Another chapter in the final book in the Folio Society‘s book on historical trials. It looks like the hugely meaningful ones are pretty much done, as there’s a murder, a divorce, and a libel case coming up. Perhaps I will be surprised, though.
This trial is a simple one. James McNeill Whistler was a popular painter, and a jerk. John Ruskin was an influential art critic, and a jerk as well. When Ruskin panned Whistler’s paintings in the jerkiest way possible, Whistler decided to go for broke in the jerk sweepstakes by filing suit against Ruskin for libel.
The blow-by-blow of the trial didn’t interest me. Talk of what pictures ‘mean’ by the artists bores me. The defense trying to make something of how long it took to dash off the paintings bores me even more. It does tend to show a bitter edge that tends to support Whistler’s contention of malice over pure critique.
Instead of being laughed out of court, the farce had to proceed. Eventually, Ruskin was found guilty, but damages were set at 1 farthing.
Neither man had an easy life after this trial, and it is hard to find any sympathy for that.
- Notable Trials IV – President Andrew Johnson (kilobooks.wordpress.com)
- Notable Historical Trials IV – The Assassination of Lincoln (kilobooks.wordpress.com)