The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Whistler 2003 - Centenary Journal

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18th August 2003 - Missed Court Appearance

On 18 August 1873 James Whistler was due to make an appearance in court, but failed to show up. For once however the artist was not to be fighting a lawsuit or giving evidence, but instead was supposed to be in court on jury duty.

It appears that Whistler simply ignored the letter that he received from the Central Criminal Court on 14 July 1873 (LCMS MS Division PWC 2/16) summoning him to appear on the jury, and as a consequence of his non-appearance, on 18 August 1873, the Clerk of the Court, Henry Avary, wrote to Whistler:

"In pursuance of the Statute 25th & 26th Vict Cap 107 & 12, I have to inform you that at the Session of the Central Criminal Court held this day a fine of £5 has been imposed upon you for not attending as a Juror in obedience to a Summons in that behalf..."

(LCMS MS Division PWC K1)

It was only in the face of a fine that Whistler made any move, and after contacting his lawyer James Anderson Rose, had an affidavit prepared on his behalf (see J. A. Rose to Whistler, 23 August 1873, GUL MS Whistler R123). This affidavit Whistler then submitted, on 25 August 1873, offering the following reason for his absence from the jury:

"I James Abbot McNiel [sic] Whistler of No. 2 Lindsay Row Chelsea in the Co[unt]y of Midde[lese]x attest under oath & say that I was born in Massachusetts in the United States of America & I have never been naturalized in England & being a Citizen of the United States of America & not an Englishman or naturalized in England I did not & do not consider myself liable to be summoned as a Juryman.

"On receiving the summ[on]s to attend as a Juryman I consulted an Att[orne]y Mr Ja[me]s Anderson Rose who advised me that I was not liable to serve as a Juryman under the above circumstances unless I was summoned specially as a foreigner to try a foreigner"

(LCMS MS Division PWC K1)

It appears that Whistler's plea was accepted; it is not thought that the artist was made to pay the £5 fine.