fois) le Boutiquier"!

[butterfly signature]


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1.  [5 March 1895]
This was first published, with some variations, in the Paris edition of the New York Herald, 5 March 1895 (see #08095). It was published in this form in Whistler, James McNeill, 'The Baronet's Indiscretions,' The Pall Mall Gazette, 6 March 1895. It was later published in Whistler, James McNeill, Eden versus Whistler: The Baronet and the Butterfly. A Valentine with a Verdict, Paris and New York, 1899 [GM, A.24], pp. xvii-xix.

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

3.  Baronet's
Sir William Eden (1849-1915), painter and collector [more].

4.  the scavenging Interviewer
Not identified; an interview was published in the Paris edition of the New York Herald, 2 March 1895.

5.  Mæcenas
Gaius (Cilnius) Maecenas (d. 8 BC), Roman politician, known for his patronage of the arts [more].

6.  Mr Moore
George Moore (1852-1933), novelist and art critic [more].

7.  picture
Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408).

8.  à brule [sic] pourpoint
à brûle pourpoint, Fr., point blank.

9.  Burke
Burke's Peerage and Baronetage is the authority on aristocratic lineage.

10.  the great Napoléon
Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821), Emperor of France [more].

11.  Grattez
Fr., scratch a Baronet and you find (sometimes) a shopkeeper.