UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 8 of 13

System Number: 09324
Date: 17 August [1897][1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: James Nichol Dunn[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PLc[3]


SIR, -

It has been my privilege to come this day upon an amazing full bloom of tact and naiveté combined. This flower of good faith, I hasten to admit, is indigenous - English - quite English - and, to the satisfaction of this people, of impossible growth elsewhere.

A railway company and myself having differed in a trifling question of time-table, I remain in town instead of rushing on to Paris, as was my plan.

The Morning Post only could I, with my prejudices, take into the intimacy of my disappointment, and so it was that I read the sweet production of your friend - and mine, I trust - "de Sales[4]."

He certainly is beautiful, is "de Sales"! And his sense of the "aristocratic" is so fresh and musty that hearsay alone and consequent necessity of assertion must have taken the place of the quiet of race.

He means ill, does "de Sales," but he does n't know. He palpably suffers in believing that his natural antipathy - for he acknowledges the American as his execration - is not well born. You sir, who know these things, can tell him that those of Virginia and her neighbourhood are of blood so blue that, as Colonel Carter[5], of Cartersoville [sic], would say "right here," they have a difficulty in following the present mixed Debrett[6].

Tell him further that to be able to write F.F.V.[7] after his name would be, as a distinguished Englishman once said to me, a greater guarantee of descent than half the Letters Patent in the Peerage.

This I know will comfort "de Sales" - and in his "Battle of the Schools" he will be pleased to find that all the "cads" are not on the side of "grammar."

Meanwhile the blind good feeling and gentle bearing of "de Sales" towards his cousins in their temporarily supposed inferiority will go greatly to increase the entente cordiale which is suggested by the presence of the "odd-looking," playful "Brooklyn" at the parade of her Majesty's Fleet[8].

Yours, &c.,

J. McNeill Whistler.

Garlant's Hotel,

August 17.

' "D." is delightful - I look upon him as my reward! Quel type[9]!'


This document is protected by copyright.


Notes:

1.  17 August [1897]
Dated from the publication of the letter (see below).

2.  James Nichol Dunn
Probably addressed to James Nicol Dunn (1856-1919), editor of the Morning Post from 1897-1905 [more]. This letter concerns a controversial exchange of letters in the Morning Post that began on 17 August 1897. A letter signed 'de Sales' attempted to distinguish between the English and the Americans. He concluded that the differences were chiefly social, that the English were aristocrats and the Americans self-made plutocrats. JW took exception to this view in his reply. This attracted comment from 'D' who agreed with 'de Sales' and concluded jovially that he knew of no one who wrote 'First Family of Virginia,' or 'Chicago,' or even 'Bloody Gulch,' after their name.

3.  PLc
Press-cutting: Whistler, James McNeill, 'Britain and the United States,' The Morning Post, 18 August 1897. All the text is printed except for the final line.

4.  de Sales
The anonymous writer signed his letter with the name of Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), patron saint of journalists [more].

5.  Debrett
Debrett's Handbook of the Titles, Landed and Official Classes, and similar guides to British aristocratic lineage.

6.  F. F. V.
That is, First Family of Virginia.

7.  Colonel Carter
Francis Hopkinson Smith (1838-1915), landscape painter, illustrator, writer and engineer [more], wrote a humorous and sentimental novel about the Southern states, Colonel Carter of Cartersville. It was published by Houghton, Mifflin and Co. about 1891, with illustrations by E.W. Kemble and the author. 'Colonel Carter' was 'A Virginian of good birth, fair education, and limited knowledge of the world and of men, proud of his ancestry, proud of his State, and proud of himself; believing in states' rights, slavery, and the Confederacy; and away down in the bottom of his soul still clinging to the belief that the poor white trash of the earth includes about everybody outside of Fairfax County.' (electronic edition, 'Documenting the American South', University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, 1998).

8.  Majesty's Fleet
Queen Victoria's 60th Jubilee in 1897 was celebrated by processions, decorations, drink, and a naval review. The brand-new armoured cruiser Brooklyn, of 9,721 tons displacement and 20 guns, under command of Rear-Admiral J. N. Miller, left New York on 3 June to represent the USA at the Review at Spithead on 26 June. She had eight-inch thick Harveyed nickel steel plates and four steel plated gun turrets for the eight eight-inch breech loaders, and cruised at over 20 knots. 'The Brooklyn is painted white, and with her tumble home sides, on which the gun positions look as if they stuck, she presents a great contrast to most of the other cruisers present.' (Times, 4 June 1897, p. 12; 25 June 1897, p. 13).

9.  Quel type
'"D." is delightful ... Quel type!' is written in JW's hand in his press-cutting book (GUL Whistler Chronological Press cuttings). Below is pasted 'D's reply dated 25 August. 'Quel type': Fr., what a bloke/type.