UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Art and Art Critics
Record 33 of 35

System Number: 04127
Date: [27 June 1890][1]
Author: Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac[2]
Place: [Paris]
Recipient: JW
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler M397
Document Type: ALS[3]


Précieux maître, prestigieux ami, prodigieux Entomologiste!

vous avez donc pris le parti de piquer sous la piquante vitrine de ce volume[4] la famille des papillons[5] enfin collationnée!

Je soupçonne même - au moins pour une part / tel burin féminin d'avoir fait épouser aux passages les passades de "Butterfly", et de son "weel[6]" [sic] si plaisamment tour à tour molestants, ou plus modestes.

L'écot par cet insecte du one farthing ouvre l'ère de l'ironie en numismatique[7]!

[p. 2] L'opportunité négligée est déjà pour nous . . . Qui nous traduira le reste? Je me réjouis d'en jouir lentement, pour mon compte.

Babel nobis haec otia fecit.[8] Quel Whistler que cette couverture[9]! - quel typographe que ce Whistler! - mon éditeur est donc enfin trouvé!

Revenons à nos moutons - qui sont des cèdres! L'arbuste[10] qui était sans doute celui de notre amitié a souffert de votre silence [p. 3] après ma lettre sensible - et s'est décidé . . à en mourir!

Sic! - Et celui qui le remplaçait, en fit autant par imitation, trop d'eau, et votre sécheresse!

On me dit que vous avez trop souffert pour être bon[11]. Ça n'est pas vrai. D'abord vous n'avez pas souffert. Ensuite, je vous trouve très bon. Tellement que les deux petits arbres vont peut-être en ressusciter du coup!

Si non, les dommages et intérêts sont ouverts: un sou[12] - un souvenir:

Rare few[13]

R.

[p. 4] Juin 90


This document is protected by copyright.


Translation:

Precious master, prestigious friend, prodigious Entomologist!

So you have at last decided to pin the butterfly family finally collected beneath the enticing window of this volume!

I even suspect - at least for a part of such a feminine engraving to have achieved the marriage of the Butterfly's brief passage and of its weel [sic] so pleasantly by turns biting, or more modest.

The share by this insect of the one farthing opens the era of irony in numismatics.

The neglected opportunity is already there for us, Who will translate the rest? I rejoice in the slow enjoyment of it, on my account.

Babel nobis haec otia fecit. What a Whistler is this cover! - What a typographer is this Whistler! My editor has at last been found!

Let us return to business - which is about cedars. The bush which was certainly that of our friendship has suffered from your silence after my sensitive letter - and decided … to die of it!

Sic! - And that which replaced it, did the same by imitation, too much watering, and your drought!

They say you have suffered too much to be good. That is not true. Firstly you have not suffered. Next, I think you are very good. So much so that the two little trees will perhaps revive immediately!

If not, the damages and interest are open: one sou - a souvenir:

Rare few

R

June 90


Envelope:

England.
Monsieur
James MacNeill Whistler
Tower House
Tite Street
Chelsea.
London
[stamp x 2:] POSTE / 25 / REPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE
[postmark:] PARIS 70 / R. GUICHARD / 8E 27 / JUIN / 90
[postmark on verso:] LONDON. S. W. / N B / J[L?] 28 / 90


Notes:

1.  [27 June 1890]
Dated from postmark.

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

3.  ALS
Written in purple ink. Published in Newton, Joy, La Chauve-Souris et le Papillon. Correspondance Montesquiou-Whistler, Glasgow, 1990, no. 33, pp. 75-77.

4.  volume
Whistler, James McNeill, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, London and New York, 1890.

5.  papillons
The Gentle Art was illustrated with butterflies which reflected JW's reaction to the passage cited.

6.  weel
A reference to Alexander Pope's paradox, 'Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel'.

7.  l'ironie en numismatique
In 1877, Ruskin had accused JW of being a charlatan, asking 200 guineas for 'throwing a pot of paint in the public's face'. At the end of the libel trial, JW was awarded a farthing in damages. In the Gentle Art JW drew a butterfly sitting on a farthing at the end of his reprinted Art and Art Critics.

8.  Babel nobis haec otia fecit.
Lat., Babel accords us these fruits. Cf. Virgil, Eclogues, I, line 6: 'Deus nobis otia fecit.'

9.  cette couverture
Yellow and beige, decorated with butterflies.

10.  L'arbuste
A bonsai tree. Double underlined.

11.  vous avez trop souffert pour être bon
Possibly derived from 'One must suffer to be beautiful' ('Il faut souffrir pour être belle').

12.  un sou
The equivalent of a 'farthing' (see above); the word inspired the pun.

13.  Rare few
The dedication in the Gentle Art reads 'To the rare few ...'.