The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 3 of 51

System Number: 05242
Date: 20 April [1867][1]
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: Dante Gabriel Rossetti[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler R138
Document Type: ALdS

338. Rue St. honoré -
Paris -

April 20 -

Dear Rossetti -

Your two letters[3] have just reached me - and by them I learn to my real grief and astonishment, that requests of intercession or mediation or general judgement and arrangement have been made to you, purporting to come from me!!! - Let me hasten to undeceive you - Of all this, and the consequent annoyance the supposed petition on my part has caused you, I am wholly innocent and ignorant. -

If I had needed to put such a test to your friendship, I should not have hesitated - and so, it appears, would have made a mistake - I did not however, for the simple reason that I conceive that in an affair[4] of this kind I needed neither judge nor assistance -

Legros'[5] case is of the plainest - [p. 2] not a quarrel - merely a chastisement - I made a statement which he had the madness to say was false! "Ce n'est pas vrais[6]" for which he instantly got himself thrashed - I marvel at the din this apparently natural result has brought about my ears - and shocked horrified as you seem to be, I fear I should be still more so, were you on a similar occasion to take any other than what you call this brutal course - It and it may be a pity, but but I fear I may still continue instinctively[7][.] I feel that the man who tells you to your face that what you say is untrue, runs a risk of destroying your equanimity and getting himself struck -

Beyond this, I like not to believe your friendship so weak in faith as to receive with apparent readiness an evil impression of the absent friend, or listen at all to aspersions cast upon him -

I fail to see how the circle[8] has been afflicted by habits forced upon [p. 3] them by me - they certainly have shown no sensitiveness of the kind at my house -

Perhaps at the fireside where I have been so thoroughly roasted, basted and mis à toute sauce[9], this faint murmur of surprise may be heard as the result of the [illegible word] emmanating [sic] from the sacrifice may be listened to! -

Ever Yours

J. A. M. Whistler

[drawing:[10] Butterflies and dragonflies]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  20 April [1867]
Dated from JW's quarrel with Alphonse Legros; see below. Published in The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti 3, ed. William E. Fredeman. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 2003, vol. 1, 67.56A.

2.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), artist and poet [more]. This is apparently a rough draft of a letter that was sent to Rossetti. He replied on 24 April [1867] (#05243).

3.  two letters

4.  affair
By April 1867, the friendship between JW and Legros had ended, after a row which came to blows in Ionides' office. Friends tried to intervene (JW to L. Ionides, 22 April 1867, #11312) but the two men were never reconciled. The reasons for their dispute are unclear. In his version of affairs JW claimed that Legros called him a liar, but others maintain that things started when JW told Legros that he owed him money, which Legros denied. There was a protracted quarrel about money dating back to 1864 when they shared resources with each other. Apparently JW was irritated by a colourman's bill that came to him that was in part Legros'. Another dispute involved Legros' marriage (see Ionides, op. cit., p. 74; JW to A. Legros, 13 August 1864, #02505; and Peattie, 'Whistler and W. M. Rossetti: 'Always on the Easiest and Pleasantest Terms', Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, vol. 4 (Fall, 1995), pp. 77-92). It has been suggested that Legros became jealous when JW assisted Fantin-Latour in obtaining a commission to copy the works of old masters (see Ionides, Luke Memories, Paris, 1925, reprinted with an afterword by Julia Ionides, Ludlow, 1996, p. 13). However, Du Maurier describes Legros as having received the same or a similar commission (Du Maurier, Daphne, ed., The Young George du Maurier: A Selection of his Letters, 1860-67, London, 1951, p. 248). See The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, (cited above), vol. 1, 67.52.

5.  Legros'
Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), painter, etcher and art teacher [more].

6.  Ce n'est pas vrai
Fr., That is not true.

7.  instinctively
This deleted word has been re-instated by means of dotting beneath line.

8.  circle
Mutual friends included William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), civil servant and critic [more], Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), poet and critic [more], and Lucas ('Luke') Alexander Ionides (1837-1924), stockbroker and businessman [more].

9.  mis à toute sauce
Fr., (here), hauled over the coals.

10.  drawing
Butterflies and dragonflies (M.339). This does not seem to have anything to do with the letter.