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

the on-line edition

System Number: 11399
Date: 25 January 1884
Author: JW
Place: St Ives
Recipient: Edmund Yates[1]
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PLc[2]

Atlas, -

They have sent me the Spectator - a paper upon which our late 'Arry[3] lingered to the last as art critic. In its columns I find a correspondent calling aloud for our kind intervention. Present me, brave Atlas, to the editor, that I may say to him:

"GOOD SIR, - 'Your Reviewer' is doubtless my unburied 'Arry. Why, then, should 'his mistaking a photogravure reproduction of a pen-and-ink drawing by Samuel Palmer[4] for a finished etching by the same hand' seem, 'to say the least of it, astounding'?

"Not at all! By this sort of thing was he known among us, poor chap - and so was he our fresh gladness and continued surprise."

"Did I not make historical his enchanting encounter with Mr. Herkomer's water-colour drawing of Mr. Ruskin[5] at the Grosvenor, which he described as the 'first oil portrait we have of the great master'? Amazing that, if you like!

[p. 2] "Do not all remember how we leaped for joy at the reading of it?"

"Even Atlas himself laughed aloud, and, handicapped as he is with the World, and weighted with wisdom, danced upon his plinth, a slow measure of reckless acquiescence, as I set down in the chronicles of all time that 'Arry, 'unable, by mere sense of smell, to distinguish between oil and water-colour, might at least have inquired; and that either the fireman or the guardian in the Gallery could have told him not to blunder in the Times.' "

"But no, he never would ask - he liked his pot-shots at things; it used to give a sort of sporting interest to his speculations upon pictures. And so he was ever obstinate - or any one at the Fine Art Society[6] would have told him the difference between an etching and a photograph. - I am, good sir, yours, etc."

Atlas, à bientôt.

[butterfly signature]

St Ives, Cornwall,

Jan. 25, 1884.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Edmund Yates
Edmund Hodgson Yates (1831-1894), novelist, 'Atlas' columnist and editor-proprietor of the World [more].

2.  PLc
This is the version published in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, pp. 113-14, with the heading 'The Easy Expert.' It was originally published in The World, 30 January 1884; see Getscher, Robert H., and Paul G. Marks, James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Two Annotated Bibliographies, New York and London, 1986, B. 25.

3.  'Arry
Henry ('Arry') Quilter (1851-1907), advocate and art critic [more]. JW found it amusing to imply that Quilter was long dead.

4.  drawing by Samuel Palmer
Quilter's review was of Samuel Palmer's (Samuel Palmer (1805-1881), painter, draughtsman and etcher [more]) illustrations for Virgil's Eclogues. See also The World, 26 December 1883 and 2 January 1884 (Whistler, James McNeill, [Letter to Atlas], The World: A Journal For Men and Women, no. 496, vol. 20, 2 January 1884, p. 17).

5.  Mr. Herkomer's water-colour drawing of Mr. Ruskin
Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914), painter [more], whose portrait of John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more], was exhibited: H. Herkomer, Portrait of John Ruskin (z194).

6.  Fine Art Society
It was Ernest George Brown (1853 or 1854-1915), assistant manager at the Fine Art Society [more], who had pointed out to JW the article with Quilter's mistake (see JW to E. G. Brown, #03607).