The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Mirriellees, William Spurr
Record 7 of 9

System Number: 06370
Date: 1 and 2 November 1848
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: St Petersburg
Recipient: JW
Place: [Portishead[2]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W366
Document Type: ALS

St Petersburg

Wednesday November 1st. 1848

My own darling Jemie[3]

When the business of this day is over I shall have so much pleasure in telling you of Karitzkies[4] visit to us last evening, and of our American dinner party of today that I date my letter tho I must not say much more than Good morning to my dear boy, for father[5] has begged me to copy some important documents for him while he has gone to meet a Commission[6] at Alexandroffsky[7] just now I was called from my desk to see (a stranger to Ivan[8]) it was Hartoonke[9] looking so well & so respectable! in a government uniform, as he is an Architect now at Gronstadt, he came up by the boat on business & en passant came to enquire after our family, he had much to ask about "Master James" & begs you'll remember him as he will you always with regard. he speaks English well enough for conversation now. he talked to me of his wife & of their fine little girl, now four & a half years old, as tho he believed me interested in all good Mothers & their little ones. he is paid now, one hundred silver rubles per month, & looks so glad it really made me feel so for them. We were astonished this morning to hear that George Prince[10] had come in the Helen MacGregor[11] from Hull, the passengers I dare say will soon be on the quai so I must get thro my work to welcome any who pop in. I am rejoiced to hear that Doctor Rogers[12] is among them.

Thursday evening 2nd.

[p. 2] I have brought my desk dear Jemie to the drawing room table near the fire side & father is sitting in one of the great chairs at my elbow reading, our dear Willie[13] having had a plate of dinner since his coming from school is now preparing his recitations & exercises for tomorrow, I advise him to take Time by the fore lock, then when he is satisfied he knows his lessons he makes his toilette for the evening & is ready for tea, and to enjoy an hour with us after it until his bed time nine o'clock, I always go to his room to read a chapter in the bible to him; and in the morning after I am dressed I go to him to arrange his hair & to pray with him for the blessing of our Heavenly Father on our day. Ah Jemie dear if you were but here to share in Mothers attentions how happy should we be! how eagerly I look forward to June when by Gods permission we shall see our precious boy!

Willie was delighted to discover a letter to him from you in fathers envelope, you know he could only get from school to dress for our dinner party yesterday & it was after we had dined & before coffee that he begged me to let him read Jemies letter, which Mr Prince had just given me so that I knew not its contents, how Willies eyes sparkled as he said "why here is one to me!'' - Father was equally pleased with yours to him which we read after our guests had gone & will answer it soon, I was happy to observe dear, that you had taken care to write neatly, you [p. 3] have not the difficulty you used to complain of nothing to write about, and we are interested in all you tell us. The red ink Willie concludes must have been one of your own experiments, it is a failure, dont use it again for it tantalizes your friends to make out what you write in it, it seems to me something about your having been asked to sing at Mrs Phillotts[14] party! of course you politely but firmly declined. Jemie dear! I would anxiously ask you what are the regulations for study with you pupils? I dont ask for "all work & no play[15]" but this is such an important period of your life I tremble for you because of temptations to wasting precious time. I told Mr [16] & Mrs P how anxious I felt that you might learn to be methodical & orderly, but how can I hope you rise at a certain hour, study, walk & retire to your room regularly, while you are tempted by company to sit up late occasionally, but I suppose the only way we can correct this will be by placing you elsewhere, for of course we cannot expect to control their mode of life. Do you know I feel so desirous of keeping Willie in the regular track that I beg we may only ask our friends to dine &c. when Praznicks[17] release him from evening study, for last evening he felt he had to go to his room & did it without being told to get his lessons, & immediately after tea he bid us all good night & made such a graceful bow, & looked so like a [p. 4] good boy, all expressed their admiration of him when he was out of hearing; he had been put in higher classes already at school, & gets high marks daily. Father felt that he could not delay entertaining our countrymen till Willies holidays, for they were all so kind & attentive to him while he was alone, we sat down 18 to dinner, how glad Ben Prince[18] was to welcome his brother, when he came from Alexandroffsky in Mr Eastwicks[19] carriage! As Mr T Winans[20] could not tear himself from Celeste[21] & she is not well enough to drive over the very bad roads yet, he sent me four tin cases of Boston Oysters, which were a treat, his pretty Sister Julia[22] came with Mr & Mrs Harrison[23] & Mrs Leland[24]. You dont know how the last mentioned lady has improved under Mons La Martines[25] tuition she reads chiefly french books now & speaks it too. he is going to take lodgings on the Island soon & seek a place in some of the Institutions, for Henry[26] is at Mr Hirsts[27] you know & likes his school much better than he did Jourdans[28]. And so Willie does Baxters[29]. Mons Bibers brother [30] now gives lessons in his place at the British school[31] from seven o'clock till eight in the morning! it is the only time he has to spare. So you see Jemie what early hours we keep in St P even in dreary dark Nov! We cannot complain of cold weather yet, but rain rain, till all are wishes for clear frost & cold.

[p. 5] I ought to have told you I had sent to ask Karitzky to come to see us, that we might deliver your messages of love to him, he was punctual to seven o'clock when I knew Willie would be free from study to talk to him of you. When he recounted to him your walks & pursuits at the Isle of Wight as they looked at the views together & told him how often you had wished for him, he seemed in a glow of emotion, put his hand on his heart & said and [sic] "oh how I wish for him always" he asked if he might write to you dear Jemie & we told him of the offer of Wm Merriellees[32] to take things to you this week so he said he should avail of it. I offered him white wax to collect some seals for your gratification, but he said he should try to get a book of Russian heraldry for you, if he does you can copy some to offer your tutor then the specimens will be doubly prized if you do your best to add to Mr P-ts collection. he, Karitzky thanks you for the paints, and says such cannot be bought here, Bueloff[33] was very unwell at the time he received them, so to gratify him K gave them to him from you & he was delighted, I think if you wish it dear father will now present the other set of colors to Karitzky from Jemie to keep for himself, he no longer paints in the Isaacs church[34], Bueloff cannot mount the stairs now - so K goes daily to the Hermitage[35] to copy some pictures from the Empress[36]' cabinet, painted [p. 6] by Bueloff for her majesty - "The Italian Morning[37]" a young girl washing at a fountain - and the Noon day sketch is a peasant gathering fruit[38] - how you will like to see Karitzkys copies when you come to visit St P! but what will you bring of yours to show him? he has invited father & I to go to the Hermitage to see the pictures now if we will, but oh I shall miss my Jemie too sadly there! Your master looked at that sketch you did for me "the Witch of Endor raising Samuel[39]" and said it was a good effort. Bueloff is at present painting a beautiful group three nuns at the organ[40], one playing, the others singing in deep devotion! it is for the Grand Duchess Leughtenberg[41], and so charming Karitzky hopes we may see it. The Grand Duchess Olga[42] has arrived, but they keep all the rejoicing within the Court circle I suppose.

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

2.  Portishead
JW was at a boarding school at Portishead.

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

4.  Karitzkies
Aleksander Osipovich Koritzkii, Professor at St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts and court painter [more].

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

6.  commission
Commission on the construction of a railway between St Petersburg and Moscow, known as the 'Benckendorff Commission.' See R. M. Haywood, The Beginnings of Railway Development in Russia in the Reign of Nicolas I, 1835-1842, Durham, N.C, 1969, pp. 213-223.

7.  Alexandroffsky
See AMW to JW, 15, 16 and 18 September 1848, #06363.

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

9.  Hartoonke
Hartoonke, architect, a friend of AMW, of St Petersburg.

10.  George Prince
George H. Prince, engineer.

11.  Helen MacGregor
Steamer Helen MacGregor (1843), Gee and Co. of Hull (436 tons.). In 1845 she was the first Hull steamer in the St Petersburg trade. The fare was 10 guineas first class. There is a ship portrait of the vessel in the collection of the Maritime Museum of Hull, and there is another in the Peabody Museum, Salem; in the latter she is depicted with two other Gee steamers Queen of Scotland and Rob Roy. Information from Arthur Credland, Keeper of Maritime History, Maritime Museum, Kingston upon Hull.

12.  Doctor Rogers
Dr Rogers, AMW's family doctor at St Petersburg.

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

14.  Mrs Phillotts
Mrs Phillott, wife of JW's tutor at Portishead.

15.  all work & no play
'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,' first published in James Howell, English Proverbs, London, 1659.

16.  Mr [P]
Phillott, JW's tutor at Portishead [more].

17.  Praznicks
Russ., holidays.

18.  Ben Prince
Ben Prince, AMW's family friend from St Petersburg.

19.  Mr Eastwicks
Andrew McCalla Eastwick (1810-1879), partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more].

20.  Mr T Winans
Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more].

21.  Celeste
Celeste Winans (1823-1861), née Revillon, wife of Thomas De Kay Winans [more].

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

23.  Mr & Mrs Harrison
Joseph Harrison (1810-1874), jr, partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more], and his wife Sarah Harrison (1817-1906), née Poulterer.

24.  Mrs Leland
Mrs Leland, sister of J. Harrison.

25.  Mons La Martines
Mons La Martines, teacher of French language at St Petersburg.

26.  Henry
William Henry Harrison (b. 1837), son of S. and J. Harrison.

27.  Mr Hirsts
Hirst, educator, St Petersburg.

28.  Jourdans
Boarding school at St Petersburg.

29.  Baxters
William McNeill Whistler's school.

30.  Mons Bibers brother
The brother of Biber, teacher at Peters School, St Petersburg.

31.  British school
Probably the 'Chapel of the English School' (often called 'British Factory').

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

33.  Bueloff
Pavlovich Karl Briullov or Bryullov (1799-1852), artist [more].

34.  he no longer paints in the Isaacs church
Pavlovich Karl Briullov took a major role in work on the monumental mural paintings for the newly completed St Isaac's Cathedral in St Petersburg, along with his major rival Fedor Bruni. St Isaac's is largest Orthodox Church building in St Petersburg. It was built in 1818-1858, designed by Auguste Montferrand and consecrated to St Isaac of Dalmatia, the 'patron' of Peter the Great. Briullov's most interesting works of this period however are the many portraits of aristocrats, writers, and artists, with whom Briullov associated as an intellectual equal. See The Art of Russia, 1800-1850, An Exhibition from the museums of the USSR, Exhibition Catalogue, University of Minnesota, 1978; see also G. H. Hamilton, The Art and Architecture of Russia, The Pelican History of Art, London, 1975, pp. 230-31.

35.  Hermitage
State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, founded in 1764 by the empress Catherine the Great as a court museum. It adjoined the Winter Palace (1754-1762) and served as a private gallery for the art amassed by the empress. The Winter Palace was designed by the architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771). See G. H. Hamilton, ibid., p. 272.

36.  Empress
Alexandra Feodorovna Romanov (1798-1860), née Hohenzollern, wife of Tsar Nicolas I [more].

37.  The Italian Morning
Karl P. Briullov, The Italian Morning, Town Museum of Kiel, Germany.

38.  Noon day sketch is a peasant gathering fruit
Karl P. Briullov, The Noon Day, 1827, The Russian State Museum, St Petersburg.

39.  the Witch of Endor raising Samuel
This may be a copy by JW (whereabouts unknown) of Charles Robert Leslie's 'Saul and the Witch of Endor.' JW later wrote that he attended Leslie's lectures at the Royal Academy of Arts; see JW to AMW, 17, 19 and 20 March 1849, #06390.

40.  beautiful group three nuns at the organ
Karl P. Briullov, Three Nuns at the Organ, State Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow.

41.  Grand Duchess Leughtenberg
Maria Nikolaevna Romanov (1819-1876), Grand Duchess of Russia, wife of the Duke of Leuchtenberg [more].

42.  Grand Duchess Olga
Olga Romanov (1822-1892), Grand Duchess of Russia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I [more].