The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Haden, Deborah Delano
Record 255 of 259

System Number: 03284
Date: [5 January 1898][1]
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: Deborah Delano Haden[2]
Place: [London]
Repository: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Call Number: FGA Whistler 28
Credit Line: Charles Lang Freer Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Gift of the Estate of Charles Lang Freer
Document Type: ALS[3]

110. Rue du Bac - Paris -

[butterfly signature on a tricolour flag]

My dear Sis -

How are you? - and my best wishes to you for this still New Year! -

Did you receive the "Conclusions de l'Avocat Général["][4]? - I sent them to you that you might take pleasure and a [p. 2] not unseemly pride, let us hope, in the consideration in which your brother is held in France! -

You might write me a line to tell me what you think of it all - You must remember that this was not the plaidoirie[5] of my lawyer, but the official summing up of the representative of the Government who had been watching the trial on behalf of the Repu[b]lique - He was therefore quite unbiassed [sic] - and indeed as far as we knew might have been dead against me - So that at last I have had my pound of flesh[6] handed to me as who should say in silver paper with the Government [p. 3] stamp upon it !! -  If you could have heard him my dear Sis, holding forth in the great hall of the Palais de Justice, before the High President and his assembled Judges, upon the acknowledged qualities and unlimited rights of this wicked person to do as he thought fit, I believe you would have shed tears, as did Aunt Alicia[7] in the open station of Preston long ago when the Queen, "God bless her"! passed through!! .... "

This is the man whom France delighteth to honour!" - - - and yet he has done these things! This mocker of Baronets[8]!

Also did he not destroy and wipe out their picture! - and does he not unblushingly admit it - ! - .. And yet, Messieurs this deed is in effect a deed of sound logic . . coming from him! Car il est Monsieur Whistlère!! .... Il se devait à lui-même, il devait aux Whistlériens et au Whistlérisme de ne pas se laisser jouer par Sir Eden! - et c'est pourquoi [p. 4] il n'a pas voulu livrer le portrait[9]!!!" . . . . . . .

Did the like of this ever before happen to hardened offender! - Sent to the stocks, by belted Briton, that he may there be pelted with unclean egg by the Philistine of the market in his righteous wrath, and behold! They come out to meet him with Heralds and Banners and Trumpeters from fair France!

And the law of the land is altered, and new Statutes are made in his honour! And Hayman the Islander[10] is shamed before the people, and is hanged, as an offering to the distinguished one! to appease him, and for his hearts pleasure! -

And there was great rejoicing! And it was commanded that a record of these things be kept in the Chronicles of the Court - And it was graven upon the tablets of the "Causes Célèbres" - and the new law was added to the Code Napoléon! and the name thereof is famous forever!


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Lady Haden -
104. Queens Gate
South Kensington
London S. W.
[postmark:] [illegible] [5?] [illegible]


1.  [5 January 1898]
Dated tentatively from the postmark, as well as from the reference to the New Year, and to the conclusion of JW's lawsuit with Sir William Eden (see below).

2.  Deborah Delano Haden
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more].

3.  ALS
Written on deep bordered mourning stationery. The signature is in pencil.

4.  'Conclusions de l'Avocat Général'
Lé Bulot (1850-1922), barrister, Advocate general[more]. JW is alluding to his dispute with Sir William Eden (1849-1915), painter and collector [more], over Brown and Gold: Portrait of Lady Eden (YMSM 408). JW was dissatisfied with his work and refused to hand it over to Eden, believing it was the artist's right to withhold a picture in such circumstances. Eden instituted legal proceedings against him in November 1894, which dragged on until December 1897 when JW, on appeal, was permitted by the Cour de Cassation in Paris to keep the picture provided that he did not make use of it. In 1899, he published an account of the affair: Whistler, James McNeill, Eden versus Whistler: The Baronet and the Butterfly. A Valentine with a Verdict, Paris and New York, 1899 [GM, A.24].

5.  plaidorie
Fr., pleading, presentation of litigation.

6.  pound of flesh
A quotation from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), playwright [more]. JW uses the same phrase in #08488 and #07860, in the latter of these attributing it to a comment made by the Avocat Général himself.

7.  Aunt Alicia
Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill (1786-1863), JW's aunt [more].

8.  Baronets
That is, Sir William Eden.

9.  portrait
'Car ... portrait', Fr., Because he is Mr Whistler! ... He owed it to himself, to the Whistlerians and to Whistlerism, not to let himself be played with by Sir William Eden! - and that is why he did not wish to give up the portrait!'

10.  Hayman
A complicated pun, based partly on the Biblical book of Esther. Haman tried to trick Xerxes into believing that Mordecai was a traitor, but the lie was exposed, 'So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the King's wrath pacified.' (Esther 7, 10). The Hayman Islands are on the Australian Great Barrier Reef and are entirely unrelated to the story. However, JW often referred to the English as 'Islanders'.