The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: France
Record 13 of 17

System Number: 07860
Date: [23 November 1897][1]
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: Elizabeth Robins Pennell[2]
Place: London
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 272/11/2
Document Type: ALS[3]

110 - Rue du Bac

Well! - Today has been extraordinary!

Although judgement[4] is not yet given - postponed until next week - it almost seems as if the uttermost limit of what I could possibly have asked for had been voluntarily accorded me! -

The Court this afternoon was [p. 2] pretty well filled - and altogether it is now clear that this case is getting to be understood and certainly is occupying Paris - Now this means in itself something extraordinary - for habitually Paris never dreams of coming into the Courts at all - for the simple reason that the scandalous stuff that brings all London into the Queens Bench never is allowed to come before the Public at all here! where all family linen is kept at home in the closet, and Gentlemen settle their affairs in the Bois de Boulogne and Therefore, except in the case of some amazing murder or dynamite plot the courts in France are empty - And so the papers had scarcely as yet got wind of the affaire Whistler as it is called - But it has taken such a time and has occupied so deeply the attention of the Palais, that now it has firmly established itself as a great "cause celèbre"! and it has got about that "Vistlère, est dans nos murs"[5]! and as one of the papers said "vomit l'Angleterre"!!! - Now then - what do you think dear Mrs Pennell of this long overture to my little Opéra that has as yet to wait for another week before its music can be other than muffled! You see one is now so afraid of crying out too soon with joy that the drums and trumpets and cymbals are all under a big blanket for fear of one's making a sudden irresistible rush at them and blowing! and whanging! and banging! until the Baronet[6] fly through the sky light of the New English Art Club - which would indeed be a pretty sight - but Monsieur le Premier Président on his däis must not be shocked before he has delivered his "jugement"! - However you and Joseph[7] [p. 3] must get out some how or other in spite of black fog - though perhaps Joseph had better yet awhile stay in his bed for this cough business I know myself is bad - But then why not get some people down to you, and infuse their tea with some of my gunpowder which they shall fire off outside and all over the town! - You must say to those whom it concerns that today Monsieur the Procureur Général de la République, whose summing up has been looked forward to with the utmost interest not to say anxiety, made a most wonderful speech!!

He began with Monsieur Whistler from the beginning, and carried him through all the early uncertainties & difficulties of apreciation [sic] until he [was] placed in triumph in the Luxembourg and in the full considération of la France! - and then you should have [p. 4] seen the deep attention of the Court! and the faces of the other side! - And dear me, I cannot spoil it in this scapy [sic] way! I am going to get the speech in full for it was stenographed and we will have it in the papers all over England.

Meanwhile you can just tell the people, Gosses[8] & others, that it was one large recognition and distinction on the one hand, and a complete understanding of the pitiful attitude of the Baronet & his henchmen on the other! -

It was said to me when Le Procureur sat down [p. 5] after a most highly finished and wonderfully complete apprec declaration for Whistler - "Well you have your pound of flesh[9] at last!!" -

Now this must go -

Always sincerely

J McN Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


Mrs Joseph Pennell -
14. Buckingham Street
London -
[postmark:] PARIS-20 / 195 BD ST GERMAIN / 1E 23 / NOV / 97
[postmark on verso:] [LOND]ON W. C. / C[.X.] / [...] 15. PM / 23 NO 97 / 5

[embossed:] AU BON MARCHÉ


1.  [23 November 1897]
Dated from the postmark, and the date '[1897, Nov 23]' added at the top of the letter in another hand.

2.  Elizabeth Robins Pennell
Elizabeth Robins Pennell (1855-1936), née Robins, JW's biographer [more].

3.  ALS
Written on mourning stationery.

4.  judgement
The judgement in the case of Eden v. Whistler. JW also uses the French word, 'jugement'. This was a libel action between JW and Sir William Eden (1849-1915), painter and collector [more], over the completion of Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408), a portrait of Eden's wife. Eden instituted legal proceedings in 1894 and eventually JW was permitted by the Cour de Cassation in Paris to keep the picture provided that he defaced it and did not make use of it (see his account of the affair: Whistler, James McNeill, Eden versus Whistler: The Baronet and the Butterfly. A Valentine with a Verdict, Paris and New York, 1899 [GM, A.24]).

5.  'Vistlère, est dans nos murs'
Fr., Whistler is within our walls.

6.  Baronet
That is, Sir William Eden.

7.  Joseph
Joseph Pennell (1860-1926), printer and illustrator, JW's biographer [more].

8.  Gosses
Edmund William Gosse (1849-1928), writer and art critic [more].

9.  pound of flesh
An allusion to The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), playwright [more].