The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

return to search results

Documents associated with: Daily Chronicle, The (London)
Record 15 of 31

System Number: 06142
Date: 13 July 1896
Author: Thomas Robert Way[1]
Place: London
Recipient: William Webb[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W139
Document Type: ALS[3]


13th July 1896

Dear Sir

I have duly received your letter of July 8th, enclosing copy of one from Mr. Whistler[.] I much regret that he should put you to the great trouble of copying his letters and forwarding them in that manner to me instead of sending them direct, and the objection is especially to the point in that his second letter contains a serious misquotation from my previous letter, and, whether I am to attribute it to him or to your copyist I am uncertain. I must beg you to forward my present reply to him [p. 2] intact, as no doubt you did the previous one. And first, I will deal with this mistake - Mr Whistler says "That Mr. Way sent me a copy of the book[4] on the 29th June is not to the point, the note he says was already printed in it, and the distribution to subscribers already begun" - Now I consider the matter very much to the point indeed, and I am sure any independent person would too - If you will refer to my previous letter you will find that I did not say anything of the kind. I forwarded a copy of the book to Mr. Whistler on the 27th June[5] and gave away three other copies, and no subscribers had copies until June 30th, when 16 copies were delivered. No more [p. 3] went out until July 3rd when the bulk were delivered. Now all the early copies were easily within recall had Mr. Whistler written to make objection by July 2nd - and as I know that he looked at the page on which the note was printed, by or before the 28th June, and made no sign, I do not consider that he can hold me responsible for parting with the copies. I consider it extremely unfair that because an irresponsible journalist[6] told a deliberate falsehood to serve his own purposes, Mr. Whistler should at once write such letters as he did. He could not stop to enquire the source of the newspaper paragraph but took it for granted that I was to blame.

Now with regard to his description of what the paragraph in the Catalogue should have been, his wording would have indeed led to a false impression, and I still maintain that the paragraph is absolutely true as it stands. If Mr. Whistler wishes to go back [p. 4] to an earlier stage, I will begin at the beginning. When I first wrote him on the subjict [sic] of the Catalogue he was pleased at the idea, and said he would design something special for a cover, and I should put my name on the title page. On looking into ways and means, as my capital consisted solely in my knowledge of the history of the lithographs, and as I was determined that if I did the book at all, it should be presented to the buyers of his lithographs, for whom alone it was and is intended, in a form worthy of the subject, and as I was an entirely unknown person, I looked to find some attraction which should draw attention to the book and help to sell sufficient copies to prevent my loosing [sic] money over it. I consequently wrote to Mr. Whistler to ask his permission to print the "St. Bartholomew's Gate[7]" lithograph as a frontispiece, at the same time offering him half the profits, should there be any.

He never answered my request and lately when I refered [sic] to it, ridiculed the idea, and yet I calculated that [p. 5] my offer would have probably amounted to £12 or £15 and that I believe was as much as he was then charging Mr. Holme[8] and others for drawings of which many thousands were printed in the "Studio" and elsewhere against the modest 140 for which I asked. Failing this, I being anxious to issue a prospectus, determined to use a drawing of my own, a portrait of Mr. Whistler, which he had praised and said he should think I might be able to sell copies of. On his seeing it later on, he [p. 6] objected to the size, when I made another drawing on a smaller scale, this he said was much better, but still too big - I would have drawn it smaller still, but he said he would lend me a photograph to do, a back view of himself, and he brought it to me[9]. It will be unnecessary for me to refer to the arguments I used against the use of a back view, and of my wish not to issue it with him turning his back on his own subscribers, but when I complained that the photograph was so bad that it was impossible to see any drawing in it and asked him to give me a few minutes sitting to finish it, he declined, but said he would work [p. 7] on it. I showed it to him in its unfinished state before it was etched, when he worked on it and it was proved, as the whole came too black, he worked on it again, and as he says truly, scraped away some of its ugliness. A comparison of impressions of the two states will shew at once what in the drawing is due to Mr. Whistler entirely; and I certainly should not have used the portrait in its first state, but had Mr. Whistler not done so himself, should have worked upon it, or redrawn it.

No one has been deceived or will be who reads the note.

With regard to future use of both the portrait and the note, as no further edition of the book is intended to be made, the drawing will be erased from the stone at once. And that part of the affair can be considered as settled according [p. 8] to Mr. Whistler's wishes.

In conclusion, I must say that the work was begun as a labour of love and as a tribute to Mr. Whistler's great art, or one small side of it, and not with any belief that it would prove of pecuniary benefit to myself. I have spared neither trouble nor expense in making it as perfect as possible and although its reception by the public has proved a complete success, I wish now that this correspondence has come as the conclusion, that I had never undertaken the work at all - Apologising for the great length of this letter,

I remain dear Sir
Yours faithfully

Thos. R. Way

W. Webb Esq

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  Thomas Robert Way
Thomas Robert Way (1861-1913), printer, lithographer and painter [more].

2.  William Webb
William Webb (b. ca 1851), of G. and W. Webb, lawyer [more].

3.  ALS
The printed letterhead appears on pp. 1 and 5. The pages are numbered by Way. Published in Spink, Nesta R., The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler, gen. eds Harriet K. Stratis and Martha Tedeschi, Chicago, 1998, 1998, vol. 2, pp. 182-84, App. IV.18. A typescript copy of this letter was made by Webb and sent to JW, #11382. It contains minor innaccuracies, justifying Way's objection to Webb as intermediary.

4.  book
Way, Thomas R., Mr. Whistler's Lithographs: the Catalogue, London, 1896.

5.  27 June
These letters have not been located.

6.  journalist
He refers to two paragraphs announcing the forthcoming publication, which appeared in the Daily Chronicle, 24 June 1896, and the Glasgow Herald, 29 June 1896. The offending sentence in the Herald read 'Mr Whistler has executed a portrait of himself in what is known as "stump lithography" to serve as frontispiece.'

7.  St. Bartholomew's Gate
Entrance Gate (C.20).

8.  Mr Holme
Charles Holme (1848-1923), founding editor of The Studio from 1893-1922 [more].

9.  it to me
A copy of this photograph, taken at 110 rue du Bac, is in Glasgow University Library.