The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 12th [Exhibition], Ouvrages de Peintures, Sculpture, Dessin, Gravure, Architecture et Objets d'Art, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1902
Record 12 of 20

System Number: 07337
Date: 25 July 1902
Author: Edward Guthrie Kennedy[1]
Place: Aix-les-Bains
Recipient: JW
Place: [The Hague]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W1325
Document Type: ALS

[illustration of hotel and scroll:] ANCIEN HÔTEL / VENAT & BRISTOL / LOUIS TESSIER. PROPRIÈTAIRE

[stamped:] H. NOËL & PATTARD

LE July 25th 1902

To the Cher maitre at The Hague,

I am sorry to learn, my dear friend, from David[2], that the indisposition I heard about when in London, has turned out to be a bad attack of nervous prostration. This, I understand, was a culmination of nerve destroying noises connected with the erection of a new building next to your new residence. Any duffer (even I) can understand the exasperation caused by constant hammering and sawing, not to mention (p. 2) other rasping noises, and consequent annoyance & mortification upon discovering that nothing can be done to stop such a disturbance to health & comfort.

David says that you are improving, so I hope that the quiet & repose of Holland will shortly bring you around all right again, and that many masterpieces will show that Whistler is himself again.

Since my return from Italy, where I had favourable weather & great enjoyment, I have been very busy running from Paris to London & back, to Scotland & back twice, ever using sleeping cars! Think of that, on the island!!

I bought all the Whistler's in sight, some rare plates too, and have others in my mind's eye. Also some very fine (p. 3) Rembrandt's[3], portraits and landscapes, Durer's[4] & other old masters.

In fact I rushed about so much, & was so busy, that I left London suddenly & came directly here, turning everything over to David who had opportunely arrived a few days before. The weather at Aix is not nearly so fine nor so warm as last year (we have a thunderstorm & lots of rain as I write,), though there are enough fine days for all kinds of feminine humanity to display themselves or rather their clothes, which latter are very elegant indeed. There are Americans here by the hundred, and now that the races are coming on, we shall have horsey men & women, in addition to the varied population now here. A frind of moine [sic] from (p. 4) Castle Fogarty, Co. Tipperary, Oirland is here. He is an old soldier & diplomat and is a great favourite with the ladies, though seventy two years of age. He talks German, French, Italian & some English fluently, & is quite amusing & agreable [sic]; knows all the gossip of the place, and when a new painted lady appears, informs me as to whether there is any "moral element in her chiaro-scuro" or not, as the man who had D. Ph. after his name said about Whistler's etchings of Venice.

Talking of morality, I hear that Landor[5], who has lately taken to talking & is very pleasant, said of to a lady, of whom was speaking of a woman she knew as a very immoral woman - "Dear Mrs. Fisher, you know an immoral lady; wont you please introduce me to her"! (p. 5) Really if Landor keeps on I cannot imagine where he will bring up.

The modus-operandi here is odd, and if you saw me in a long flannel peignoir[6] after a bath, you would laugh.

A doctor is consulted first of all & he prescribes so many baths of different kinds.

The principle kind I take is the douche. I enter a large chamber where are two masseurs (having previously disrobed in an ante-chamber) & seat myself on (p. 6) a stool. Then warm sulphur water rushes through two hose pipes at a lively rate, the two masseurs working all over y me, the water pouring over the places they are working on, the nozzle of the hose being skilfully worked to keep up with the progress of the masseur.

I am then stood up in a corner like the bad boy at school, and a stream of water from a hose actually batters me. Then, after putting on a long flannel peignoir, I am wrapped in blankets in a sedan chair, with a towel tied around my head, & thus, actually helpless, carried off to the hotel and slung into bed like a mummy! The chair is, of course, covered, but you can imagine my shame-faced-ness during my first experience.

The scenery here is beautiful and the weather warm & sunny in general. One can go up a mountain which overhangs the town (over five thousand feet) by a cog-wheel [p. 7] railway & have a fine view of Mt. Blanc & other large peaks. The panorama below is very fine. Mrs Tolman[7], whom you may remember, & who is grieved to hear of your illness, is here with Mrs Bigelow[8], a friend of hers. They leave on the 28th for Chamonix for the "after-cure" which is as important as the cure itself, which does not cure at the time, it seems, but afterwards. But to any one, like me, of an active temperament, how trying this is - this idle life.

I am somewhat fretfully waiting for the time to arrive to get away, & in a hurry too, for I am much behind my usual time in returning to the other shore.

I know you have no sympathy with any one who wishes to be anywhere at "four o'clock precisely", or who is in a state of haste. Nor have I. But a hard & cruel fate has turned [p. 8] me, from a natural-born, dawdler into a sort of business man.

When I left America this Spring, my nerves were worn out from many causes - too much work for outsiders principally - but I think after I finish here, that I shall be all right again.

What a pretty shop front[9] that was in the Salon - beautiful colour, & the "Little Cardinal"[10] too! That is the one I missed, & inquired for, when at the Studio, you may remember.

You will excuse this gossipy and formless scrawl I know, which is written, with considerable difficulty (eyes weak) - Yes? No? what? I know you will.

With best & friendliest wishes for your rapid recovery, I am, as Ever,
Sincerely Yours,


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1.  Edward Guthrie Kennedy
Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), dealer with H. Wunderlich and Co., New York [more].

2.  David
David A. Kennedy, New York dealer, brother of E. G. Kennedy [more].

3.  Rembrandt's
Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn (1606-1669), painter and etcher [more].

4.  Durer's
Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), artist [more].

5.  Landor
Henry Savage Landor (1867-1924), artist and explorer [more].

6.  peignoir
Fr., dressing-gown.

7.  Mrs Tolman
Mrs Tolman, a friend of E. G. Kennedy, unidentified.

8.  Mrs Bigelow
Edith Evelyn Jaffray (b. 1861), Mrs Poultney Bigelow, novelist.

9.  shop front
Possibly A Shop (YMSM 376).

10.  'Little Cardinal'
JW's Grenat et or: Le Petit Cardinal (YMSM 469) was on show at the 12th Exhibition, Ouvrages de Peintures, Sculpture, Dessin, Gravure, Architecture et Objets d'Art, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1902.