The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Record 23 of 24

System Number: 07334
Date: [29 June 1896?][1]
Author: Edward Guthrie Kennedy[2]
Place: [London]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W1322
Document Type: ALS


My dear Mr. Whistler,

I got your letter[3] last night upon my return from the Country, nearly midnight.

There is one thing in it however, not withstanding it's admirable temper, which I should very much like you to alter, and that is the assertion that you will not soon forget what I said the other day. I am so in the habit (tacitly encouraged by you) of speaking right out when with you, without any reserve, that, though in this case saying too much, & [p. 2] and thinking too little, I hope it is not too much to ask that you will not take an impetuous exclamation in the either too literally, or so much to heart as to mar our connection which has existed now without interruption for nearly twenty years.

I must therefore ask that you will forget. I do not know that I have ever asked a favour of you for myself personally, but this I do ask.

I must say that you have acted in this matter much better than I should have done, and that the assertion that Whistler is not amiable, made by the unthinking, is easily refuted by this incident alone. You must remember [p. 3] also, that if I sometimes appear to find fault or take exception to one thing or another, it is as much - indeed more - on your account than my own.

However, without saying any thing further, except to once more express my regret for being so hasty, I hope that you will shake my hand in token that you can be still more amiable, and that you are still "my dear friend" and that I remain, as Ever


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1.  [29 June 1896?]
This dates from shortly after the death of Beatrix Whistler (1857-1896), née Beatrice Philip, artist [more]. It is a reply to JW's undated letter written on Sunday, #09761. There are letters from JW to Kennedy that give no sign of this brief quarrel, and which are dated 8, 11 and 21 June (#09749, #09750, #09751), and it is therefore most likely that this dates from Monday 29 June 1896. In July Kennedy went first to Holland and then he and JW went together to France.

2.  Edward Guthrie Kennedy
Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932), dealer with H. Wunderlich and Co., New York [more]. JW called him 'OK'. Kennedy had visited JW's studio and thought he had ruined Red and Black: The Fan (YMSM 388), and was sufficiently outspoken to upset the artist.

3.  your letter
#09761, where JW wrote that he could not forget it but it would not affect their relationship. The incident is explained in a note in Kennedy's hand in the letterbook beside #09761: 'Sep. 6th - Sunday. 1903. Button Island. Westport. N.Y. In looking over these many letters of Whistler to me - often a painful feeling comes over me when I think that at the very last I was estranged from him. It was not my fault however, & in another year (1902) will be found the memo. connected with my absence from the Studio. Undoubtedly Whistler & his wife both liked me, as he says, to the last. He had many qualities which were most agreeable, & often charming, effect of his manner or conversation.   This letter alludes to my one bad "break", & where I was undoubtedly at fault.    Whistler had three full lengths of Mrs Whibley, one in black, one in grey & black & one in pink. I was to have the three when they were "complete". There was something to do to the hands of each. One afternoon I went to the studio in Fitzroy St 8 & saw (some one said "Come in" in answer to my knock) Mrs Whibley [posing] for the full [p. 2] length in pink, besides the but Whistler, instead of finishing the hand only, had repainted the picture from top to bottom & the beautiful tone had, of course, disappeared. In my astonishment I said - Good Lord you've spoiled my picture". This was impulse, & of course the moment I said it, I saw of what a piece of foolishness & bad taste I was guilty & did not go into the Studio, but went away after lamely apologising, & afterward I wrote him a letter. He was certainly much more tolerant than I had reason to expect & he was as friendly as ever.   The enclosed is à propos of the pink portrait.   EGK'  Red and Black: The Fan (YMSM 388) is a portrait of Ethel Whibley (1861-1920), née Philip, JW's sister-in-law [more], which JW never sold, although he did restore it to a state of magnificence.