Whistler, James Abbott McNeill. Autograph letter signed (JAMcN.Whistler”), 2 pages (4 ¼ x 7 in.; 112 x 175 mm.), 96 Cheyne Walk, 26 April [ca. 1870], to Mr. A. Roth; light scattered spotting.
No money and liability issues with the unscrupulous dealer Charles Augustus Howell.
Whistler writes: From what I have seen of you I feel every confidence that you will not press too hardly upon me in Howell’s matter––knowing as you do the circumstances under which my liability was incurred––I am most desirous to save myself from being put to law expenses, but as I have no money I propose your taking a picture of mine and holding it as security until Mr. Howell pays you the amount––Will you agree to this?–– and if so will you come and breakfast with me ––say on Wednesday next at 11o’clock?––and we will select the picture––.
Howell was an Anglo-Portuguese dealer and collector. Despite his often-dubious dealings, artists regarded him with friendly tolerance. He helped Whistler in his tangled affairs, to pawn, sell and engrave his pictures, print and sell etchings, and meet clients and dealers. He also bought paintings from Whistler. Howell was charming and persuasive. Whistler described him as “the genius, the superb liar, the Gil-Blas, Robinson-Crusoe hero out of his proper time, the creature of top-boots and plumes – splendidly flamboyant” (Pennell, 1921, page 58). In the end, Howell made little profit from Whistler and was one of the chief creditors at his bankruptcy.