The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1878
Record 9 of 11

System Number: 02504
Date: [26 October/November 1878][1]
Author: JW
Place: [London]
Recipient: George Washington Curtis Lee[2]
Place: [Virginia]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler L40
Document Type: ALdS

Dear Genl.

Permit me to recall myself to your memory - I learn that a plan is unfol being it is proposed to erect an equestrian statue to your illustrious father[3] and I am so greatly interested in all that concerns his memory that I venture to obtrude myself in the matter so far as the art that as to hope that the art consideration may permit - May I therefor[e] venture to say a word about the work and hope that you may be enabled to lay before the Committee the proposal that Mr Böehm[4] of European reputation [p. 2] may have this commission entrusted to him -

In my opinion I have no hesitation in saying that no one is so worthy of the thoroughly able to design and carry out on a grand work of the kind - witness the many colossal statues executed by him here and abroad - and notably the equestrian statue of the Prince of Wales[5] at this moment in the Paris Exhibition[6] - for which this distinguished Artist has received been awarded [sic] a medal from the jury -

I am so anxious that the undertaking should do justice to General Lee one of whom Sir Garnet Wolsely[7] [sic] said to me he looked upon as the greatest of modern times and reflect honor and credit upon our country that I trust that the Gentlemen whose desire it is to bring this about will not hastily allow this important result [p. 3] to be endangered by entrusting the work to well meaning but perhaps less capable gifted hands -

Mr Böehm is certainly a great artist for whose works I have the highest[8] greatest admiration and no one in England is more distinguished - and if this statue were confided to him the result would be a noble work of which we might justly be proud -

Let me recall myself to your recollection as an old West Point comarade[9] [sic] who has never forgotten your the high opinion all held of yourself and the veneration we had of your father -

Believe me dear General
Very sincerely Yrs


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1.  [26 October/November 1878]
This letter was written in response to Böehm's letter of 25 October 1878 (#00320).

2.  George Washington Curtis Lee
George Washington Curtis Lee (1832-1913), army officer and University President, son of R. E. Lee [more]. He graduated from USMA, West Point, with the class of 1854, acted as ADC to President Jefferson Davis throughout the civil war, and attained the rank of Major General CSA. His brother, William Henry Fitzhugh ('Rooney') Lee (1837-1891), army officer and congressman, younger son of R. E. Lee [more], was not trained at West Point, although he served in a cavalry regiment and was promoted to General CSA. At the time of this letter he was a member of the Virginia senate.

3.  father
General Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870), Superintendant of USMA, West Point, and later Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate States of America [more].

4.  Mr Böehm
Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-1890), sculptor [more].

5.  statue of the Prince of Wales
Commissioned for Bombay (see #00320).

6.  Paris Exhibition
Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1878.

7.  one of whom Sir Garnet Wolsely ... modern times
Garnet Joseph Wolseley (1833-1913), 1st Viscount Wolseley, army officer [more]. This phrase was added between the original lines.

8.  that
This word is re-instated by means of a dotted underline.

9.  highest
This word is re-instated by means of a dotted underline.

10.  comarade
JW presumably meant 'camarade', French for comrade. Robert E. Lee was superintendent of West Point when G.W.C. Lee graduated with the class of 1854 and JW, who was in the class below, failed. Fitzhugh Lee (1835-1905), army officer, nephew of R. E. Lee [more], was in the class of 1856, and resigned in 1861 to join Lee's army (see Cullum, cadet nos. 542, 1631, 1755).