The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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John Christopher Hiffernan, ??-??

Nationality: Irish
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Date of Death:
Place of Death:


Named as 'Patrick Heffernan' by the Pennells. He and his wife Katherine had several children including Agnes and Joanna; the latter was JW's mistress, and Agnes was mistress and later wife of James Singleton.


The family was living in London at 69 Newman Street when Joanna Hiffernan first met JW, about 1860. How long the family was at Newman Street is unclear. The 1861 Census records No 69 Newman Street as a lodging house, but the Hiffernans were absent at this point.

JW was then sharing a studio next door with the caricaturist George du Maurier. Her father was described as a 'a sort of Captain Costigan, "a teacher of polite chirography"' - Captain Costigan was an ebullient, slightly disreputable character in W. M. Thackeray's story of journalistic and literary life in London, The History of Pendennis (1848-1850); chirography was the art or business of handwriting, and a chirographer may have been a copying (often a legal) clerk.

He spoke of JW as 'me son-in-law.' In March 1862, Hiffernan's mother Katherine died. George Du Maurier described the event to the artist Thomas Armstrong: 'Jimmy came to town just for a day. The reason for his hurried visit was the death of his Mother-in-Law; about which he was quite sentimental, and very much afraid that the bereaved widower, Joe's Papa, who is an impulsive and passionate Irishman, will do something to disgrace Joe's sisters.'


Du Maurier, Daphne, ed., The Young George du Maurier: A Selection of his Letters, 1860-67, London, 1951, p. 118; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Whistler Journal, Philadelphia, 1921, p. 161.