The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: politics. South Africa
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System Number: 10960
Date: [2 March 1897][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: William Rothenstein[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Call Number: b MS Eng. 1148 (1610)
Credit Line: Published by permission of the Houghton Library, Harvard University
Document Type: ALS[3]



'March 3rd 1897'

My dear Rothenstein -

I am afraid it is more or less impossible just now - The drawing[4] is all right - but the moment is difficult.

I am very greatly pushed by my work - and from morning till dusk have not a minute's rest to sit in! -

However you shall come and [p. 2] see me - and we will talk it over for by and bye -

Besides two Napoleons at a time are surely enough! the [Ayrian filibuster[5]?], and the Apothecary of Hants[6] (reads like Rhodes and Doctor Jameson[7]!)
Why then the champion ouitlander[8] [sic] Lithographer? -

Sunday afternoon at about 4.30?


J McN. Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


William Rothenstein. Esq.
53. Glebe Place -
Chelsea -
S W.
[postmark:] LONDON S. W. / 12.15 AM / MR 3 / 97

'March 3rd 1897'


1.  [2 March 1897]
As the postmark reads 12.15 a.m. on 3 March 1897, it is reasonable to assume that this was written on 2 March. 'March 3rd 1897' has been inserted in another hand at the top of the letter and also on the envelope.

2.  ALS
Written at right-angles to the printed address.

3.  William Rothenstein
William Rothenstein (1872-1945), artist [more].

4.  drawing
It is possible that JW was asked to sit or contribute a portrait for Rothenstein's English portraits: A Series of Lithographed Drawings, biographical sketches, illustrated with Rothenstein's lithographs, which appeared as a 12-part series in 1897-1898. Contributors included George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), dramatist [more], on 'Mr. William Archer'; Max Beerbohm (1872-1956), painter, designer, cartoonist and writer [more], on 'The marchioness of Granby', Edmund William Gosse (1849-1928), writer and art critic [more], on Henry James (1843-1916), writer [more]; Lawrence Housman (1865-1959), illustrator and author [more], on Walter Crane (1845-1915), painter and designer [more]; and Rothenstein himself on John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), artist [more], Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), painter, etcher and art teacher [more], Charles de Sousy Ricketts (1866-1931), painter and designer [more], and Charles Hazlewood Shannon (1863-1937), painter and lithographer [more]. The original manuscripts, as well as this letter, are in the Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Cambridge, MA (MS Eng 867).

5.  Ayrian filibuster
These words are hard to read and interpret. There is no such word as 'Ayrian'; JW may have meant 'Aryan' or 'Arian', but it is not entirely clear what he would have meant by this (the use of the word to denote a non-Jewish race emerged over thirty years later). At the time JW was writing it could be used to describe the ancient Germanic tribes and their language. It is possible but unlikely that he meant Rothenstein or Beerbohm (whom he considered German-Jewish). This is not clarified by the following word, which JW wrote over another; the result looks rather like 'filibuster'. This could mean a pirate or military adventurer, such as someone making unauthorised war. JW sometimes described himself in such terms, but it could also be applied to Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (1852-1936), politician, travel writer and adventurer, who was the subject of an essay by Beerbohm in Rothenstein's book.

6.  Apothecary of Hants
It is just possible JW meant Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], who was the subject of an essay by Rothenstein.

7.  Rhodes and Doctor Jameson
Encouraged by Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902), diamond prospector and politician [more], Dr Leander Starr Jameson (1853-1917), the Administrator General for Matabeleland (Mashonaland), with a force of around 600 men, mainly from the Matabeleland Mounted Police, made an abortive raid into the Transvaal from 29 December 1895 to 2 January 1896. He surrendered, was arrested, returned to Britain and tried in London under the Foreign Enlistment Act in May 1896. Dr Jameson served a year in Holloway prison, and was then released on the grounds of ill health. At the date of this letter the affair was under investigation by the South Africa Committee (see Times, London, 27 February 1897, pp. 4, 11). Jennings later returned to the Cape Colony and succeeded Rhodes as Prime Minister in 1904.

8.  ouitlander
'Uitlander', Dutch, outlander. JW may mean that, given the other people included in Rothenstein's book, he did not need to include JW. The term 'Uitlander' was used to describe foreigners and non-citizen settlers in the Orange Free State. They accounted for a large proportion of the white population; they were highly taxed but had no voting rights, a circumstance which was used to justify the Jameson Raid.