The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Mirriellees, William Spurr
Record 3 of 9

System Number: 06366
Date: 29 September 1848
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: St Petersburg
Recipient: JW
Place: [Portishead[2]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W362
Document Type: ALS

St Petersburg

friday afternoon

Sept 29th. 1848

In a letter from Aunt Alicia[3], dated 19th, upon the eve of her leaving London, I have the great comfort of finding one of your notes my darling Jemie[4] directed to me there, & shall lose no time in acknowledging both, as the Steamer[5] I came from Hull in leaves Cronstadt tomorrow for that port. I received the welcome envelope from Aunt A today just as I came home from a walk with Willie[6] & Mrs Mirriellees[7], we had been to order Russian slippers to be made as it is too early in the season to find them ready & I wish to send our kind friends Mr and Mrs Charles[8] and Miss Rose Haden[9] each a pr [i.e. pair] lined with fur. The weather is as bright as an American autumn, I had promised dear father I'd take a walk & it was well I had so agreeable a project to induce me to go as far as the Gostinandvor[10] & back. Willie felt his light over-coat quite too warm & his Jourdon[11] cap too little protection from the glowing sunshine. We have ordered one to be made for you dear James, as a best one, to wear in turn with your Copenhagen cap which I suppose you play about in. ask Mrs P[12] to put your plough-boy hat away till the summer, for when you leave Portishead it will not be [p. 2] unsuitable for travelling, or the sea side if kept clean. Our friend William Merriellees[13] [sic] hopes to get off by the last steamer, to go to Scotland where he is to pursue his studies & enter the ministry. he wishes so much he could first visit you, but fears he shall only communicate with you by letter, his Uncle & Aunt[14] who came to visit his parents early in the summer return to England soon they will be in Bristol some time in the winter & I hope you may go to see them there, or at least that they may cross over to Portishead to see my dear boy. either by them, or by him I shall send your books, your desk, & also the blue cloth warm cap you left, that you may have it for play time, & wear your London cap as a best one in cold weather. Whenever you write us dear Jemie mention your health, remember it is for that alone we make the sacrifice to our enjoyment of your society at home, therefore I lament late hours or anything which may lessen your present advantages. I shall be very glad when the gay guest takes his leave, & regularity is established. I like you to move in Mr Phillotts[15] circle, as you have been accustomed to do in mine, but not to incur the risk to your health of late hours, can you not dear boy enjoy any little party in moderation as you used to do at home? surely dear, you have strength of mind to steal away from the circle & retire to your own [p. 3] room without disturbing the others, or being told to go to bed, (by any but "the still small voice[16]" which always will if you listen for its whisperings, advise you as I would do - I thank you dear boy for telling us all you do, & am sure you like us to advise you & to point out when you err, tho we do it not dear Jemie in the spirit of fault finding. do not let it mortify you my darling boy, that I admonish you never to exhibit merely to entertain any circle you may be in, if asked to sing, you must decidedly beg to be excused, if to dance, let it be only to make up a set in the quadrille, as that might oblige others, it was very thoughtless in Mr Pyne[17] urging you to sing, but you might have said you never did it at home. Ah dear Jemie try to think always "if my own dear father were present should I comply? what would he wish me to do?["] Remember too, you are a representative for your loved country, & Oh Jemie remember above all, you are a young christian! Will you not make the exertion dearest boy to rise half an hour earlier than the other boys if you require longer time to get ready for family prayers than they do, that you may pray in secret and read your chapter? I am sure you will feel happier all day for accomplishing this, you know an hour lost in the morning can never be redeemed, tho the evil one may flatter us with the promise that we may after breakfast do what we ought to have done before, it [p. 4] is only by fervent secret prayer to our heavenly father we can be helped to do all things in order, for God is not a director of confusion, & it is written in His word that the followers of Jesus must not be slothful in business[18] & that they must be ever looking unto Jesus as their bright example, He who knew no sin rose before day to pray for us sinners, now Jemie dear I only ask you not to give way to your wish for "a little more sleep" but like a hero to rouse yourself, wash & dress quickly, clean your teeth briskly, & then you will be sufficiently awake to think what you are to ask the King on His Throne in heaven, it is not the length, but the heartiness of your petition He will consider. rely not on your own good resolutions my son, you are surrounded by temptations & your own heart is your greatest deceiver. I long to know how you spend the Lords day. Oh that you may be enabled to improve its hours, as we try to do at home. the way you spend that day will affect the week. It seems a pity you cannot share your dear brothers advantages at home, but you must each try how much you can improve ere you meet again, think of Mons La Roche[19] as Willies governor! will he not keep him in famous order? I am to fit up your room for the study & Willie is to sleep in the little one adjoining. Mons Biber dined with us yesterday, he has a situation.

I[20] fear to make a double postage[21] or would write more. God bless you darling Jemie! If it is the same comfort to you to write home it is to me to write you your letters will often cheer your fond & anxious Mother.


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

2.  Portishead
JW's boarding school, Eldon Villa, was at Portishead.

3.  Aunt Alicia
Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill (1786-1863), JW's aunt [more].

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

5.  the Steamer
Steamer City of Aberdeen (1835-1858), Aberdeen & London Steam Navigation Co. (877 tons.)

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

7.  Mrs Mirriellees
Jane Mirrielees (1810-1875), née Muir, wife of A. Mirrielees [more].

8.  Mr and Mrs Charles
Charles Sydenham Haden, merchant, brother of JW's brother-in-law F. S. Haden, and his wife Mary Love Haden, née Boott.

9.  Miss Rose Haden
Rosamund ('Rose') Horsley (b. ca 1821), née Haden, sister of F. S. Haden [more].

10.  Gostinandvor
Gostinny Dvor, market halls in St Petersburg designed by Vallin de la Mothe. See G. H. Hamilton, The Art and Architecture of Russia, The Pelican History of Art, London 1975, p. 200.

11.  Jourdon
Probably a uniform cap from Jourdan's school at St Petersburg.

12.  Mrs P
Mrs Phillott, wife of JW's tutor at Portishead.

13.  William Merriellees
William Spurr Mirrielees (b. 1828), son of A. Mirrielees.

14.  Uncle & Aunt
J. Mirrielees, brother of A. Mirrielees, and his wife.

15.  Mr Phillotts
Phillott, JW's tutor at Portishead [more].

16.  the still small voice
'But the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?' 1 Kings 19.12-13.

17.  Mr Pyne
Pyne, of Portishead, probably a teacher.

18.  must not be slothful in business
'Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord,' Rom. 12.11.

19.  Mons La Roche
La Roche, tutor at St Petersburg.

20.  I
'I ... AMW' continues in the left margin of p. 1.

21.  double postage
In 1845 the postal authorities of Russia introduced envelopes that were pre-stamped to record the payment of a 5 kopek postal fee for the local posts in St Petersburg and Moscow. On 1 December 1848 the concept of the pre-stamped envelopes proved popular and successful, and so was extended to all post offices throughout Russia.