The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: West, Benjamin
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System Number: 06390
Date: 17, 19 and 20 March 1849
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: St Petersburg
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W386
Document Type: ALS

62 Sloane St


March 1849

My dear Mother

I send you a little sketch of a Young Sweep[2] - one who cleans the crossings in the Streets: we were preparing some sketches for a Scrap Book[3] & this is one of them, but as I can easily make another copy, and thinking you might perhaps like to have one, I enclose this. Thank Willie[4] for his nice letter to me, and tell him I shall answer it after Fathers[5]. You know I have lately attended some lectures on painting by Mr Leslie at the Royal Academy[6], well I like them very much and hope to go next Thursday again to hear the last one. One evening he gave a kind of history of British Art; he spoke of Reynolds[7], of Hogarth[8], of Stothard[9] & of Bewick's Wood cuts[10]. In [p. 2] speaking of Hogarth, he described the Marriage piece in "The Rake's Progress[11]" (you can see the picture in Father's "Works of Hogarth[12]") the scene is in a little old church, and, as Mr Leslie said, any common Genius might make cracks and cobwebs about the walls, but Hogarth made a crack through the Commandments and a cobweb over the hole of the Charity box!! Mr Leslie showed us the first sketch of West's "Death on the Pale Horse"[13] it is perhaps a fine thing but of Death himself, I think Mr L - said, West might have made something more sublime[14], and I think so too. - Do you know that Seymour[15] has given me such a nice present: a 10s Print from one of Fuseli's works called "The Lazar House"[16], it is taken from Milton[17] and is a very fine thing tho' much exaggerated. - How you would like to see the Babie[18], dear mother, her hair has grown and is going to be of a [p. 3] pretty flaxen colour and Sis[19] intends it to be curly, so that she is to be the pretty Miss Haden. I began a sketch of her[20] which Seymour finished and made really very like her; when I have done a nice likeness all by myself, I shall send it to St Petersburg, that you may form some faint idea of little Annie before you see her, for I hope that you and Willie, at least if not dear Father, may be able to come over to England next Summer. And so Father has an another appointment; one at Cronstadt[21]! well I wonder what they will do without him, when we all go home to America?

Monday 19th.

- Mr Eastwick[22] dined with us yesterday - he is going to leave on Friday and will take any sketches I have ready to send by him, to St Petersburg; I also hope to send a letter by him to Edward[23]. I may perhaps [p. 4] go with Mr Eastwick on Wednesday next to Mr Boxall's[24] that he may report my likeness at Home and I am sure he must think it very good. - We have just finished dinner dear Mother and while Seymour is enjoying reading his paper, and Mr Lloyd[25] his book, Sis is enjoying "The Babie". You should just hear Annie talk; sometimes she comes out with such a Ghaie --- Since I have been writing this she began a short conversation, but I cannot write her language, but I can assure you it is very poeticial - musical at least - By the by does Willie continue his music leasons with the German lady[26]? I am reading Tytlers Universal History[27] and will soon have finished Mrs Jamesons History of the early Italian Painters[28], a small work[29] in two Volumes and being one of the Series of Knight Weekly Volume[30]. it is a present from Mr Boxall and is very interesting.

Tuesday 20th.

My letter must now go dear Mother so I have only time to say Goodbye. Give my love to dear Father and Willie and remember to me to all my friends. Sis thinks I had better keep the sketch and send all together by Mr Eastwick. I must tell you before I let this go of another beautiful present from Seymour, two beautiful pair of pantaloon! But I must go now to my reading with Sis

I shall soon write again.

Your affectionate Son


This document is protected by copyright.


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

2.  Young Sweep
Street Sweeper (M.24).

3.  Scrap Book
JW worked on various scrap books at his early artistic days, as well as a sketchbook: St Petersburg Sketchbook (M.7), now in the Hunterian Gallery, Glasgow University.

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

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

6.  Mr Leslie at the Royal Academy
Charles Robert Leslie (1794-1859), painter, Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy [more]. Leslie's lectures were published in the Athenaeum (no. 1060, pp. 191-94; no. 1061, pp. 220-23; no. 1062, pp. 247-51; no. 1063, pp. 270-74); see MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995, p. 85.

7.  Reynolds
Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), painter [more].

8.  Hogarth
William Hogarth (1697-1764), painter and engraver [more].

9.  Stothard
Thomas Stothard (1755-1834), painter, designer and illustrator [more].

10.  Bewick's Wood cuts
Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), wood engraver and illustrator [more]. Bewick rediscovered the technique of woodcuts, which consists of incising a design into endwood with a cutting tool called a burin. Using parallel lines instead of cross-hatching, he achieved a wide range of tones and textures. See 1800 Woodcuts by Thomas Bewick and His School, ed. Blanche Cirker, New York, 1962.

11.  The Rake's Progress
William Hogarth, The Rake's Progress: The Rake in Bedlam, 1735, oil on canvas, Sir John Soane's Museum, London; etching and engraving, published June 1735, in eight plates.

12.  Works of Hogarth
Probably John Trusler, The Works of William Hogarth, London and New York, 1833.

13.  West's 'Death on the Pale Horse'
Benjamin West (1738-1820), painter of historical, religious and mythological subjects [more]; Death on a Pale Horse, 1796, oil on canvas, Detroit Institute of Arts.

14.  sublime
In literary criticism, grandeur of thought, emotion, and spirit that characterizes great literature. It is the topic of an incomplete treatise, On the Sublime, that was for long attributed to the 3rd-century Greek philosopher Cassius Longinus. The author of the treatise defines sublimity as excellence in language, the expression of a great spirit, and the power to provoke ecstasy. For more see Walter John Hipple, The Beautiful, the Sublime, & the Picturesque in Eighteenth-Century British Aesthetic Theory, Southern Illinois University Press, 1957.

15.  Seymour
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], was also a great collector of etchings.

16.  Fuseli's works called 'The Lazar House'
Johann Heinrich ('Henry') Fuseli (1741-1825), painter of historical, religious and mythological subjects [more]. Fuseli's The Lazar House is also known as The Vision of the Madhouse, pencil and wash, Zurich, Kunsthaus, no. 1916/10, sketch. See Paul Ganz, The Drawings of Henry Fuseli, London, 1949.

17.  taken from Milton
John Milton (1608-1674), poet, historian, scholar and civil servant. The "Lazar House" is found in Milton's poetic epic, Paradise Lost. Its first edition of 1667 was in 10 books. In the second edition (1674), Books 7 and 10 were each split into two, making a total of 12 books. The "Lazar House" comes from the eleventh book, line 479: 'A lazar-house it seemed, wherein were laid Numbers of all diseased;' see Thomas Keightley, The Poems of Milton, London, 1859, vol. 2.

18.  Babie
Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece [more].

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

20.  sketch of her
'Ma Nièce' (M.21) see AMW to JW, [25 and] 26 December [1848], #06380.

21.  one at Cronstadt
In February 1849, George W. Whistler received his commision from Michael Pavlovitch Romanov (1798-1849), Grand Duke, brother of the Tsar Nicolas I, as Engineer of the Woolwich at Kronstadt. See AMW to JW, 19, 20, 22 and 24 February 1849, #06387.

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

23.  Edward
Edward Peers Eastwick (1833-1926), son of L. A. and A. M. Eastwick [more].

24.  Mr Boxall's
William Boxall (1800-1879), portrait painter, Director of the National Gallery [more].

25.  Mr Lloyd
Probably Edward ('Teddy') Lloyd, of London.

26.  German lady
Madame Vaxmarte, music teacher; see AMW to JW, 20 October 1848, #06369.

27.  Tytlers Universal History
Hon. Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee, Universal History, From the Creation of the World to the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century, Boston, 1838.

28.  Mrs Jamesons History of the early Italian Painters
Anna Brownell Jameson (1794-1860), writer [more], wrote Memoirs of the Early Italian Painters, London, 1845.

29.  work
'work ... pair' cross-written in the left margin of p. 1; 'of pantaloon ... Sis' cross-written in the right margin of p. 1; 'I ... Jemie' continues in the right margin of p. 2.

30.  Knight Weekly Volume
A periodical issued by Charles Knight (1791-1873), publisher for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Knight was a pioneer of a new type of magazine, which emphasized features that promoted improvement, enlightenment, and family entertainment. He introduced initially his Knight's Quarterly Magazine, in 1823, London, Knight and Co. He subsequently published his weekly Penny Magazine (1832-1846), and Penny Cyclopaedia (1833-1858). It is possible that JW is talking about the later periodical.