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The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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13th December 2003 - The Burlington Fine Arts Club

Whistler was made a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club, a London social club for Gentlemen, in February 1867, but was expelled at a general meeting of that club on 13 December of the same year.

The circumstances surrounding his expulsion were as follows. In April 1867, Whistler had become involved in a quarrel with his brother-in-law Francis Seymour Haden in a Parisian café, during which the latter was apparently propelled through a window. The quarrel had concerned what Whistler considered Haden's poor treatment of a mutual acquaintance, James Traer, who had died suddenly in Paris on 23 April 1867 of alcohol related causes (allegedly in a brothel). Whistler objected to the burial which Haden had organised, apparently without the presence of a Church of England official and without many witnesses, and a fight ensued.

Haden was also a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club and in the aftermath of the Traer affair he campaigned for Whistler to be excluded from the club, having brought to its attention several alleged previous incidents of assault involving Whistler. On 11 June 1867 the secretary of the club wrote to Whistler suggesting that he resign voluntarily from the Burlington rather than have a special meeting called to consider the charges (GUL MS Whistler B214). However Whistler, never one to back down first, insisted on having the whole subject aired officially, and after numerous written accounts and interviews with relevant parties, Whistler was expelled at the special meeting of the Club on 13 December.

The affair caused a permanent rift in the Whistler family: Whistler was never reconciled with Haden, and life for Deborah Delano Haden (Haden's wife and Whistler's half-sister) was made particularly complicated for years to come.