The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Howell, Charles Augustus
Record 392 of 397

System Number: 08311
Date: 30 August 1894
Author: JW
Place: Paris
Recipient: David Croal Thomson[1]
Place: [London]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC
Document Type: ALS[2]

110. Rue du Bac. Paris -

Aug. 30. 1894.

My dear Mr. Thomson

It seems an age! - What has become of our correspondence? -

I have been doing a lot of most wonderful lithographs! and am rapidly developing something in that "Art", as the critics call everything that they fancy a specialité - (as though it were not all one - with the same man!) that has scarcely been done before -

I think I shall send you proofs - only you were (p. 2) not very encouraging the last time - Now I have thought the whole matter out - and find that I was quite right in my final view of the prices - I tried to put before the people, these works at an absurdly small price - fancying that probably I should in this way appeal to a much larger public - and I find that I have only absolutely the same small clientelle that buy etchings! - Again, as I tell you, the lithographs are daily becoming more perfect. - And though there must be always a difference in the cost of a lithograph and an etching, because of the labour & the cost of printing - still it becomes absurd that these works, which are just as beautiful in their way as are etchings, - drawing, composition, execution etc. - should go on indiscriminately at two guineas a piece! You will see yourself that the proofs are beautiful - and I cannot afford to produce them as works (p. 3.) of luxury, on superb old Dutch paper - or most precious Japanese, such as I use for my most choice etchings at such price -

Moreover it is improper that these drawings of mine should be acquired for such poor price sum - It neither pays, nor is there the satisfaction of extending one's "circle of admirers"!! - Why you yourself no longer want "Three of each", as you would say - and are afraid to have more than one or two of any subject in the place! Proving thereby ever more, if it were necessary, that popularity is not my affair - for of course if you cannot make a two guinea work popular, who can?! -

Well then, for the past lithographs, you may say, (if ever you have occasion) that they are no longer at the old price - that is the mass ([p.] 4.) of them - Lucky therefore those who have their collection so far - I shall in due course send your old list with new prices -

Now, with the new works you will have the prices corresponding to the subjects - After all they only at present go from 2 guineas to 3, and 4 - with the exception of Mallarmé's portrait[3], of which I only have six proofs left - I ask for that 5 guineas for one today - and what remain will go up -

By the way I am also beginning to be very exacting as to the quality of these things, and as I go on, I look back and destroy what I do not consider quite worthy in execution - so that one of those you had lately, "The Porch"[4], I have already destroyed - and there are only two or three proofs in circulation! - Also I have destroyed "Le faucheur"[5], or the mower - Though I don't know that you had that one - But these new ones are beauties! -

[p.] 5. The painting "Selsea Bill Sands"[6] - I am not going to sign it at all - The Goupils shall send it back to you at once -

You can tell your man that it is nothing but an odd scrap that I left at Howells[7] when I once went down there, and that I never meant should exist at any price! - I ought to have thrown it in the fire at once - but probably there was no fire handy, & doubtless I would have scraped the canvas the next day, if I had staid to do it - I suppose that, being miserable without painting something, I strolled out on the beach, and found all "Nature" in a shocking state! bleak sky - hard as nails, in an east wind - cheap mean sea - and cold sands - In short every thing abominable and only fit for the British landscapist! - Of course I could do nothing - and ought never to have dipped my brush in such company! - There is no excuse for it - However rather than go in, and[8] much better had I gone in, I weakly attempted to put this common combination on canvas, & immediately sickened with it! - Howell kept it - & of course finally Dowdeswell[9] got it! [butterfly signature]

([p.] 6.) I left that last page as it is, thinking that now that you have taken to giving my autograph away you might as well tare that half sheet off and give it to the unhappy collector[10] who bought the scrap at the Dowdeswells!! - Upon reflection I think I will copy it and stick it on the back of the forgotten thing myself. - Meanwhile you can read it to him - Now I will charge him nothing for this "opinion" - and more than that - I will undertake that if one of these days your client ever wishes to buy anything of mine from me, I will allow the original fifty five pounds he paid for this Selsie Beach, or Sands[11] - in order that I may have it back to destroy before him - I am sure nothing can be nicer or more complete than that -

Well I can't copy it - so let him tare off the half sheet and stick it on the back of his canvas! -

A propos of autographs - you are quite mistaken - I never suggested [p. 7] that you should give my letter to yourself, about the Sarasate[12] etc, to the American admirer[13] - You had of course already given it! -

What I did say was that I very much wished you would get it back, and that you might say to him that if he on any occasion wrote me [a] note, I would answer it most joyously - and that he could gaily keep "as an autograph" -

What news by the way? -

Messrs Virtue[14] - It is too bad of you my dear Mr Thomson, after my doing my best to please you in every way - choice of lithograph - having the run of the whole lot - time ever since ever so long ago, to now reproach me with Messrs. Virtue's tardiness!

You know that it was to please you especially that I was anxious you should pick as you pleased - and they would stick at what they have had, as far as I was concerned, months and months ago - the Bébés[15] -

Really if it were not for you, I wouldn't let them have it at all - or anything else - For don't you think it pretty cool in them to say vaguely that they propose to print at some future time - and never a word about my cheque which they are holding on to now. still! -

Why the "Studio[16]" sent me immediately and with most courteous thanks their cheque for fifteen guineas like well behaved people - What do you think about it yourself? -

Well this is an awful long epistle for me! -

Do write me a good letter in [p. 8] return and clear all these things up! -

With many amiable messages

[butterfly signature]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  David Croal Thomson
David Croal Thomson (1855-1930), art dealer [more].

2.  ALS
'31C' is written in another hand in red ink at top left of p. 1, and '106' in pencil at bottom right of p. 1, and on each sheet.

3.  Mallarme's portrait
Stéphane Mallarmé (C.60), published as a frontispiece to Mallarmé, Stéphane, Vers et Prose; Morceaux Choisis ... [par] Stéphane Mallarmé, Paris, 1893.

4.  "The Porch"
The Garden Porch (C.88).

5.  "Le faucheur"
The Man with a Sickle (C.89).

6.  Selsea Bill Sands
The Selsey Shore (YMSM 200), which was bought by Alfred Atmore Pope (1842-1913), manufacturer and collector [more].

7.  Howells
Charles Augustus ('Owl') Howell (1840? - d.1890), entrepreneur [more].

8.  and
'and much ... course' is written in the left margin of p. 5, at right angles to the main text, and 'finally ... signature' in the top right margin of the same page.

9.  Dowdeswell
Messrs Dowdeswell and Dowdeswell, London dealers.

10.  collector
Alfred Atmore Pope (1842-1913), manufacturer and collector [more].

11.  Selsie Beach, or Sands
The Selsey Shore (YMSM 200).

12.  Sarasate
Pablo de Sarasate y Navascues (1844-1908), violinist [more].

13.  the American admirer
Not identified.

14.  Messrs Virtue
Proprietors of the Art Journal.

15.  Bebes
Nursemaids: 'Les Bonnes du Luxembourg' (C.81), which was published in the Art Journal.

16.  Studio
Gants de suède (C.35) was published in The Studio in April 1894.