UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: LaFarge, John
Record 7 of 8

System Number: 04621
Date: 12 March 1903
Author: Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington[1]
Place: New York
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler P261
Document Type: TLS[2]


234, Fifth Avenue

March 12th, 1903.

My dear Jimmy:

You are never out of my thoughts for long, but just lately several persons have been talking to me about you; Sargent[3], George Vanderbilt[4], (who expressed a real affection for you,) Kennedy[5] and that dear creature, Waldo[6]; not to mention M. de Montesquiou[7], qui s'en gardait bien, lui![8] --- so frequently have you come up in conversation, too, with Lafarge[9] (of whom I see a great deal) that here I am again, with a machine-made letter, this time, made by me, though, with the help of "Sally", as Charlie Forbes[10] and I are in the habit of calling this particular Type-writer. Understand, if you please, that Sally is the machine itself --- not a lady who plays on the keys.

Well, my dear Master, I hear that you have gone back to your own Chelsea? Tant mieux![11] You were always best in that particular corner of the great city. And now we may hope for more of the delicious things which Chelsea always seemed to make you do. Don't find fault with me for my awzward [sic] way of putting it; but you must ever remain, for me, a part of Venice and of London. How much a part you will never guess; as you will never know how much you represent to me of all that is delightful, fine and great in life. By the way; George Vanderbilt has found you out, too. He knows that you have a great big heart which you have been at some pains to hide from most persons. However, I think you may trust us not to tell of it.

Kennedy is showing a collection of your etchings at this present time. They are fine proofs, nearly all of them. One, a full-length of "Annie Haydon,"[12] [sic] is superb. I never saw a better impression. Of course, I have dropped in, time and time again, to see these things. Several of them were done under my eyes almost, in Venice. You did not know it, but I have run across you at work more than once, down there. A certain day, I saw you standing in a sandolo[13], swaying back and forth, near the via Garibaldi[14]. You stood poised, with a plate lying on your left arm while your right hand made sweeps and curves above it, in the air. How well I remember seeing you look up and then down again, up and down, up and down, several times, and then [p. 2] not draw the contemplated line! You put away your needle, on that day, without making a stroke! --- after twenty minutes of mental experiments, too.

Don't you feel, sometimes, like running over to see West Point[15] in the Springtime? Of course you remember the long rows of cadets lined up for dress-parade, every button shining, and each pair of ducks looking as if it was made of paper neatly folded. What a place it is! One almost wishes that the entire nation could pass a couple of years in such an atmosphere of honor ----- about the only hope we have left in this horrible scramble for money.

A year or two since, my mother told me that one of her regrets was not having me educated at West Point. I consoled her as well as I could by assuring her that mathematics would have tripped me at the start. Still; it was nice to hear that my Mummy has wished me to be one of Uncle Sam's lads.

You wioll not mind this prattle --- will you? Letters are not hard reading, as a rule, especially when they are done on a "Sally". Besides; since you never answer mine, it is easy enough to drop the paper into a waste-basket or chuck it in the fire.

Marion Crawford[16] asked a few of us to dine with him some weeks ago, to meet M. de Montesquiou. There were LaFarge, Wintie Chanler and his wife[17], Mrs. Cadwalader Jones[18], a sort of landscape background, called, Ituri[19], which M. de Montesquiou takes around with him --- a "rasta" with a horrible, hairy mole on one side of his chin --- and I. The dinner was most amusing. M. de Montesquiou had all his chevaux de battaille[20] [sic] killed under him, one after the other, and had to fight on foot. He began by trotting out that noble animal, Alfred de Vigny[21]. Of course, we all knew him, to the count's evident astonishment. As that steed sank under him, he vaulted upon Chasseriau[22] -- I am not sure of the spelling --- that follower of M. Ingres[23] who tried to combine the methods of the latter with those of Delacroix[24]. You know all about him, naturally. So, I am happy to say, did LaFarge, who chipped in with; "Chasseriau --- Chasseriau![25] Mais je l'ai meme assez bien connu dans le temps, à Paris". That was a serious blow to the Conférencier[26] ........ But imagine his state when he trotted out his pet "jument[27]", Mme. Desbordes Valmont[28], and we [p. 3] knew her also --- one of the ladies even quoted a passage from her works! That ended M. le comte's attempts to educate that party. The background did not seem to have perceived what had happened, however, He baragouiné[29]-ed, from time to time, such thoughtful remarks as, "c'est charmang![30] --- Ecoootez ce que Mossieu le Comte va dire mantenang!" and such like, to our great entertainment.

I have been at dinners, lunches, etc., where "Mossieu le Comte" also found himself, but I have not heard him lecture, nor have I left my card at his lodgings. It was told me that he had sold the portrait you painted of him[31]. That was all I wanted to know of him.

The casual foreigner who drops in to teach us things, over here, is often treated to a little surprise. If he happens to be just a simple sort of chap, like Helleu[32], for instance, we just buy his wares, and pay no further attention to him. When, however, he sets up as a teacher, then the Lord have mercy on him!

Are you growing tired of my prattle? Try to read a little more of it while I tell you how charmingly Sargent spoke of you, and how eagerly we all listened to what he could tell us of your doings. And last Sunday, at lunch with Mrs. Jones, George Vanderbilt told LaFarge, Crawford, and the rest of us of his enchanted sittings in your studio. It was then that he let me see that he, too, had had a peep behind that shell you keep over your tender, real, feelings. You have a little of the duellist in you, to be sure, my dear Jimmy, and I dare say you would smack me "good and hard", if I was within reach of your miracle-working right hand --- but I'm not, as it happens. So you must either take what I say to you or burn the letter. You are tender-hearted, and a few of us know it.

Charlie Forbes, who lives with me, here, has just come in. He will sail for France on the nineteenth of this month. He sends you many messages of good will and says that when he comes over to London later in the Spring hn [sic] hopes to see you. If he is fortunate enough to find you at home when he calls, and you care to hear my news, he will tell you what I am doing --- awful rubbish, at best, of course, but deeply interesting to me.

Please present my compliments to the good ladies of your family,

and believe me,
always your devoted

Harper Pennington[33]


This document is protected by copyright.


Notes:

1.  Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington
Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington (1854-1920), artist [more].

2.  TLS
The letter is typewritten, with numerous mistakes.

3.  Sargent
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), artist [more].

4.  George Vanderbilt
George Washington Vanderbilt (1862-1914), collector [more].

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

6.  Waldo
Thomas Waldo Story (1854-1915), sculptor [more].

7.  M. de Montesquiou
Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855-1921), Symbolist writer and poet, and collector [more].

8.  qui s'en gardait bien, lui!
Fr., who was careful not to!

9.  Lafarge
John LaFarge or La Farge (1835-1910), painter and multi-media artist [more].

10.  Charlie Forbes
Charles Stuart Forbes (1856-1926), landscape and marine painter [more].

11.  Tant mieux!
Fr., all the better!

12.  Annie Haydon,
Annie Haden (K.62).

13.  sandolo
A boat, or gondola.

14.  Garibaldi
The via Garibaldi leads on to the Riva degli Schiavoni, near where JW and the 'Duveneck boys' including Pennington, stayed in Venice 1880.

15.  West Point
JW had a short and unsuccessful training at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

16.  Marion Crawford
Francis Marion Crawford (1854-1909), journalist and writer [more].

17.  Wintie Chanler and his wife
Winthrop ('Wintie') Astor Chanler (1863-1926), army officer and sportsman [more].

18.  Mrs. Cadwalader Jones
Mrs 'Minnie' Cadwalader Jones (1850 -1935), née Rawle, writer [more].

19.  Ituri
Gabriel Yturri (1864-1907), secretary and friend of Montesquiou [more].

20.  chevaux de battaille
Fr., war horses.

21.  Alfred de Vigny
Alfred De Vigny (1797-1863), poet and dramatist [more].

22.  Chasseriau
Théodore Chassériau (1819-1856), artist [more].

23.  M. Ingres
Jean Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), painter [more].

24.  Delacroix
Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), artist [more].

25.  Chasseriau --- Chasseriau!...à Paris
Fr., But I knew him well some time ago, in Paris.

26.  Conférencier
Fr., lecturer.

27.  Mme. Desbordes Valmont
Marcelline Desbordes-Valmore (1786-1859), actress and poet [more].

28.  jument
Fr., mare.

29.  baragouiné
Fr., jabbered.

30.  c'est charmang!...mantenang!
Fr. (with spelling to indicate an accent), it is charming, listen to what the Count is saying now!

31.  the portrait you painted of him
Arrangement in Black and Gold: Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (YMSM 398).

32.  Helleu
Paul-César-François Helleu (1859-1927), painter and etcher [more].

33.  Harper Pennington
Signed by hand.