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The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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22nd May 2003 - A Wee Dram!

It would be true to state that throughout his life, Whistler enjoyed 'a wee dram' of one sort or another from time to time.

The artist seems to have enjoyed a drop of whisky, and so for instance while staying in Paris (on 23 March 1867) writes to his friend George Lucas requesting that he bring over from London a whisky flask which Whistler had accidentally left behind (Baltimore Museum of Art, W-Lucas file 10). Later in life, the American patron E. G. Kennedy regularly sent liquor to Whistler. In a letter of 22 May 1898, Whistler thanks Kennedy for "the bottle of cocktails, which I carried triumphantly away with me! and if you don't come soon there will be none left [for] you! -" (NYPL Kennedy II111).

However, Whistler's wee drams sometimes got him into trouble. For instance, during the artist's period of financial diffuculties, in August 1878 the wine merchant Thomas Luff sent Whistler an outstanding bill for £20. 14. 6. (LCMS LC5/541) - the artist paid off a portion of this, but when he was declared bankrupt in May 1879 he still owed £11. 1. 6.

Finally, a letter written by Captain B. A. Wake to F. S. Haden on 23 September 1867 recalls JW's behaviour on the ship 'Shannon' on his return from Valparaiso in 1866: "with reference to Mr Whistler... his conduct on board the Shannon was disgraceful - to anyone professing to be a gentleman - The Captain had occasion to stop him from being supplied with liquor, & to put him under an arrest - and I had myself to inflict personal chastisement on him in consequence of his having struck me in the face -" (V&A, PC12/6 MSL/1952/1353/2/3/01-4). Haden was able to make use of Whistler's on-board indiscretions with the bottle in a quarrel which embroiled the two men in 1867.