Fair-hand copy of “Mr. Whistler’s Ten O’Clock” lecture of February 20,1885

53 pages, rectos only (including autograph title-page) in black ink. Bound in green buckram, marbled endpapers; some wear at spine ends and edges.

Artist: Copyist Unknown
Author: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Historical period(s)
Ink on paper; buckram binding with marblized endpapers
H x W x D (closed): 20.2 × 16.6 × 1.4 cm (7 15/16 × 6 9/16 × 9/16 in)
England, London
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Study Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


copy, England
Provenance research underway.

53 pages, rectos only (including autograph title-page) in black ink. Bound in green buckram, marbled endpapers; some wear at spine ends and edges.


Stamped twice with Whistler's buttefly monogram


This autograph fair copy of Whistler's renowned aesthetic manifesto was used by the publisher Chatto and Windus to set and print the first edition in 1888.  It includes a title page by Whistler with the butterfly monogram, demonstrating how the artist wanted the cover and title-page laid out. A second butterfly appears at the conclusion of the text. After the pamphlet appeared, it was almost immediately translated in to French by Mallarmé as Le Ten O'Clock. It was collected in The Gentle Art of Making Enemies in 1892.

Highly epigrammatic, the lecture represents Whistler's most comprehensive--and most frequently cited-- articulation of his aestheticist conviction that beauty should not be "confounded with virtue" and that art exists in a realm altogether separate from its social or cultural context. Inestimably important to Whistler studies, the "Ten O'Clock" is also a canonical text of the Aesthetic movement generally and was a foundational document for the French Symbolists.

Although Whistler was surprisingly nervous when he began the talk claiming that "it is with great hesitation and much misgiving that I appear before you, in the character of -- The Preacher,"--he soon found his footing. The lecture was well received by its London audience and was widely and favorably reviewed in the press the next day, despite the fact that a secondary aim of the lecture was to annihilate Whistler's nemesis John Ruskin and deflate his acolyte Oscar Wilde.

Collection Area(s)
American Art
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.