The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877
Record 11 of 119

System Number: 12074
Date: [19 November 1877][1]
Author: James Anderson Rose[2]
Place: London
Recipient: [unknown]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC
Document Type: MsD

[In] the High Court of [Justice]
Queens Bench [Divi]sion


Whistler  }
ats       }
Ruskin[4]    }

Instr[ucti]ons for Statement of Claim -

J Anderson Rose
Plt's Solr [Plaintiff's Solicitor]
11 Salisbury St Strand

[p. 2] Whistler v Ruskin
Instrons for Statemt of Claim

In this action brought to recover damages for the libel contained in the No. of Fors Clavigera[5] herewith

The Plt is the well known Artist Painter & Etcher -

The Def[endan]t is the equally well known Art critic & writer on every imaginable subject - The Deft's opinions are accepted as Gospel on all matters of art or relating & hereto & there can be no doubt that the expressed opinion of Mr Ruskin in Fors Clavigera that Plt was an impostor &       is calculated to do him great pecunary & other damage - Plts work so nearly approached the aspect of [deleted word, illegible] wilful imposture is calculated to do Mr Deft [Plt?] great pecunary injury & it is submitted is not within the limits of fair criticism[.] It may be that the rest of the sentence is [p. 3] not so clearly libellous & it may be considered as mere Billingsgate - vulgar abuse to write of an an artist's "ill educated conceit" or "Cockney impudence" or to call him an [sic] [illegible] "Coxcomb" - However this may be the question of libel is one for the Jury - Both parties are eager to appear as witnesses - Mr Ruskin's Sols entered an Affid[avit] the day after Mr Ruskin was served with copy of the Writ - & Mr Ruskin has alleged his intention of appearing as his own Counsel - Both parties have many friends & many enemies -

It will be seen by a note on the back of the wrapper of Fors Clavigera that Mr Ruskin has adopted a singular [p. 4] mode of publication of his works in order as he explains to retain complete command over their mode of publication - Three different applic[ati]ons were made to Mr Geo Allen[6] Mr Ruskin's Publisher at [Sunnyside?] Abington Kent for copies of this particular number of Fors Clavigera of July [2nd?] 1877 & in reply a copy was sent to each of the applicants -

Mr Pike[7] will consider whe[the]r Interr[ogatori]es are necessary either to prove the authorship of the libel or the publicor.

Is it necessary desirable or allowable in the Statem[en]t of Claim to refer to any evidence to shew the injury which such criticism as Mr Ruskins has caused or is likely to cause to an artist like Mr Whistler - If so Mr Pike's attention is called to an article in the Daily News of July 21 1877 in which the writer says it cannot be [p. 5] concealed that he Mr Ruskin "has spoken with excessive severity about Mr Whistler" & again it is thus when Mr Ruskin comes [to this?] question of purchase that his remarks become things to regret & the artiste continues to reprobate the style of Mr Ruskins criticisms

Again the said newspaper of the 15 July 1877 extracted the passages the passages [sic] from Fors Clavigera relating to Mr Whistler & adds - sard sardonically at the end of the extracts - "this is pleasant reading I think I shall subscribe to Fors Clavigera"

The Architect of 14 July 1877 extracted from Fors Clavigera for July [p. 6] the criticism of Mr Ruskin on Mr Whistler[;] the Athenaeum of 21 July 1877 refers to the criticism & states that it is Mr Whistler's intention to bring an action for libel -

And the Academy of [21?] July 1877 called attention to Mr Ruskin's remarks in the July Noumber of Fors Clavigera refrained from gushing but stated that a single Noumber of Fors Clavigera could always they believed be got for 10d & added that as to Mr Ruskin's remarks that they were For the most part with admiral justice & carefulness of Judgmt & with what is even a more than usual felicity & audacity of phrase the great great critic of our time has expressed himself on certain of the works which happen to be in prominent places in Sir Coutts Lindseys Exhibition Rooms[8]

[p. 7] Many other papers & periodicals commented on the criticism of Mr Ruskin & there is no doubt that this partic[ula]r Number of Fors Clavigera was more noticed & extracted from by the Press than any other Number had ever been & solely because it contained this libel on Mr Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  [19 November 1877]
This document appears to be related to another draft dated 19 November 1877 (#12077), both concerning the case of Whistler v. Ruskin, which was heard at the Queen's Bench of the High Court on 25-26 November 1878.

2.  James Anderson Rose
James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), solicitor [more]. This document was passed with JW's legal papers by Rose to the Library of Congress.

3.  '5'
Written in another hand, and circled.

4.  Ruskin
John Ruskin (1819-1900), critic, social reformer and artist [more].

5.  Fors Clavigera
Ruskin, John, 'Letter the Seventy-ninth' Fors Clavigera, 2 July 1877, pp. 181-213.

6.  Geo Allen
George Allen (1832-1907), publisher and agent for John Ruskin [more].

7.  Pike
M. Warburton Pike (d. 1889), probably a lawyer at the Exchequer of Pleas Division of the High Court.

8.  Sir Coutts Lindseys Exhibition Rooms
Sir Coutts Lindsay (1824-1913), Bart., co-founder of the Grosvenor Gallery [more]. The works under discussion were in the 1st Summer Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877 (cat. nos. 5, 6A, 6, 4, 8, 9), and included Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170).