The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 11555
Date: 29 August 1894
Author: John Chandler Bancroft[1]
Place: Boston
Recipient: George Du Maurier[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
Call Number: MA 4452
Document Type: ALS

61 Mt Vernon St Boston

Aug 29 1894

Dear Du Maurier

I have been many times minded to write a word of gentle congratulation for Trilby[3] - but the press & the public have given it a welcome that leaves one nothing to say, except why didnt you do it before? & perhaps, what next?

In the Whistler episode I feel a very personal interest, because just before our return from Europe I had a very unexpected & senseless letter from Jimmy[4] also - The only reply I made was to thank him for a sample of his talent in that line & I am told he was much incensed & disappointed at so polite an [p. 2] answer. I dare say he had another all ready & no chance to let it off - For a long time I was unable to see Jimmy's epistle [to/for?] you & when I did at last, was grievously disappointed - Cela n'est pas fort[5] - It is a great deal better to have your portrait well done in Trilby than to have written the said letter & I wonder he was not clever enough to see it - He might have written a letter all the same & a much better one on the other tack - The truth is, with all his talent, Jimmy is getting old & shrivelled & into his second childhood - He has a brain & no body - He is a great painter beyond question & can say & write a good thing on occasion But in daily life he is about as responsible and intelligent as a [illegible] spoiled child of five & I fancy [p. 3] Mrs W.[6] feels just that kind of responsibility about him -

One cant quite put one's self into the skin of another: but I think I should take it as a compliment, had my portrait been done like this, weaknesses & all.

It is a wonder to me how your memories of Paris life have remained so vivid & real. If you had come out of it yesterday, the record could hardly have been sharper. When I go back to about the same distance in years I recall easily a luminous point here & there, but should be quite unable to reconstruct anything continuous - Besides, memory & imagination mix & play one curious tricks with facts & you are indeed fortunate to have such a photographic storehouse of reminiscences

[p. 4] Master Wm Bagot & Taffy I take to be composites rather than portraits. At least, I do not recognize them as portraits of any one I have met - Am I right?

I have no word from Tom Armstrong[7] since Ambrose[8] died: & have no reason to look for any under the circumstances - But I should like to hear that he is well and holding his own -

There is not much to tell about my family - Since Christmas I have been myself quite well again, after nearly giving up all hope of recovering my old health. The only noteworthy fact about it, was the instantaneous way in which one evening quite late, neuralgic & other pain in my head of two year's unbroken experience, suddenly ceased & have never returned -

[p. 5] We have built a house by the sea at Newport with the usual experience of excessive expense & a certain consequent sense of white elephant to maintain[.] In compensation, the house is as satisfactory as the situation is beautiful - Of the latter I hope my young people will sometime provide me with photographs that I may send you - up to the present time, we have all yielded to the somnolent qualities of the Newport climate - & done nothing -

With sincere regards to Mrs Du Maurier[9]
Always yours

J C Bancroft

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1.  John Chandler Bancroft
John Chandler Bancroft (1822-1907), politician, diplomat and collector [more].

2.  George Du Maurier
George Louis Palmella Busson Du Maurier (1834-1896), author and caricaturist [more].

3.  Trilby
The letter refers to portraits of JW that first appeared in Du Maurier, George, 'Trilby,' Harper's New Monthly Magazine, serialised, begun 1 January 1894; reprinted (expunged) as Trilby: A Novel, New York, 1894; regular ed., London and New York, 1895. JW objected to descriptions of himself as the 'idle apprentice' and forced Du Maurier to withdraw several illustrations.

4.  letter from Jimmy
Not located.

5.  cela ...fort
Fr., it is not strong.

6.  Mrs W.
Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more].

7.  Tom Armstrong
Thomas Armstrong (1832-1911), artist and Director of Art, South Kensington Museum [more].

8.  Ambrose
Not identified.

9.  Mrs Du Maurier
Emma Du Maurier (d. 1915), née Wightwick, wife of the writer[more].