The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 4 of 51

System Number: 05246
Date: [7 January 1868][1]
Author: JW/William Michael Rossetti [2]
Place: [London]
Recipient: Committee of the Burlington Fine Arts Club
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler R142
Document Type: ALd

It may & no doubt will be said that, after all that can be stated & proved on my part, I have after all committed certain assaults[3], & that that mere fact condemns me. Now to this my rejoinder is a simple one - namely, that I have repelled any taint or suggestion of dishonour as involved in those certain assaults, but have not repelled nor wanted to repel the bare fact of the the certain assaults. Fortunately The world is understood to contain some gentlemen besides English gentlemen; some codes of social honour besides [p. 2] the English; & some communities in wh. practices such as that of duelling or the summary castigation of any form of personal insolence, are not yet obsolete. This may or may not be unfortunate or censurable, but a fact it is: & it is also a fact that I am happen to be a Virginian[4], the pupil a cadet of the Military Academy of West Point[5], & for many years a resident in Paris[6] France.

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1.  [7 January 1868]
Dated from reference, probably to this note, in W. M. Rossetti to JW, #05245.

2.  JW/William Michael Rossetti
Written in the hand of William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), civil servant and critic [more]. It appears to have been enclosed with a letter from W. M. Rossetti to JW, #05245, but written for insertion in an appendix to JW's correspondence with the Burlington Club Committee (see note below).

3.  certain assaults
In April 1867, JW quarrelled with Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], over Haden's treatment of James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more]. Traer died on a trip to Paris, allegedly in a brothel. Haden arranged for Traer's burial with what JW and his brother William regarded as unseemly haste. Haden later claimed that in the resulting confrontation JW had pushed him through a plate glass window. Both JW and Haden were members of the Burlington Fine Arts Club and in the aftermath of the Traer affair Haden campaigned for JW to be excluded, having brought to the Club's attention several alleged previous incidents of assault involving JW (JW to L. Huth, #02240, JW to W. Boxall, #00498). JW was asked to resign on the threat of expulsion in June 1867 (see R. N. Wornum to JW, #10442). Aggrieved with the summary way in which he felt the Club had treated him, JW refused to entertain the charges against him, claiming that the Club had no right to interfere in a private matter (see JW to L. Huth, #02240). Despite his protests, he was expelled on 13 December. On 16 December, determined to maintain his defence, he declared his intention to draw up 'an explanation and refutation of the charges brought against me' (JW to W. M. Rossetti, #09390). In January 1868, he appealed to Vittorio Emanuelle Taparelli (1816-1890), Marquis D'Azeglio, Sardinian Ambassador and collector [more], President of the Club (the Marquis had been absent from the Club meeting on 13 December), apparently without success. See JW to the Marquis D'Azeglio, #00448.

4.  Virginian
While JW liked to refer to himself as a Southerner, his birthplace was in actuality Lowell, Massachusetts. However, the family of Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more], originated in Wilmington, North Carolina, and had familial connections with Virginia.

5.  West Point
JW entered West Point Military Academy as a cadet-at-large on 1 July 1851. However, he was discharged three years later on 16 June 1854 for failure in Chemistry.

6.  Paris
JW spent three and a half years in Paris from November 1855 to c. April 1859. During his time there, he studied at the École Imperiale et Speciale de Dessin and in the studio of Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre (1806-1874), painter [more].