The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: plagiarism
Record 14 of 20

System Number: 11421
Date: [16 January 1890][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Henry Labouchère[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Published
Document Type: PLc[3]


Cowed and humiliated, I acknowledge that our Oscar[4] is at last original. At bay, and sublime in his agony, he certainly has, for once, borrowed from no living author, and comes out in his own true colours - as his own "gentleman."

How shall I stand against his just anger, and his damning allegations! for it must be clear to your readers, that, beside his clean polish, as prettily set forth in his epistle, I, alas! am but the "ill-bred and ignorant person," whose "lucubrations" "it is a trouble" for him "to notice."

Still will I, desperate as is my condition, point out that though "impertinent," "venomous," and "vulgar," he claims me as his "master" - and, in the dock, bases his innocence upon such relation between us.

In all humility, therefore, I admit that the outcome of my "silly vanity and incompetent mediocrity," must be the incarnation: "Oscar Wilde." Mea culpa! the Gods may perhaps forgive and forget.

To you, Truth - champion of the truth - I leave the brave task of proclaiming again that the story of the lecture to the students of the Royal Academy was, as I told you, no fiction.

In the presence of Mr. Waldo Story[5] did Oscar make his prayer for preparation; and at his table was he entrusted with the materials for his crime.

You also shall again unearth, in the Nineteenth Century Review of Jan. 1889, page 37, the other appropriated property, slily stowed away, in an article on "The Decay of Lying[6]" - though why Decay!

To shirk this matter thus is craven, doubtless; but I am awe-stricken and tremble, for truly, "the rage of the sheep is terrible!"

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [16 January 1890]
Date from publication in Truth, 16 January 1890, p. 97. This is a response to Wilde's letter, published on 9 January 1890, #11420, from which JW has picked out numerous words.

2.  Henry Labouchère
Henry Du Pré Labouchère (1831-1912), journalist and Liberal MP [more].

3.  PLc
Reprinted in the Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London, 1890, pp. 241-42, under the heading 'Panic'. See also Holland, Merlin and Rupert Hart-Davis, eds, The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, London, 2000, pp. 418-20.

4.  Oscar
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde (1854-1900), writer, critic and playwright [more].

5.  Mr. Waldo Story
Thomas Waldo Story (1854-1915), sculptor [more].

6.  The Decay of Lying
O. Wilde, 'The Decay of Lying', Nineteenth Century, January 1889, p. 37.