The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Document associated with: Württemberg, Charles von
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System Number: 06368
Date: 30 September and 12 October 1848
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: St Petersburg
Recipient: JW
Place: [Portishead[2]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W364
Document Type: ALS

St Petersburg

Thursday Sept. 30th. Oct 12th. 1848. St Petersburg

Jemie[3] darling

I have been hoping for another letter from you to surprise me to overcome all the hindrance of my writing, but having an hour after dinner at my disposal, I find myself naturally enough drawn towards my absent boy in one of the two ways left us to meet, prayer is the other, & I fondly trust dear Jemie you every day and every night unite with us in that most blessed privilege. Do you not by memorys leadings hear us at home pray for all our dear absent members, & tho we be a scattered family on earth, our hearts may all be united in the One Lord blessed for ever. If I had not written you so often since we parted I should fear you were waiting my answers to yours of the 22nd of Sept, which I acknowledged in one I wrote dear Sister last saturday. I have been too much occupied since then to finish a letter to any one, tho I have several for America begun to be in time for the next Boston steamers mail. on monday I was preparing to receive our kind neighbors at a six o'clock dinner the next day, you know I like best to welcome them unceremoniously, for that is the truest hospitality & involves less anxiety, however our good little Coharka [4] won laurels & as Ivan[5] from next door aided our Ivan[6] I cast my cares to the winds, & we dozen Yankees were quite cozey [sic]. Mr & Mrs Gillibrand[7] & Miss Louisa Ropes[8], Mr & Mrs [p. 2] R[9], young Ingersoll[10], a Mr Saltensall[11], & Ben Prince[12] who stays with us, Mr Wm Maingay[13] we have adopted into the American circle because he seems to appreciate it. And now Jemie what will you think of Mother being invited for tomorrow as many of our other equally kind neighbors to a six o'clock dinner? that it is not because I am dull with father[14] and darling Willie[15], for it is my greatest comfort to devote my whole attention to them, but your friend Wm Mirrielees, his uncle & Aunt M.[16] may embark for England, ere your father can return from Moscow; & he must leave home next Monday so all Wm M-s family are to dine with us tomorrow & the Ellerbys[17], Miss Schofield[18] & our Secry[19]. of course, but he comes sans ceremonie[20] to our family dinner, as he did today, & father has gone to the Embassy to read the papers, thus I am left alone till dear Willie comes from school, he will be writing you what he thinks of Baxters[21] soon, & how hard he has to study. You & he will be running a race dear Jemie in Latin & it will be decided who is head when you meet at the summer vacation, but you will have the best opportunity if all we hear of Mr Phillotts[22] capability as a teacher be realized & availed of by you. Ah how anxious I am to have a report from yourself of your course of study, and of the entrance upon a regular method for redeeming lost time, if you do not acquire habits of order & regularity now my son I tremble for your future career. try dear Jemie what you can [p. 3] do yourself "does he saunter?" will remind you of all I have endured when my boys indulged in slumbering or idleness. Willie must have his breakfast by half past seven now & of course would not be so heathenish as to sit down to it until our family prayers were over. I am very glad we shall be obliged to be regular and early, I shall gain time to bestow on the dear absent ones in England & America who share my heart with the two left me in my home. here's Willie let out of school at five & has walked from the 1st line in less than half an hour. and now Ivan is bringing his plate of dinner for he only lunches at school, they have two courses at it, the first was beans & sausage which our prudent Will resisted the next manna cassia[23] sweetened, he took with a bit of rye bread. You must know today was our dear boys first day at school, he was first put in the preparatory class, because of his size, but it was soon discovered he was worthy a higher, & as our Willie says he means to study hard, no doubt he will be advanced. The tailor happening in now to try on his skating paltos[24], I am having [him] measured for a school uniform as he says all the boys dress alike, it is to be brought home next week & then I'll write you the effect of it. Willie says Charlie & Georgie Anderson[25] were let out of school earlier this afternoon because their Sister Emily is to be married[26] at 8 o'clock, he begs me to go to our church gallery to peep at the pretty bride; you know how fond he is of such ceremonies. the weather is foggy & chilly I would not leave our bright fire side from choice, but to gratify Willie I may overcome [p. 4] my dislike for going out in the evening, he is not even to have holidays on saturdays, so we shall not object to Praznicks[27]. I went to see Miss Grant[28] today, she is a sincere mourner & told me she had lost by her dear fathers death, a companion, friend and adviser, she had expressed a wish to see me, because I had known so much sorrow, she talked of our summer, and asked particularly about you & her dear friend Deborah[29]. & begged me to send her love to both. One afternoon father went to the Russian Magazine[30] with me and treated me to some beautiful plants, they fill our drawing room with odour, one is a white rose the others are Tuberoses. Three of fathers Canaries died, only one remains, I chirrup to it & fancy it knows me, as Willie fancies the Cossack[31] knows him, he has given him a slice of brown bread & salt after his rides, & as love begets love no doubt Belchor (in Russ[ian] squirrel) will soon love his little master who loves horses so much. I wish you could see a foreigner in Turkish costume I sometimes meet you would try to put him in your sketch book[32]. How do you progress dear Jemie? Let this rule operate even upon your sketching "whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well"

Thursday 19th. I was the loser dear Jemie by your St P letter not being in time for dear Sis to enclose in the one she wrote me on the 6th. tomorrow I shall fancy her writing me, as she promises to do every alternate friday & Oh I hope yours will not be too late for her to enclose. You cannot guess how anxious we all are at home to hear from our dear dear Jemie. Willie is discouraged that you do not answer his letters. Dear father left us for the railroad on Monday[33], when I can tell you of his being safe at home again I will write you. Willie is a very good boy he gets up at six the moment he is called. Since father left us Mr Ben Prince & I have breakfasted with the little student every day at seven, he crosses the river in a boat to be in time for his recitation at the school at eight but walks home. I can judge from all Willie reports to me on his return, that his teachers have been well satisfied & that his class mates are getting fond of him. he studies hard after tea till 9 o'clock when he regularly goes to his room to be in bed by ten, for Mother reads the bible to him & sees that neither teeth nor skin are neglected. Can you read crossed letters dear Jemie? I never like to write them but I promised to tell you of Willies uniform[34] it is very plain, because the object of the Trustees of the Commercial school[35] is to "prevent dandyism & to bring rich and poor on an equality[36]" grey trousers, blue jacket with brass buttons and a black cloth vest. If Willie attended the dancing class tuesday evening he would have to wear a black satin vest & black trousers but we do not think it necessary. we like our dear boy at home in the evening, for his health must not be wasted by late hours. his face is not quite so like "plum pudding Jack[37]" since he became a student. he says the boys flocked around him as a natural curiousity, because he is an American upon his first going to school, but now they now [sic] they yield him the freedom to do as he chooses & call him independent. he has obtained the priviledge [sic] of going to the Manege[38] at the recess from half after eleven till one to ride "Squirrel" except on tuesdays & saturdays when he attends gymnastics.

When I hear from you I shall write Mrs P.[39] My respects to the family.

Be a hero dear Jemie by making self-conquests daily. The blessing of God be upon you my son!

Your Mother.

The Emperor[40] has sent two Man of War Steamers to bring the Grand Duchess Olga & her Prince of Wurtemburg[41] to visit this Court! What immense personages they must be in his estimation!

Burn this scrawl when you have read it and write me a neater letter as I promise you to do.


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

4.  Coharka
Russ., cook.

5.  Ivan
Ivan, servant with JW's neighbours at St Petersburg.

6.  Ivan
Ivan, AMW's servant at St Petersburg.

7.  Mr & Mrs Gillibrand
William Clark Gellibrand (b. ca 1791), merchant [more], and his wife Mary Tyler Gellibrand (b. 1812), née Ropes.

8.  Miss Louisa Ropes
Louisa Ropes, sister of W. H. Ropes.

9.  Mr & Mrs R
William Hooper Ropes (1811-1891), merchant [more], and his wife Ellen Harriet Ropes, née Hall.

10.  young Ingersoll
Colin Macrae Ingersoll (1819-1903), secretary of the American Legation at St Petersburg [more].

11.  Mr Saltensall
Saltensall, of St Petersburg.

12.  Ben Prince
Ben Prince, a friend of AMW, of St Petersburg.

13.  Mr Wm Maingay
William Maingay (1791-1862), a friend of AMW [more].

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

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

16.  Wm Mirrielees, his uncle & Aunt M.
William Spurr Mirrielees (b. 1828), son of A. Mirrielees, J. Mirriellees, brother of A. Mirriellees, and his wife.

17.  the Ellerbys
Rev. Thomas Ellerby, clergyman, in charge of the British and American Chapel at St Petersburg, and his wife.

18.  Miss Schofield
Miss Schofield, a friend of AMW.

19.  our Secry
Colin Macrae Ingersoll (1819-1903), secretary of the American Legation at St Petersburg [more].

20.  sans ceremonie
Fr., without ceremony.

21.  Baxters
Boarding school of William McNeill Whistler at St Petersburg.

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

23.  manna cassia
'Manna' is the food with which the Israelites were miraculously fed in the wilderness, and is a term said to mean 'What is this?', being the expression of surprise of the Israelites on first seeing it. 'Cassia,' also called Chinese Cinnamon, is a spice consisting of the aromatic bark of the Cinnamomum cassia plant of the family Lauraceae. AMW's probably refers to a custard with cinnamon flavour.

24.  paltos
Paletot (variation of palla-toque), Fr., a cloak with a hood.

25.  Charlie & Georgie Anderson
Charles ('Charlie') James Anderson (b. 1835), and Georgie York Anderson, sons of J. Anderson, of Alexandroffsky.

26.  their Sister Emily is to be married
Miss Emily Anderson, daughter of J. Anderson, later wife of W. M. Ellis. The wedding took place on 30 September 1848 at the English Church, or 'Chapel of the English Factory.'

27.  Praznicks
Russ., holidays.

28.  Miss Grant
Miss Grant, AMW's friend from St Petersburg.

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

30.  Russian Magazine
Russ., shop.

31.  the Cossack
Cossack, in Russian Kazaki, peasant-soldiers in the Ukraine and in several regions of the former Russian Empire who, until 1918, held certain privileges in return for rendering military service. AMW probably refers to the name of a horse.

32.  sketch book
St Petersburg Sketchbook (M.7).

33.  Monday
'Monday ... family' continues cross-written on p. 1; 'Be a hero ... Mother' continues in the left margin of p. 2; 'The ... her' in the right margin of p. 3; Prince ... estimation' in the left margin of p. 4; and 'Burn ... do' in the right margin of p. 4.

34.  uniform
The fascination and obsession of Tsar Nicolas I with uniforms was renowned. As early as 1826 he imposed a uniform on professors, students, engineers and functionaries. In 1831 his 'uniform scheme' included all the nobles. Students were also required to have a special haircut, apparently so that they could easily be recognized in any civil disturbance. See J. N. Westwood, Endurance and Endeavour, Russian History, 1812-1971, Oxford, 1973, p. 54; Constantin de Grunwald, Tsar Nicholas I, London, 1954, p. 80.

35.  Commercial school
'Commecial schools' were not officially established until the end of the 19th century, under the guidance of Finance Ministers Vyshenegradskii (1887-92) and Witte (1892-1903). In 1896 a statute called for the 'establishment of short-term trade and commercial courses for working adults, three-year trade schools, and most importantly, a system of commercial schools offering a seven to eight year course instruction. Schools could be founded by the government, local authorities, or private individuals and groups, and considerable local autonomy was granted in the administration of the schools.' AMW is probably talking here about Baxter's, which seems to have been a vocational-technical school. See James C. McClelland, Autocrats and Academics, Education, Culture, and Society in Tsarist Russia, Chicago, 1979, pp. 44-46; Patrick L. Alston, Education and the State in Tsarist Russia, California, 1969, pp. 30-41.

36.  bring rich and poor on an equality
The 1848 European revolution affected Russia to a critical extent. New education laws were imposed to control and restrain the most unreliable sector of population: the educated class. The Tsar concentrated his preventive police action on this group. In order to 'meet the needs of contemporary education' and to prepare candidates for 'exact and fundamental work in the mathematical and medical faculties' the Ministry dropped Greek from nearly all the schools. At the height of the revolutionary scare Nicholas considered abolishing all the universities together. They were finally preserved but under strict control, with enrolment at each place restricted to 300 self-supported students outside the faculties of theology and law. The Government hoped that this way the children of the privileged classes would seek military in preference to civil service. The study of certain disciplines such as philosophy would be declared useless in view of the scandalous development of this science by contemporary German scholars. The object of the Trustees of the commercial school to bring rich and poor on an equality was typical of the autocratic educational propaganda in defense of a secure realm. See Patrick L. Alston, Education and the State in Tsarist Russia, California, 1969, pp. 30-41.

37.  plum pudding Jack
Parson, a boyhood friend of JW; see AMW to JW, 11 December 1848, #06375.

38.  Manege
Manège, Fr., riding-school or arena.

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

40.  The Emperor
Nicolas I Romanov (1796-1855), Tsar of Russia from 1825-1855 [more].

41.  Grand Duchess Olga & Prince of Wurtemburg
Olga Romanov (1822-1892), Grand Duchess of Russia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I [more], and her husband Charles I von Württemberg, King of Württemberg (1823-1891).