The Suffragette


Henry James (1843–1916)
Autograph letter, signed, to Charles Hagberg Wright, 7 May 1914
Private collection

By the end of June 1913, after approximately ten sittings, Sargent  finished his oil portrait of James. When it was  rst publicly exhibited at London’s Royal Academy, on 4 May 1914, a suffragette named Mary Wood attacked the portrait with a meat cleaver. Wood badly damaged the canvas in three places. In a letter to his friend Jessie Allen, James reported ruefully that “she got at me thrice over before the tomahawk was stayed. I naturally feel very scalped and disfigured.” On 7 May, he wrote this letter to Wright, librarian of the London Library, reflecting that he really owed “the vicious hag & her ravage a good mark for having led to my hearing from you.”