The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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John Humffrey Parry, 1816-1880

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1816.01.24
Place of Birth: London
Date of Death: 1880.12.10
Place of Death: Holland Park, London


John Humffreys Parry was a barrister.


The author of Lord Campbell's Libel Act... with an Introduction on the Law of Oral Slander (1844), Parry was promoted to sergeant-at-law, the highest ranking position for a barrister, in 1856. He was involved in a number of celebrated cases, included the sensational trial of Arthur Orton, the Tichborne claimant. He was also the leading counsel for the World and was elected Bencher of the Middle Temple in 1878.

Well known for his theatrical style, Parry was the barrister James Anderson Rose chose to represent JW in 1878 at the Whistler v. Ruskin trial. Rose described him to JW as 'a Man of great eloquence [...] of sound judgement, discretion, and prudence' (#05233).

On 22 November 1878 JW arranged a dinner for Parry and his junior William Comer Petheram, also a popular lawyer, in order to give them an opportunity to view the paintings that he intended to present to the court as evidence, including Nocturne in Blue and Silver (YMSM 113), Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 140) and Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170). Dinner was reputedly served by bailiffs who had taken possession of the White House (#08746).

During the trial Parry chose not to follow the arguments set out by Rose in the brief. The Pennells believed that he had ignored the document altogether. However, Parry proved himself to be a capable advocate. He declared of JW: 'there can be no doubt that Mr. Whistler is a genuine artist. I do not suppose he estimates himself a man of genius; but he is a conscientious, hard-working, and industrious artist who has followed his profession for years [...] occupying an independent and somewhat isolated position, holding original or even eccentric views [...] Is he to be expelled from the realm of art by the man who sits there as a despot?'


Parry, John Humffreys, A Letter on Feargus O'Connor, Esq, London, 1843; Parry, John Humffreys, Lord Campbell's Libel Act... with an Introduction on the Law of Oral Slander, London, 1844.

Edward Abbott Parry, Vagabonds All, New York, 1926; Merrill, Linda, A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler v. Ruskin, London, 1992.