The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 13337
Date: [c. 1 September 1885][1]
Author: JW
Place: [Dieppe]
Recipient: William Merritt Chase[2]
Place: [Holland]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PLc[3]

My very dear Chase,

You are by this time of course convinced that I have sponged with my wonted facility all traces of the past few weeks from my memory, and that the colonel[4] and his kindliness and good companionship have all ceased to exist for me! -

No! Noo NOO - Your stay here was charming for me and it is with a sort of self-reproach that I think of the impression of intolerance and disputatiousness you must carry as characteristic of my own gentle self - which also I suppose it will be hopeless for me to attempt to efface by even the mildest behavior when I return your visit[5] in New York. Our little trip to Holland[6] was charming and I only wish I could have stayed longer. Indeed if I had but gone with you to the gallery in Haarlem I might have done something toward rehabilitating myself in your eyes for I had meant to be quite sweet about the pictures as after all 'there is nothing mean or modest about me' - My dear Chase this is really quite perfect! I have never been so daintily appreciated and I shall insist upon the insertion of this resumé of Whistler's rare qualities in the biography of that great painter a century or two hence.

Meanwhile our two pictures[7]. By the way the world will have to wait, for yet a little while longer. You see [p. 2] colonel we rather handicapped each other I fancy and neither master is really quite fit for public presentation as he stands on canvas at this moment. So we must reserve them, screening them from the eye of jealous mortals on both sides of the Atlantic until they burst upon the painters in the swagger of completeness.

This is a disappointment, though only a temporary one, to me most certainly so far as your portrait goes for I should have liked you to have taken it over with you and shown it on your arrival. But in these matters I never deceive myself and I saw at once on my return from abroad that the work is not in its perfect condition and Whistler cannot allow any canvas stamped with the butterfly to leave his studio until he is thoroughly satisfied with it himself. Therefore my dear Colonel I shall keep the picture here and bring it over with me to finish in your studio where again I will prove to you that my long suffering is equal to your own as I stand in my turn till you finish the 'pendant' - my artless self. Under the circumstances I send you back the thirty pounds[8] you had given me on your portrait - trust me it is better so - it would only make me nervous and unhappy were I to keep it before my work pleased me. While I shall be delighted to take it from you over there when I have done well - 'as it is my wont.'

[p. 3] I am also awfully sorry that 'the boys' in New York are not to see your impression of Whistler with his wand before I come myself - but what will you! The center of thought is the stomach and we were too far from well - poisoned!!

And now I must thank you again for the delicacy and good feeling you have shown about the other pictures at Graves[9] - It was so nice and kind of you to leave it entirely to me to think out - whereas any one else might have taken the occasion of the pictures being for the time out of my possession to obtain them simply - without consulting me at all.

You will quite sympathize with me I am sure when I find upon reflection that I would like to get back those things for myself. This I really always hoped to do - but lately I was so absorbed by your picture that I could not think well of anything else. However now if you will when I come to America I will try and bring you something else that you will like quite as well - indeed better.

Meanwhile again I return the money forty pounds.

I have consulted my bankers who think that the best way of convoying [sic] to you the sum of money is letters of credit[10] on some bank in New York. I told them you would not wish a lot of Dutch metal upon which you [p. 4] would lose so they have given me for you a letter of credit for seventy pounds. This I enclose.

Also the paper from the American consul freeing you of all duty on account of the etchings.

For Heaven's sake my dear Colonel write me at once to say that you have received all this safely or I shall writhe in uncertainty.

Bon voyage[11] my dear Chase. Write me word of your safe arrival in the delightful country you say the other one is and expect me soon.

Always devotedly

[butterfly signature]

Never wrote such a long letter to anyone.

I have taken out the papers from the U. S. Consulate to the amount of 160 pounds for I have forgotten the exact sum you paid me - but this is near enough. Anyhow you have the receipt.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [c. 1 September 1885]
Dated from W. M. Chase to JW, #00593 (letter dated 3 September), E. Caermure to JW, #02624, and references to Holland. Chase's letter may be a reply to this letter.

2.  William Merritt Chase
William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), painter [more].

3.  PLc
Published in Roof, Katherine Metcalf, The Life and Art of William Merritt Chase, New York, 1975, pp. 140-43. There is also a incomplete draft version, #00594.

4.   colonel
JW's nickname for Chase.

5.  return your visit
While JW declared his intention to visit America on a number of occasions the trip never materialised. However he did publish a letter in the World on 13 October 1886 indicating his proposed arrival in New York in December. He also mocked Chase's dandified portrait of him as 'a montrous lampoon' (see Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, 2nd ed., London and New York, 1892, pp. 184-85).

6.  Holland
JW joined Chase in Holland in August where they visited Haarlem and the International Exhibition in Amsterdam.

7.  our pictures
Chase's first meeting with JW during the summmer of 1885 led JW to suggest that they paint each other's portraits. JW remained dissatisfied with his attempt, Portrait of William M. Chase (YMSM 322), and it has now disappeared. Chase's portrait survives in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

8.  thirty pounds
It is possible that JW wrote this letter in two stages. As well as returning the £30, part of Chase's payment for his portrait of JW, he proposed, towards the end of the letter, to send an additional £40 in the form of a letter of credit for seventy pounds (#02624).

9.  pictures at Graves
JW still had pictures on deposit at Henry Graves (1806-1892), print dealer and founder of H. Graves and Co. [more], as security for loans, including Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137) and Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101). It seems that JW intended to send YMSM 137 to America, perhaps with Chase as agent. On 11 October 1884, Algernon Graves wrote of it to JW: 'My father says that if you like to pay the balance (250£) due on the picture you can then ask any price you like and let it go to America.' See A. Graves to JW, #01813.

10.  letters of credit
See E. Caermure to JW, #02624, letter dated 28 August 1885.

11.  Bon voyage
Chase was due to return to New York in the autumn.