The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 5 of 51

System Number: 00804
Date: 7 February 1868
Author: Captain Hunter Davidson[1]
Place: Annapolis
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler D10
Document Type: MsLc[2]

General Assembly[3] of Maryland Senate

Feby 7th 1868 -

J McN Whistler Esq.

My dear Sir

Your letter[4] of the 19th ulto came to hand to day -

The character of the man H H Doty[5] (alias Captain Doty) who was known to me, officially only as a contractor with a Chilian [sic] Agent in London in 1865 and afterwards as a shipped seaman on board of my Ship the "Henrietta[6]" in which I took a Torpedo expedition to Chili [sic].

Is too revolting for me to dwell upon in detail.

Surely no Society in England can be long deceived by this [p. 2] villian [sic] (and the woman[7] with whom he travels as his wife!)

How is it possible that the conduct of this man and woman at the Hotel in Valparaiso is not know[n] in England f before this

Is it not known also that he has stolen £100 from me.

Why have you any difficulty in proving the character of such a wretched criminal - When Capt.[8] Mr Edenborough[9] and others are near you who know all about him

The man adds to his many crimes that quality - so detestable to every englishment [sic] - Cowardice! I have never known a more snake-like abject coward & yet you say he [p. 3] belongs to a Club[10] in London! What kind of a Club can it be.

In regard[11] to the reports he may have circulated about yourself you are the best judge how to Act

I have never known or heard of you, but as a gentleman - and shall always be glad to see you or hear from you

I still hope to visit England soon - if my business will permit[;] in the mean-time my head quarters will always be here

Very truly Yours

Hunter Davidson.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Captain Hunter Davidson
Captain Hunter Davidson (1827-1913), Senate of the General Assembly of Maryland [more].

2.  MsLc
The version of this letter in the Library of Congress (PWC A.21.1) is written on headed notepaper and appears to be the original. The text has some minor variations. There is another copy in the National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, MSL/1952/1353/4/4/2.

3.  General Assembly
The General Assembly of Maryland.

4.  letter
JW asked Davidson for assistance and proof of H. H. Doty's dubious character (see below) in relation to his dispute with the Burlington Fine Arts Club (19 January 1868, #00802). The dispute dated from April 1867 when 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). On 9 January 1868, he appealed to Vittorio Emanuelle Taparelli (1816-1890), Marquis D'Azeglio, Sardinian Ambassador and collector [more], President of the Club, who had been absent from the meeting on 13 December, but apparently without success (#00448). JW's correspondence with Davidson is a continuation of his efforts to discredit Haden's allegations.

5.  H H Doty
Captain Horace H. Doty (b. 1824 or 1825), officer of marines, specialist in signal lights and lighthouse illumination [more]. Two years previously, on 1 February 1866, JW had sailed for Valparaiso, Chile, where he spent the next six months or so as a bystander to the Chilean-Peruvian conflict with the Spanish government. Doty figures in JW's Valparaiso journal, where JW noted receiving sums of money from him for some unspecified service (#04335).

6.  Henrietta
The 'Henrietta' was a ship carrying arms (apparently torpedos), which arrived in Valparaiso on 24 July 1866 (see JW's journal, #04335). JW's involvement in this venture is not clear: he may have been acting as a middle-man or broker, or his involvement may have been purely personal.

7.  woman
Astive Doty (b. 1840 or 1841), née Froidure, wife of H. H. Doty [more]. One of the charges brought before the Burlington Fine Arts Club Committee was that JW had seduced Astive Doty (see charge number four, JW to W. Boxall, #00498). She does figure frequently in JW's Valparaiso journal, and, with a servant or companion, was on the ship on which JW travelled to South America (see JW's journal, #04335).

8.  Capt.
Inserted in left margin, in pencil and in another hand, probably that of JW.

9.  In regard
JW has bracketed this and the following paragraph in the left margin, in pencil.

10.  Mr Edenborough
Henry B. Edenborough (b. 1840?), Captain of Corvette, Peruvian Navy [more].

11.  Club
That is, the Burlington Fine Arts Club, founded early in 1866, a club for artists and connoisseurs. It was located at 177, Piccadilly. JW was proposed as a member on 22 February 1867 (see William Boxall (1800-1879), portrait painter, Director of the National Gallery [more], Louis Huth (1821-1905), collector [more], and the Vittorio Emanuelle Taparelli (1816-1890), Marquis D'Azeglio, Sardinian Ambassador and collector [more], proposers, #11957).