The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Holbrook, James
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System Number: 06396
Date: 10 June 1851
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Pomfret
Recipient: JW
Place: [West Point[2]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W392
Document Type: ALS


tuesday June 10th. 51.

My own precious James[3].

You must have been waiting the report of my return home to know when to direct to me & it is strange I should not have sent you a few lines by saturdays mail, but I was very unwell (this pain in my side for which I am being blistered & under the influence of calomel[4] today - & very tired. Uncle Palmer[5] drove us over to Norwich in his light wagon on friday morning his two boys & two little girls[6] enjoying the drive much, he put the two latter with me in the noon train, but in consequence of two locomotives proving each out of order, we had to wait at Central Village till the evening train deposited us at Pomfret station, we surprised Grandmother[7] by arriving after eight o'clock, but found all well. Mr Richmond[8] so moved by your complimenting his team, he had ventured down to bring me home the day before! I should have been on my journey on thursday, had I not remained at N Haven till George's[9] return, I listened to his report of Jemie & West Point [p. 2] with great delight, he supposed you would room with Vinton[10], & this was confirmed yesterday thro Holbrook's[11] letter to the village Coquette, (entre nous[12]) When Willie[13] came from the Post Office with nothing, he said smiling - "We shall hear of Jemie for I discovered a W Point post mark on a letter to Sam[14]" he intended writing you of the flirtation between Miss Anna[15] & her Cousin who is so rich & so charming! he came as soon as the young ladies were the mistresses of ceremony, & the cream that was wasted, till butter had to be borrowed was proof of the richness of the lemon cheese - cakes with which he was regaled. Anna shewed him Pomfret, & he was enticed to cheer them several days. This is what has reached my ears, for she has not been in to welcome my return home, tho Ellen[16] comes daily to amuse herself with my little pets. They bore their tedious journey cheerfully & were none the worse for it. Annie[17] is the unfailing amusement to Willie when he comes from school, & Julie[18] is most interesting to all. We had rain on saturday & yesterday which [p. 3] rendered a fire in our front parlour necessary, the hills are luxuriant with verdure, I write Cousin Kate Prince[19] by this mail to hasten to us with her protegee. How I yearn to get a few lines traced by your hand my dear Jemie! Grandmother found your knife & Willie the key of your desk which I shall send in a Newspaper soon. I wish I had provided you with a pr of blankets, as George remarked upon the sparseness of the military bed clothes - if you can defer buying any till I come, you may be glad next winter to have a pr from home. It occurs to me as Mr Holbrook[20] is agent in the Post Office department he may have priviliges [sic] which would help me in such a case as forwarding your fencing utensils, you need not remark on this to your room-mate, but merely ask him if his father[21] is about this time sending anything to him, or if his parents intend to visit him, if he will ask the favor of their giving me notice. You know my anxieties about you Jemie dear! Write me if you think of my comfort at all. Oh how I feel our separation! none can tell but the One who watches over us both. Willie is very well & would fill this up with love & messages if he were not at school, he [p. 4] will answer all your questions about your intimates among the youth, who say your absence is a blank. Oh Jemie I hope you are not putting off redeeming your time, tho you have not yet devoted an hour to your most faithfully & tenderly attached companion & friend even your widowed Mother

A M W.

Offer my remembrance at Major Bartletts[22]. Write of all you think, feel & wish for. Mary[23] & Grandmother send love to you. After you read this, tear it up and burn it, as I shrink from exposing it to a room-mate's criticism. When you write your sister[24] your impressions of the Point - and why delay it? I'll forward your letter to her. Edmund Allen[25] has been appointed to enter the naval school at Annapolis[26], thro the perseverance of his Connections. I hope your tooth ache is conquered, & that you use my nice powder daily & the brush at night. How do your days pass now? When do you rise? When do you sleep? & when take your meals? Let me remind you of your bible & prayers.

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

2.  West Point
United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, opened in 1802. During its early years the institution suffered from lack of proper organization and discipline. Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, the 'father of the Military Academy' (Superintendent, 1817-1833) upgraded academic standards, inculcated military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. Thayer also made civil engineering the foundation of the curriculum. For the first half century, USMA graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the nation's initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads. AMW's husband George Washington Whistler, her brother William G. McNeill, and many of her family and social connections were graduates of the academy who became prominent railroad engineers. JW attended the academy between 1 July 1851 and 16 June 1854, when he was finally dismissed due to poor grades. He produced many sketches showing his life there, such as Position of a Soldier (M.103), and Merit its own Reward (M.104). See Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours, New Haven and London, 1995, pp. 24-53; Stephen E. Ambrose, Duty, Honor, Country; A History of West Point, Baltimore, 1966; H. Irving Hancock, Life at West Point; the Making of the American Army Officer: His Studies, Discipline, and Amusements, New York, 1902; Gordon H. Fleming, The Young Whistler, London, 1978, pp. 80-108; Elizabeth Robins Pennell & Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, Philadelphia, 1909, 2 vols., 3rd edition, revised, pp. 30-38.

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

4.  calomel
See AMW to JW, 13 February 1851, #09558.

5.  Uncle Palmer
Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), physician, AMW's brother-in-law [more].

6.  his two boys & two little girls
Donald McNeill Palmer, George E. Palmer, Anna Whistler Stanton (b. 1848), née Palmer, and Julia McNeill Boardman, née Palmer, JW's cousins.

7.  Grandmother
Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, mother of AMW [more].

8.  Mr Richmond
Nathan Richmond (b. 1799), farmer at Pomfret, CT.

9.  George's
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more].

10.  Vinton
Francis Laurens Vinton (1835-1879), room-mate of JW at USMA, West-Point, later Professor of Mining and Engineering [more].

11.  Holbrook's
James Baker Holbrook, a class-mate of JW at USMA, West Point.

12.  entre nous
Fr.: between us.

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

14.  Sam
Sam Holbrook, son of James Holbrook, and brother of J. B. Holbrook.

15.  Miss Anna
Anna Holbrook, daughter of M. B. and J. Holbrook, and her cousin; unidentified.

16.  Ellen
Ellen Holbrook, daughter of M. B. and J. Holbrook.

17.  Annie
Anna Whistler Stanton, née Palmer (see above).

18.  Julie
Julia McNeill Palmer (1851-1902), JW's cousin, later wife of W. S. Boardman [more].

19.  Cousin Kate Prince
Kate ('Cousin Kate') Livermore (1820-1907), née Prince, wife of A. Livermore [more].

20.  Mr Holbrook
James Holbrook (1812-1864), agent of the U. S. Post Office [more].

21.  his father
John Rogers Vinton, father of F. L. Vinton.

22.  Major Bartletts
Professor William Holmes Chambers Bartlett (1804-1893), mathematician [more].

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

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

25.  Edmund Allen
Edmund Allen (b. 1836), of Pomfret, CT. 'Edmund ... Connections' continues in the left margin of p. 1; 'I ... night' continues on left margin of p. 2; 'How ... prayers' continues in the right margin of p. 2.

26.  naval school at Annapolis
United States Naval Academy, established in 1845, as the undergraduate college that prepares young men and women to become professional officers in the US Navy and Marine Corps. Allen entered the Academy on 20 October 1851 at the age of 15 years and 9 months. He was listed as a non-graduate of the class. At the February 1854 semi-annual exam he was found deficient in academics, and was subjected to dismissal. In March 1854 Allen wrote a letter to the Secretary of Navy, stating that he got behind in his studies because his mother died. He was dismissed in March 1854. According to AMW it was Allen's aunt, Mrs Wilkinson who died in 1854, and not his mother. See AMW to JW, 15 October 1851, #06404; 16 January 1852, #06409; 10 and 11 February 1852, #06410; 17 February 1854, #06442; these letters point out Allen's progress and final dismissal from the Academy. Information from Marcia Matika, Connecticut State Library; also see Register of Candidates for Admission to the US Naval Academy, Conduct Records, Official Correspondence of the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, Records of the United States Naval Academy Nimitz Library.