The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 11403
Date: [14 October 1883][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Edmund Hodgson Yates[2]
Place: London
Repository: Published
Document Type: PLc[3]

O Atlas!

What of the "Society for the Preservation of Beautiful Buildings"?

Where is Ruskin[4]? and what do Morris[5] and Sir William Drake[6]?

For, behold! beside the Thames, the work of desecration continues, and the "White House" swarms with the mason of contract.

The architectural galbe that was the joy of the few, and the bedazement of "the Board," crumbles beneath the pick, as did the north side of St. Mark's[7], and history is wiped from the face of Chelsea.

Shall no one interfere? Shall the interloper, even after his death, prevail?

Shall 'Arry[8], whom I have hewn down, still live among us by outrage of this kind, and impose his memory upon our pavement by the public perpetration of his posthumous philistinism?

[p. 2] Shall the birthplace of art become the tomb of its parasite in Tite Street?

See to it, Atlas! lest, when Time, the healer of all the wounds I have inflicted, shall for me have exacted those honours the prophet may not expect while alive, and the inevitable blue disc, imbedded in the walls, shall proclaim that "Here once dwelt" the gentle Master of all that is flippant and fine in Art, some anxious student, reading, fall out with Providence in his vain effort to reconcile such joyous reputation with the dank and hopeless appearance of this "model lodging," bequeathed to the people by the arrogance of 'Arry.

[butterfly signature]

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1.  [14 October 1883]
Date on original press-cutting (see note below).

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

3.  PLc
Published: Whistler, J. McN., Letter to 'Atlas' [Edmund Yates], dated Oct. 14, written from Tite Street, printed in 'What the World Says,' The World: A Journal for Men and Women, no. 485, vol. 19, 17 October 1883, p. 13; reprinted in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890, pp. 124-125 under the title 'Sacrilege', and in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, ed. Sheridan Ford, Paris, 1890, pp. 94-95.

4.  Ruskin
John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more].

5.  Morris
William Morris (1834-1896), painter, designer, poet and socialist [more].

6.  Sir William Drake
Sir William Drake (1817-1890), Secretary of the Society of Painter-Etchers [more].

7.  St Mark's
The façade of San Marco in Venice was undergoing radical and controversial restoration at the time of JW's visit to Venice in 1879-1880. The scaffolding is visible in JW's painting, Nocturne: Blue and Gold - St Mark's, Venice (YMSM 213). In Britain the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings was established, backed by Ruskin and William Morris, and letters and articles denouncing the restoration flooded the British press, for example, a letter from Morris on the restoration published in The Daily News, 31 October 1879; see Unrau, J., Ruskin and St. Mark's, London, 1984, pp.191-205.

8.  'Arry
Henry ('Arry') Quilter (1851-1907), advocate and art critic [more]. On 18 September 1879, Quilter purchased JW's studio house, the White House, for £2700 in the aftermath of JW's bankruptcy. He proceeded to make substantial changes to the general appearance ('galbe') of the house, much to JW's annoyance. Edward William Godwin (1833-1886), architect and designer [more], who had designed the White House, wrote in JW's support; see Godwin, E. W., Letter to 'Atlas' [Edmund Yates], printed in his 'What the World Says,' The World: A Journal for Men and Women, no. 488, vol. 19, 7 November 1883, p. 17; #13178.