The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Etchings of Venice, The Fine Art Society, London, 1880
Record 9 of 15

System Number: 11385
Date: [29 December 1880][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: Edmund Yates ('Atlas')[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: [Published][3]
Document Type: PLc

Atlas, mon bon, méfiez-vous de vos gens[4]!

Your art gentleman says that Mr Whistler exhibits twelve etchings[5], "slight in execution and unimportant in size." Now the private assassin you keep, for us, need not be hampered by mere connoisseurship in the perpetration of his duty - therefore, passe[6], for the execution - but he should not compromise his master's reputation for brilliancy, and print things that he who runs may scoff at.

Seriously, then, my Atlas, an etching does not depend, for its importance, upon its size. "I am not arguing with you - I am telling you." As well speak of one of your own charming mots[7] as unimportant in length!

Look to it, Atlas. Be severe with your man. Tell him his "job" should be "neatly done." I could cut my own throat better; and if need be, in case of his dismissal, I offer my services.

Meanwhile, yours joyously,

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [29 December 1880]
This is the date of the letter's publication in the World.

2.  Edmund Yates ('Atlas')
Edmund Hodgson Yates (1831-1894), novelist, 'Atlas' columnist and editor-proprietor of the World [more].

3.  [Published]
Published in the World (see date note above) and later in Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, 2nd ed., London and New York, 1892, pp. 50-1.

4.  méfiez-vous de vos gens
Fr., be on your guard with your people.

5.  twelve etchings
A reference to Etchings of Venice, The Fine Art Society, London, 1880 which opened in early December. The etchings were Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). (excat 5). The extract quoted by JW came from a review published in the World on 8 December 1880. It was reproduced by JW beside this letter in The Gentle Art of Making Enemies under the title 'Critics "Copy".'

6.  passe
Fr., let it pass.

7.  mots
Fr., sayings.