UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06452
Date: 13 February 1855[1]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: [Baltimore[3]]
Recipient: JW
Place: [Washington]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W447
Document Type: ALS


Thursday Feb 13th. 1855

I sent you by Cousin Donald[4] a cravat my own dearest Jemie which I hope may satisfy your taste as one exactly like it does Willies[5]. he wore his in his dressed suit on Sunday & said it was first rate! this is all the price I ask to succeed in my humble efforts to please my sons, & save expence, which is a duty now. I hear nothing from you, & Donald only says what may lessen my anxiety, he told me your apologies had been accepted at the Coast Survey Office[6] & that you would henceforth be punctual & faithful in attendance upon your duties there. I hope when you come home again to secure more of your time for reasoning together, I felt the injurious effect of excitement upon your mind, you cannot be aware of the marked change in your tone! You never give yourself time to reflect, you amuse your fancy till wearied nature falls into dreams in sleep, & your unsatisfied frame is hurried thro toilette & breakfast I fear without meditation or seeking the blessing from the Father of the fatherless which it may be a widowed Mothers humble but fervent & faithful supplications obtain for you. [p. 2] Thro the intercessions of our Lord Jesus Christ "Jemie my boy[7]" I only aim at your happiness when I remind you of your early training at home! if you would but review your life & ask yourself honestly, which part of it yeilds [sic] most self satisfaction upon results. Oh if you would secure the affection & respect of all worthy of your regard, return to the path your father[8] by example & precept & prevention kept you on. I cannot give you an idea how your foolish course is undermining my health, my heart cannot but be the repository of hopes disappointment of promises unfulfilled. At your age your fathers chiefs[9] had confidence in his capability, his industry & honor. Oh think of him sometimes "Jemie my boy" let him from the grave admonish you, of the confidence he had in you that you would promote Mothers comfort & be her protector when absent from him! & her support if needed! It is difficult to realize that you will in a few months attain the age of 21. is it not degrading your talents that you will not make them sufficient for your respectable maintenance, instead of depending upon the earnings of those who have a right to expect perserverance & industry & improvement of the [p. 3] advantages you inherit? You must not distress me by despising your present field of employment, make yourself valuable & you will be advanced, it will be beneficial to your future career to go out on the Survey, to your health & habits a benefit you do not see as plainly as your Mother for she has the eye of faith, that blessings to you will result if only from honoring her advice to perservere till your year on the U. S. C. S. is fulfilled. it will be impossible without ruin to our little stocks[10], that you go to Europe[11] (as you seem to cherish hopes) & that Willie return to College which he is preparing by daily hard study to do. Only give me time to recover the losses I have sustained by trying retrenchment to start Willie & then put in your claim to my self denial, that your desire may be gratified. "Have patience with me & I'll pay thee all"[12] rein in your inclinations, & discipline in the school you are in now, for acquiring habits of frugality industry & order, without these you can never flourish as an Artist. I do not lecture you, dear Jemie, I only say let us reason together & do not despise your fond Mothers Experience of life, it is a battle, our own inclinations our most obstinate foes.

Just interrupted by a call from Julia[13], who is well. I told her of writing to you & she sends her love. When [p. 4] George[14] came here to talk to me of Willies desire to resume his Collegiate Course[15], he said "Oh how I wish the boys would realize the necessity to be steady." he thinks I should join you in Washington it would be my duty & my profit, he proposes if Donald & Ginnie[16] leave me as seems inevitable [sic]. I shall store my furniture till I can see where I ought next to try to establish a home, & then I could be alternately with you & Willie[.] What think you? Donald's fear is I'd find Washington very uncomfortable, & that your engagements would not enable me to be much with you. Willie thinks your late hours would finish me! for he knows I'd sit up to bid good night. But it is better to wear out than to rust out. I would not for my own ease omit my duty to any of the few spared me to live for. Mary Brennan[17] is so faithful & so disinterested in her service, while tears flow down her face at the sad inevitable[18] [sic] of an approaching break up! she says that she is ready even to separate from me for a time, that dear Willie may not have to go longer to the shop[19], he hates it so, & driving him makes him so reckless & hardened! I can only pray & relieve my burthened heart by tears in the solitude of my chamber, none but God knows what I suffer. but I rejoice in my Saviour, & remember all His followers are X bearers[20], spiritually not emblimatically. [sic]


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Notes:

1.  13 February 1855
This letter comes between AMW's letters to JW of 1 and 28 February 1855 (#06451, #06453). No replies, if any, have survived.

2.  Anna Matilda Whistler
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more].

3.  Baltimore
AMW was staying at 176 Preston Street with Donald McNeill Fairfax (1821-1894), naval officer, JW's cousin [more]; see AMW to JW, 26 and 27 November 1854, #06446

4.  Cousin Donald
Donald McNeill Fairfax (1821-1894), naval officer, JW's cousin [more]; for cravat see AMW to JW, 8 January 1855, #06449.

5.  Coast Survey Office
JW resigned from the US Coast and Geodetical Survey on 12 February 1855; see AMW to JW, 15 January 1855, #06450.

6.  Jemie my boy
A familiar phrase used by JW's father George W. Whistler, to 'reconcile JW to self denial & obedience.' See AMW to JW, 10 May 1849, #06392, and AMW to JW, 15 and 16 January 1852, #06409.

7.  father
George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more].

8.  fathers chiefs
At the age of 21, George Washington Whistler was assistant teacher of drawing at the USMA (1821-22); his chiefs at the time would have been the Colonel and Chief Engineer of the Corps of Engineers, Alexander Macomb (1782-1841), and the Chief of the Topographical Bureau, Major Isaac Roberdeau (1773-1829).

9.  our little stocks
See AMW to Joseph Harrison, 19 June 1849, #07629, and AMW to JW, 8 January 1855, #06449.

10.  Europe
JW was to obtain a visa for Europe on 29 July and left on 3 September, travelling via London to Paris.

11.  Willie
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

12.  Have patience with me & I'll pay thee all
'The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all,' Matt. 18.26; 'And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all,' Matt. 18.29.

13.  Julia
Julia de Kay Whistler (1825-1875), née Winans, JW's sister-in-law [more].

14.  George
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more]. He married Julia de Kay Whistler (1825-1875), née Winans, JW's sister-in-law [more] in 1854.

15.  Collegiate Course
William McNeill Whistler cut his course short at Columbia College in February 1854 for employment at the locomotive engineering shop in Baltimore owned by Ross Winans. See AMW's letter to JW, 17 [September] 1854, #06442. A year later, in January 1855, William wanted to resume his studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT; see AMW to JW, 1 January 1855, #06448. William was enrolled at the college by mid-March 1855; see AMW to JW, 15 March 1855, #06454.

16.  Ginnie
Virginia ('Ginnie') Carry Fairfax (d. 1878), née Ragland, wife of D. McN. Fairfax [more].

17.  Mary Brennan
Mary Brennan (b. 1825), AMW's servant [more].

18.  inevitable
In December 1854 Mary Brennan told AMW that she wanted to return to her New York connections (probably family); see AMW to JW, 7 December 1854, #06447. It is possible that Brennan realized AMW's financial difficulties, hence her decision to part from AMW.

19.  shop
Winans Locomotive Works in Baltimore owned by Ross Winans (1796-1877), locomotive manufacturer, father of JW's sister-in-law [more]; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 3 April 1854, #06438.

20.  His followers are X bearers
'And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross,' Matt. 27.32.