UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: portrait
Record 38 of 431

System Number: 12825
Date: 15 October 1877[1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Philip Richard Morris[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler E67b
Document Type: MsLc[3]


James N [sic] Whistler to P R Morris Esq A R A

96 Cheyne Walk

Dear Morris

I had thought I would write no letters - they are such sad businesses - & the flaw in the friendship like the crack in the china - it is useless to explain - the true ring has gone for ever - on the other hand absolute silence may be misunderstood - so I had better state clearly how we stand. - You say that I made no objection - but virtually consented to what you have done - is this a satisfaction to you Morris? - if so - I might stop here. It didnt occur to you then - when you made your little proposal - that of course I should consent - & were you again to ask my permission to do me any other wrong - I should again consent. - Have you forgotten our old walks & talks in Chelsea? I had taken you into the intimacy of my work and believed in you as a strong sympathizer with whom all the mysteries of the studio might be freely shared - - I made no secret of my daily experience but willingly offered these to my chosen companion & from painter to painter no confidences could have been more unrestricted

now what happened? the first time your fidelity is put to the test - you fail me utterly - & what a rare chance you lost Morris - it is seldom that a confrere[4] has offered him such a complete occasion for vindicating the dignity of a brothers work -

You are asked to paint another mans picture[5] - & you do so - not in ignorance of all tradition of etiquette - but even keenly alive to many milder aggressions on the part of unimportant imitators - whose evil doings - you have been wont to condemn.

[p. 2] ["]If you cant be witty - be bold" Morris - & acting upon this your principle - you come to me - & calmly talk over the pain you propose to give me - & are astonished at the encouragement you receive - What did you expect Morris? was Whistler to beseech you to desist? - for him the crime once entertained was already perpetrated

The sarcasm of fate - you seem not to have guarded against while I cannot help being amused - at the malice des choses[6] - which has put Whistlers picture in Whistler's frame[7] - & so completes the situation -

P. S. You wrote to me while painting the portrait your happy belief that chivalry was not extinct.

Monday Oct 15th / 77


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Notes:

1.  15 October 1877
This is a reply to Morris's letter of 26 September [1877] (#08728).

2.  Philip Richard Morris
Philip Richard Morris (1833 or 1836-1902), painter [more]. He replied on 16 October 1877 (#12826).

3.  MsLc
This letter copy is one of four documents (#12823, #12824, #12826) which appear on the same large sheet of paper, written in the same hand. This is the second letter copy on that sheet. The copy was made by Matthew Robinson Elden (1839-1885), artist [more].

4.  confrère
Fr., colleague.

5.  another mans picture
F. R. Leyland had commissioned JW to paint Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106). It was exhibited in 1874 but not delivered to Leyland at that time. After their quarrel over Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178), Leyland may have abandoned hope of receiving it, and he commissioned Morris to paint P. R. Morris, Portrait of Frances Leyland (z69) (Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998, pp. 279, 377). This portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1878. JW's portrait was eventually delivered to Leyland, and in 1906 both portraits were hanging in the sitter's drawing room (Pennell, Joseph, and Elizabeth Robins Pennell, The Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection of Whistleriana Shown in Division of Prints, Library of Congress, Southwest Pavilion, Washington, G.P.O. Library Branch, 1921, p. 103).

6.  malice des choses
Fr., the mischievousness of fate.

7.  Whistlers picture in Whistler's frame
JW's annoyance was compounded by a request from Morris for the name of JW's frame-maker. He is said to have replied, 'If you've got the portrait then for God's sake have the frame' (Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998, pp. 279, 377, n. 183-85).