The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1872
Record 1 of 17

System Number: 10071
Date: 3-4 November 1871
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: London
Recipient: Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer[2]
Place: [Stonington]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection PWC 34/67-68 and 75-76
Document Type: AL

[monogram:] AMW

2 Lindsey Houses, Chelsea

Friday afternoon, Nov. 3, 1871

My own dear Sister,

my dear[3] Julia

Stonington Ct
13 [illegible] Nov 16th

Knowing this letter cannot fail to interest you, I hasten to forward it for yr perusal, after which please let cousin Margaret[4] have it. I have it stored in my memory, so it need not be returned to me. I am so thankful for her pleasant prospects in the boys - How I should like to see yr Aunt Anna's portrait[5] - It must be good, to be approved of by 'the Artist' & others so able to judge - After our Southern Cousins have read this, then send to Scarsdale[6].

[...][7] But tho we must not wish them back again, we may cherish the hope of going to them to join the family circle of the redeemed in the Mansions above. Earthly care is a heavenly discipline & how varied it is! but all measured out by Him who is rejoicing each one of His followers as needs be. You & I suffer most the privation of means to do the many acts of loving kindness, to each one who has any claim upon us, especially the worthy poor, who toil for us, yet the Widows curse does not fail to yeild [sic] the little to satisfy the Perishing, tho we are not indulged in our selfish gratification & therefore I could not avail of opportunities for sending proofs of Aunt Anna's loving remembrance to your sons and daughters[8], especially to dear Julia[9] a bridal gift, by Mrs Hooper[10], and more recently by Mrs Julius Adams[11] who offered, as few do nowadays, but she I suppose had not been shopping to the extent most do, for the Col was sent by a Co. to Europe, for information & his only remaining son had alarmed his apprehensions that he too would be a victim to consumption, so he brought him and could not leave the only [p. 2] girl, she and her Mother needed change of scene, after the last few years of sickness and death they had been so saddened by. I never thought Lizzie or her husband[12] so interesting, but the chastening tho grievous yielded the refinement - which made both Debo[13] and I say how much Julius reminded us of George[14]! and that Cousin Lizzie so warm-hearty it was a comfort to talk to.

Jemie[15] had always been a favorite with them both. I wish they could have gone to Speke Hall[16] as they intended[,] the old hall would have interested the Col. [17]and he not only desired to see Jemie but his recent painting. My portrait you would all like as Debo says it reminds her of Grandmother[18] and Uncle William MacNeill[19]. When it is Photographed I hope to send one to you and another to M. G. H.[20][.] Meanwhile my love to the dear Scarsdale home circle "house and cottage" or send Margaret this letter to read, tho she must not blush for the vanity of her old chum, in praise of my own likeness! but thankfulness to God is my emotion and it was a Mother's unceasing prayer while being the painter's model for the expression which makes the attractive charm. If you could hear Mrs Hooper describe the struggle Jemie has gone thro in his persevering work to finish pictures, you would understand the transition from "hope deferred which maketh the heart sick[21]" to the cheering present and future work. But I must tell you first of another divine lesson taught me in my intense sympathy for dearest Jemie. A lovely study ordered two years ago by a wealthy M P.[22] was promised in August. A beautiful young girl of 15[23] had posed for it, she was a novice & soon wearied standing & pleaded illness, then her brother in play with her as she was at home hurt her seriously & she had convulsions. poor Jemie does not relieve his trouble by talking of it, but I saw his misery. But he is never ill, his talent is too eager, if he fails in an attempt he tries another. so I was not surprised at his setting about preparing a large canvas late tho it was in [p. 3] in [sic] the evening, but I was surprised when the next day he said to me "Mother I want you to stand for me! it is what I have long intended & desired to do, to take your Portrait." I was not as well then as I am now, but never depress Jemie by complaints, so I stood bravely, two or three days whenever he was in the mood for studying me. his pictures are studies & I so interested stood as a statue! but realized it to be too great an effort so my dear patient Artist (for he is greatly patient as he is never wearying in his perseverance[)] concluding to paint me sitting perfectly at my ease, but I must introduce the lesson experience taught us, that disappointments are often the Lord's means of blessing, if the youthful Maggie had not failed Jemie as a model for "The girl in blue on the sea shore[24]["] which I trust he may yet finish for Mr. Grahame, he would have had no time for my Portrait, & if I had not felt too feeble to sit one bright afternoon he would not have given up work to take me down the river for air. We went to Westminster to call on Eliza Stevenson Smith[25]. Jemie so seldom goes out in the day, he was charmed with the life on the Thames. He took out his pencil & tablets[26] as we side by side on the little Steamer were a half hour or more benefitting by the sunshine and breezes. The Smiths were not in town, so we left our cards & the dear fellow to prolong my inhaling the fresh air sauntered with me thro St. James Park & then we took a Hansom Cab[27] as it is an open carriage & for a shilling drive we were soon at our gate, the river in a glow of rare transparency an hour before sunset, he was inspired to begin a picture & rushed upstairs to his studio, carrying an easel & brushes, soon I was helping by bringing the several tubes of paint he pointed out that he should use & I so fascinated I hung over his magic touches til the bright moon faced us from the window and I exclaimed oh Jemie dear it is yet light enough for you to see to make this a moonlight picture of the Thames. [p. 4] I never in London saw such a clear atmosphere as this. That August moon, Jemie went out two or three nights in a barge with two youths [28] who own boats close to us and who delight to do any service to Mr Whistler who has always noticed them in a neighborly spirit. So now Kate I send you by this mail steamer an ["]Athenaeum[29]" a weekly paper with a criticism on these two pictures exhibited now in "The Dudley Gallery"[30] it is so true. The Moonlight[31] is not more lovely than Sunset[32] tho the Critique gives it only the mede [sic] of praise "Almost as beautiful," tho quite different these & two others (one before sunrise)[33] took Jemie out often[,] work in the open air was like the renewal of Etching[34] & gave zest to Studio at intervals.

[p. 5] Jemie had no nervous fears in painting his Mothers portrait for it was to please himself & not to be paid for in other coin. only at one or two difficult points when I heard him ejaculate "no! I can't get it right! it is impossible to do it is as it ought to be done perfectly!" I silently lifted my heart, that it might be as the net cast down in the Lake[35] at the Lords [sic] will! as I observed him trying again, and oh my grateful rejoicing in spirits as suddenly my dear Son would exclaim "Oh Mother it is mastered, it is beautiful!["] & he would kiss me for it. Some few of his most intimate friends came, Mr Rose[36] who seems to have given me his own Mothers place since she died, was charmed & came four times, he says when it is Exhibited[37] next Spring he shall go every day to see it. Mr Rosetti[38] the Poet & Artist in a note to Jemie after he had been here, said "Such a picture as you have now finished of your Mother, must make you happy for life, & ought to do good to the time we are now living in["]. And now that dear Jemie is at Speke Hall it is there. I will just extract from Mrs Leylands[39] letter to me what her little daughters[40] said in her Surprise. "I think you ought Mr W to write Peace on your Mother's picture for that is what it is!["] and another remarked ["]Isn't it the very way Mrs Whistler sits with her hands folded on her handkerchief! Oh it is exactly like her!" Fanny the eldest who was so ill last winter & I watched at her bedside writes me often, I gave her a riddle to guess & when she saw the Portrait she wrote, she knew what Mr W was at work upon, tho' she could not guess the riddle til her astonishment upon his taking them in to see hung up what had come in the huge box. Mrs Leyland writes me that she thinks the full length Portrait[41] he has begun of herself will be as life like as she is sure mine is! Jemie sent me a sketch of mine as the centre Mr Leylands Portrait[42] & a painting of Velasquez[43] the two on either side of mine covering [p. 6] The wall one whole side of the great dining room called the banquetting [sic] hall & that the two Portraits bore the comparison with the painting of the famous Spanish Artist to his satisfaction. I must begin on a less blotted page. I had to send off a scrap of what I meant to have been a long letter last Saturday in my answer to Mrs Hooper, she had not delayed visiting us immediately on her welcome to her Phila home & I was sorry to have been prevented visiting her for a fortnight fearing she would think me indifferent.

[p. 7] Saturday afternoon 4th

I have had several pressing letters to be obliged to write for this mail[,] calls upon me by poor people whose stories had to be listened to & wants attended to, then my clergymans wife[44] called & with the kindest intent sat til now[,] I must close this hurriedly, but may tell you how interesting were all the items your letter contained dear Kate, & that I hope to have leisure in visits in prospect to write you, Mrs Gellibrand[45] has invited me several times lately, but I could not leave til next week. Alice Rodewald[46] wrote me a most loving invitation yesterday for her calling to take me to Feldheim in their carriage on Monday.

I shall anticipate that pleasure on my return from Albyns. Debo is coming to partake my 2 ocl [sic] dinner tomorrow after church, she is one of the most devoted of daughters. her son Arthur[47] comes with her. all her four children are members of the church with her. Mr Haden never goes to a place of worship[48], tho he is the family doctor of the Arch Bishop of Canterbury[49].

When you have read the criticism on Jemies pictures of the river, send the Athenaeum to Julia I think if she or Mr Boardman would write it out & offer it to the Herald, any N York paper might gladly publish it without charge, for we see that Whistlers works as an American Artist are claimed & they seem proud to publish notices of them, My love to dear Jule & say if she will direct the paper, after she has read it to 17 Cathedral St our friends the Perines[50] would be much obliged to her for it.

Today has been so dingy it is not remarkable that at 4 ocl [sic] I can scarcely see what my pen is scrawling! but my heart is full of the truest love to you all. Wilie[51] dear fellow, comes often comes to cheer me, but he has his own primary anxieties as you know Doctors have! he would unite in much love if at my side.

Ever your fond sympathising

Sister Anna W

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

2.  Catherine Jane Palmer
Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer (ca 1812 - d.1877), née McNeill, AMW's sister [more]; she lived at Stonington, CT.

3.  my dear
'my dear ... Scarsdale' written by Catherine Jane Palmer to her daughter Julia McNeill Palmer (see below) on a piece of paper stuck over the letter.

4.  cousin Margaret
Margaret ('Maggie'), sister of Mittie King (see #08179).

5.  Aunt Anna's portrait
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101).

6.  Scarsdale
AMW lived intermittently at Scarsdale, NY between ca September 1851 and November 1857 in a cottage owned by her friend Margaret Getfield Hill.

7.  [...]
The first few lines of AMW's letter are covered by the piece of paper stuck over the letter.

8.  sons and daughters
George Erwin Palmer (1843-1909), Donald McNeill Palmer (b. 1845), Anna Whistler Stanton (b. 1848), née Palmer and Julia McNeill Boardman (1851-1902), née Palmer, JW's cousins.

9.  dear Julia
Julia McNeill Palmer (1851-1902), JW's cousin, later wife of W. S. Boardman [more].

10.  Mrs Hoopes
Mrs Hooper, of Philadelphia.

11.  Mrs Julius Adams
Elizabeth Adams, née Dennison, wife of J. W. Adams, Sr.

12.  her husband
Julius Walker Adams, Sr (1812-1899), civil engineer and soldier [more], designed the sewerage and drainage system of Brooklyn, New York; he was the son of the sister of AMW's husband's first wife, Mary Roberdeau Swift.

13.  Debo
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more], AMW's step-daughter.

14.  George
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more].

15.  Jemie
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more].

16.  Speke Hall
The Liverpool home of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more]; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 7-10 September 1870, #06545.

17.  Col.
Probably Julius Walker Adams; he served as colonel of engineers and also of volunteers in the Army of the Potomac, 1861-63.

18.  Grandmother
Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, mother of AMW [more].

19.  Uncle William MacNeill
William Gibbs McNeill (1800-1853), railway engineer, AMW's brother [more].

20.  M. G. H.
Margaret Getfield Hill (1802-1881), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY [more]. JW had several paintings photographed by John Robert Parsons (ca 1826-1909), painter, photographer, and art dealer, including AMW's portrait (see #07906, and #07614).

21.  hope deferred which maketh the heart sick
'Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.' Prov. 13.12.

22.  M. P.
William Graham (1817-1885), MP and collector [more]. Whistler never finished Annabel Lee (YMSM 79), but eventually presented Graham with Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 140), in exchange for the £100 paid in advance.

23.  young girl of 15
Maggie (b. c. 1856), JW's model.

24.  The girl in blue on the sea shore
Annabel Lee (YMSM 79); see AMW to Catherine Jane Palmer, 21 May - 3 June [1872], #09938.

25.  Eliza Stevensen Smith
Eliza Stevenson Smith, a friend of AMW, of London. The 1870 PO London Directory, p. 574, lists a James Smith, shoemaker living at 44 Tower Street, Westminster Bridge.

26.  pencil and tablets
She means sketchbooks. One of his drawings was called 'Westminster' (see M. 298, p. 28).

27.  Hansom Cab
Hansom Cab, designed by Joseph Hansom in 1834, redesigned and patented by John Chapman in 1836. It was a two-wheeled, closed carriage, whose distinctive feature was the elevated driver's seat in the rear. It was entered from the front through a folding door and had one seat above the axle with room for two passengers. The driver spoke to the passengers through a trapdoor on top.

28.  two youths
Walter (1846-1936), and Henry Greaves (1844-1904), boatmen and painters. They were neighbours of AMW at 9 Lindsey Row; see PO London Directory, 1869, p. 401.

29.  Athenaeum
'Fine Arts, Winter Exhibition of Cabinet Pictures in Oil,' The Athenaeum, 28 October 1871, p. 565.

30.  The Dudley Gallery
5th Winter Exhibition of Cabinet Pictures in Oil, Dudley Gallery, London, 1871.

31.  Moonlight
Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea (YMSM 103) was exhibited in 1871 as 'Harmony in Blue-Green - Moonlight.'

32.  two others (one before sunrise)
Probably Symphony in Grey: Early Morning, Thames (YMSM 98), and Variations in Pink and Grey: Chelsea (YMSM 105).

33.  Sunset
Variations in Violet and Green (YMSM 104).

34.  Etching
After the publication of A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames, 1871 (the 'Thames Set') (K.38-44, 46, 52, 66, 68, 71, 74-76, 95) (excat 4) in 1871, there was a lull in JW's etching. He found new inspiration in making drypoints such as The Velvet Dress (K.105), a portrait of Frances Leyland.

35.  net cast down in the Lake
This probably refers to 'Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind.' Matt. 13.47.

36.  Mr Rose
James Anderson Rose (1819-1890), solicitor [more].

37.  Exhibited
AMW's portrait was exhibited in the 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1872, after William Boxall (1800-1879), portrait painter, Director of the National Gallery [more], threatened to resign if it was rejected.

38.  Mr Rosetti
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), artist and poet [more]. The letter has not been located.

39.  Mrs Leylands
Frances Leyland (1834-1910), née Dawson.

40.  her little daughters
Fanny Leyland (1857-1880), mariée Stevenson-Hamilton, Florence Leyland (1859-1921), married Val Prinsep,and Elinor Leyland (1861-1952), mariée Speed, daughters of Frederick R. and Frances Leyland.

41.  Portrait
Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106).

42.  Portrait
Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland (YMSM 97).

43.  Velasquez
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660), painter [more]. The picture was the portrait of a soldier, known as The Corregidor of Madrid; see AMW and JW to Frederick Richards Leyland, 23 August [1871], #11867. JW's sketch has not survived; see Souvenir of Velázquez (M.653).

44.  clergymans wife
Probably the wife of Rev. Robert Henry Davies (1821-1908), incumbent of Chelsea Old Church [more].

45.  Mrs Gellibrand
Mary Tyler Gellibrand (b. 1812), née Ropes, wife of W. C. Gellibrand [more].

46.  Alice Rodewald
Alice Rodewald (1854-1923), daughter of M. I. and J. F. Rodewald [more]; she lived at Feldheim, Wimbledon Common, London.

47.  Arthur
Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, JW's nephew [more]. The other three children are, Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne; Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918); Harry Lee Haden (1855-1877), JW's cousins. Their parents were Delano Haden and her husband Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

48.  never goes to a place of worship
The dissatisfaction in AMW's voice about F. S. Haden was provoked from an argument between the latter and JW over Haden's treatment of James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more]; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 11 November [1868], #06538.

49.  Arch Bishop of Canterbury
Archibald Campbell Tait (1811-1882), Archbishop of Canterbury [more].

50.  Perines
The family of David Maulden Perine, Sr (1796-1882), merchant [more]. In October 1864 David Maulden Perine bought for his permanent town house No. 17 Cathedral Street, today No. 607. See Tercentenary History of Maryland, Chicago, 1925, vol. iv, p. 69.

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