The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Gillibrand, William Clark
Record 5 of 11

System Number: 06389
Date: 16 March 1849
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: St Petersburg
Recipient: JW
Place: London
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W385
Document Type: ALS

St Petersburg

friday. March 16th 49

Jemie[2] dear

if I scribble a page to you because now pressed with many cares I cannot devote time to writing you neatly, you must not excuse a habit of carelessness, or procrastination in yourself, for you know dearest, Mother does not put off till the last hour habitually, any duty or task.

My heart overflows with love to you all & if reward is in store for submission under trials, mine would be had I the choice to embrace you all in renovated health & deepened affection

It is very sad - I often think as I watch your dear father[3] now - to see a man bowed down, in the meridian of years & usefulness, with ill health[4], but we need those lessons to teach us the uncertainty of everything connected with our frail existence in a world of trial. during the past fortnight father has suffered more than he did even in his severe attack of cholera - from which he never has recovered, doctor R[5] has some time warned him that his debility must increase in this atmosphere, & his liability to catching cold becomes greater, his cough has nearly been conquered & tho he still feels pain in his limbs he can walk again, which he was not able to do without [p. 2] assistance until wadding & oil silks removed such pains as you dear boy know from experience are really paralysing, but feeble as dear father still is, he has that faith in our good doctors advice, that when he sets out upon his journey - rough tho it must be - he will gain strength upon it & I should not wonder if by the time he reaches London you should find it difficult to realize how much he has suffered since last summer, tho some of our kind neighbours joke him now by telling him he looks the Grandpapa! Mr & Mrs Gillibrand[6] under whose roof he excited such sympathy last year in my absence[7] & after his first attack - have been most concerned for his health, but now their friend Mr Morgan[8] engages their deepest concern. you must know he also has been in a precarious state of health this winter & urged to change the climate, but he thought to accompany Mrs Forceman[9] on her route to Archangel[10] till her husband should meet her & then a bears hunt on his return route to St P would do away with the necessity for a longer term of absence from the country house. he was expected home last monday. but tho they heard not from him, Mrs M[11] invited a few such as Willie[12] who was to go for wednesday afternoon. that her children[13] might be merry & glad on their dear papas birthday! not [p. 3] doubting he would encourage their sports in person. he did return home at noon, but ah how their joy was turned into woe as he was borne up to his room where he must be long confined in consequence of the dangerous wounds he received from a bear last monday. doctor R reported him favourably to us this morning, & tho he fears he must be disfigured for life, he doubts not his recovery. it seems Mr M not being strong enough to keep the pace of the peasants in the chase & so good a sportsman, fired upon one of the largest bears while they were at a distance, yet providentially not so far off but they saw their masters peril when the wounded beast turned upon him & got him down! the bear had torn his head, his eyelids, his arms & hands dreadfully, & when they bound his wounds he feared he would be blind for life, but mercifully his sight is unimpaired - he had to walk seven versts[14] to reach a village, from whence a doctor who did the best he knew how for him - accompanied him home - about 250 versts.

In every affliction there are avenues of hope to cheer us on. Mr M could reach home to be nursed & attended by skillful physicians, & his eye sight is spared! so thankfulness must preponderate in the scale & the knowledge that without the permission of Infinite Wisdom & love no accident can happen must make the sorrowing wife submissive & unrepining.

[p. 4] Mrs James Catley[15] had taken her little Rhoda[16] to spend the birth day with Maria & Fanny & was there to sound the alarm & go round to tell all the other little guests why the party was broken up. I have never known such general cause among the English circle of St P as now for reflection. But the Artel[17] is waiting for this dear Jemie - I must have a more cheerful one ready for you when I write dear Sis[18], but it will cheer you now to be [affirmed?] that dear father is better today than he has been. Willie is at school or would write his love with.

Say all that is kind to my good Mary[19] & offer remembrances to Mr Eastwick[20] & to Mr Fairbanks[21] family - All well at Alexandroffsky[22]

For Jemie[23]

Try[24] to profit by Seymours[25] rules that good habits may be apparrent to. dear father when he joins you, he has such a value for time & will be so glad to see you always employed.


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

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

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

4.  with ill health
George W. Whistler suffered from cholera, the illness which eventually killed him on 7 April 1849. See AMW to JW, 26 September 1848, #06365.

5.  doctor R
Dr Rogers, AMW's family doctor at St Petersburg.

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

7.  in my absence
AMW was away from St Petersburg between June 1847 and September 1848; see AMW to George W. Whistler, 8 and 10 June 1847, #06357, and AMW to JW, 22 and 23 September 1848, #06364.

8.  Mr Morgan
Steven Morgan (d. before 1853), of St Petersburg.

9.  Mrs Forceman
Mrs Forceman of Archangel, Russia.

10.  Archangel
Arkhangelsk, city and administrative centre of Arkhangelsk oblast (province), Russia, on the Northern Dvina River, 30 miles (50 km) from the White Sea.

11.  Mrs M
Elizabeth Morgan, wife of Steven Morgan.

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

13.  her children
Fanny and Maria Morgan.

14.  versts
Verst, Russian unit of distance equal to 0.6629 mile (1.067 kilometers).

15.  Mrs James Catley
Elizabeth Catley (1821-1859), née Law, wife of J. R. Catley.

16.  little Rhoda
Rhoda Catley (1844-1923), daughter of E. and J. R. Catley.

17.  Artel
Artel'shtshik, Russ., house courier kept usually by large merchant houses to carry out letters and money; see AMW to JW, 15 February 1849, #06386.

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

19.  Mary
Mary Brennan (b. 1825), AMW's servant [more].

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

21.  Mr Fairbanks
Fairbanks, a merchant.

22.  Alexandroffsky
Name of the firm and house owned by Harrison, Winans and Eastwick. See AMW to JW, 15, 16 and 18 September 1848, #06363.

23.  For Jemie
Cross-written on p. 4.

24.  Try
'Try ... Mother' continues in the upper margin of p. 1.

25.  Seymours
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].