The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Barnes, James
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System Number: 06401
Date: 23 and 24 September 1851
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Pomfret
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W397
Document Type: ALS[3]


tuesday night Sept 23rd 1851

My own precious Jemie[4]

I fear you can form no just estimate of my thoughts of you, by yours of home, or we should be cheered by a letter from the sky parlor[5] of the West Point barracks occasionally. I think of you & wish for you when Willie [6]& I sit down to our nice & well spread board that you might partake of the benefits[,] now I think of you while the rain pelts against our windows & the wind moans the coming of the fall of the leaf. Oh Jemie! surely I shall soon receive a letter from you!

I talk of going for Grandmother[7] next monday & if the weather prove favorable for crossing the Sound, shall go to Brooklyn to have an interview with Mary R[8] & to be introduced to her good husband[9]. Eliza[10] writes me of Wednesday the 24th, tomorrow, being. appointed for the wedding day of Mr Flagg[11] that Frederick & Mary may witness it, as they are to start for N Orleans about the 1st of Oct. only the family circle, the parents[12] of the groom only are invited, it would have been tantalizing to my Jemie & Willie had Cousins been admitted as you could neither of you have attended, but Eliza begs me to explain that the deep mourning of her Grandma[13] make it necessary to have the knot tied very quietly, she & Mr Flagg are to return with his father & mother to N Haven, and I suppose his absence from Norwich must be brief. The equinox tomorrow will probably be more felt by Genl Swift[14], as the day on which he embarks for England with one of his sons (McRae)[15][.] God grant them a safe voyage & a joyous meeting with "Cis[16]" I had a report of the pleasant visit she had made with her chicks[17] at Tunbridge Wells[18] by last weeks steamer, they were three weeks at the Maingays[19]. I shall take the letter to send to you dear Jemie if you write that you wish to see me, I should not accomplish half my plans were you not included in the benefit, yet my absence from Willie must be bounded by the sabbath, he is to drive me to the depot monday A M - & meet Grandmother & I (if the Lord will) on the saturday following, he says it will [p. 2] be a dreary week to him, but his studies occupy so much time it will pass surprisingly! & Mary B[20] will cheer him when tasks are over. he is deep in the latin dictionary now at my elbow & just now looked off [sic] to ask "have you told Jim that I am studying Virgil[21]? give my love to him please mother & I hope to have a letter from him to answer soon!" he likes some of the new boarders at the Rectory[22] tho he regrets as all do the removal of Dwight[23], he (G D), told Mrs Park[24] he'd rather be flogged than have to come to take his books away, but his fathers[25] wish is sufficient to make him submit without murmuring or questioning the propriety. John Barnes is to enter the Naval school at Anapolis[26] on friday next. Middy Allen[27] is at Springfield with him. It is reported that Mr Barnes[28] has sold his pleasant mansion & purchased one in New Haven as William[29] is to go to Yale. The circle here is already realizing that this winter is to be the winding up of Doctor Parks[30] seminary. Georgy Phinny[31] has entered one in Massachusetts, his mother of course [is] in the same place with him, until she follows his father to Cuba, But "Banyan" is here, Sam[32] did not return till yesterday, the festivities of last week detained him, Willie says he began school by counting how many weeks to the next holiday! Miss Charles[33] & E Bowers[34] the latter has added Greek to her love! are the only belles interesting to you. Lloyd[35] is preparing for Browns University. he exhibits his powers on a fine grey horse which the Capt[36] has traded for in exchange for the pet "Rosey." We are all well under this roof which is a great mercy, while some of our neighbours suffer. Doctor Williams[37] not able to walk, "Aunt Debby[38]" so near the close of her long illness, as not to lie down, Mr Fitz's son in his 21st year dying of typhus fever! and poor Bridget[39] is in despair because of Moris[40] [sic] having left her, while he was raving under the influence of liquor! the fatal effects of breaking his pledge! so you perceive dear Jemie that my sympathies are called for, while I feel my unworthiness at exemption from bodily suffering.

[p. 3] Aunt Alicia[41] was in London when she last wrote me, she went daily to Uncle McNeill's[42] hotel & seemed greatly to value the favor, she expected ere this time to return to Lancashire, & to be in Liverpool with him, chiefly to visit the house of mourning - do you remember Mrs Vallance[43]? she was a pious & most gentle lady, death has deprived her family circle of so valuable a member! Aunt A writes of you so lovingly I should be so gratified by your sending a message to her in your promised letter to Sloane St[44]!

Now I release you from this long reading, I rise with the sun, & get Willie up by 6 oclock, so it is time to cover the nut fire sum up our account for another day, to our Master in heaven. I need not assure you our best loved absent one, that we each pray for you in private as in the family devotions, but remember dear Jemie, none can work out your sanctification but yourself! I think of eternity in time. Mr Parks who asks after you anxiously, begs to be allowed to assure you of his affectionate interest in you. Willie says he heard Sam say today that Jim Whistler had already 30 demerits! I wonder who reported it at the Rectory? not any of us you may be sure! Good night, a mothers love is not lessened by the increase to her anxiety. I am now too sleepy to add more than my remembrance to the family circle of the excellent Bartletts[45].

Wednesday 24th

The storm seemed so increasing at 10 o'clock when I went to rest last night I was surprised by a golden sun blazing up as I arose this morning. I did not forget its influence to gladden the most solemn rite upon Eliza's feelings & was grateful to God for her sake. May it be a harbinger for a favorable voyage for Gen Swift too! tho our good hostess (who rejoices usually with trembling) says if it clears in the night a storm soon follows! and we hear that astronomers predict[46] from the state of the planetary system a storm is to be expected exceeding any which our world has been attacked by since 1814! so Capt B hears - Lloyd drove him to the depot & back before school this bright noon! Willie is going chestnutting with all the school boys this ½ holiday afternoon! he left his love for you dearest Jemie to be united with the blessing of your Mother


I hope[47] to hear from you here by saturdays mail - If you wish any thing particularly write Jacks[48] (or rather direct to me at 10 Broadway, Mr A Jones[49]) that I might hear at Brooklyn next tuesday.

The Misses Vinton[50] left for a visit for Worcester last week not to return to Pomfret this year.

Sis writes of Aunt Mitt[51] on her voyage to Boston some weeks since. Uncle Clarke[52] has a pet now besides Annie.

Mary intends to prove her remembrance of Master James in the form of cake, I shall take your warm stockings &c if I go to see you.

Paid[Stamp:] PAID 3

[Postmark:] PO[-]S[---] CT.

[Address panel:] Cadet James WhistlerMilitary Academy
West Point
N York

This document is protected by copyright.


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.  West Point
United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, opened in 1802; see AMW to JW, 10 June 1851, #06396.

4.  ALS
'JOHN GIBSTONS PATENT' embossed paper mark on top left corner of p. 1. There are the remains of a black wax seal on p. 4.

5.  sky parlor
A room near the top of the house; a garret; an attic room.

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

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

8.  Mary R
Mary Isabella Rodewald (1823-1867), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of J. F. Rodewald [more].

9.  her good husband
Johann Frederick Rodewald (1808-1886), banker, husband of Mary Isabella McNeill [more].

10.  Eliza
Eliza Flagg (1830-1855), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of Rev. E. O. Flagg [more].

11.  Mr Flagg
Rev. Edward Octavius Flagg (1824-1911), husband of JW's cousin Eliza McNeill [more].

12.  the parents
Martha Flagg (1792-1875), née Whiting, mother of Edward Octavius Flagg; her husband was Henry Collins Flagg (d. 1863).

13.  her Grandma
Maria Margaretta Cammann ('Grandma C') (1774-1862), mother-in-law of William Gibbs McNeill [more].

14.  Genl Swift
General Joseph Gardner Swift (1783-1865), chief engineer of the US Army, brother-in-law of JW's father [more].

15.  his sons (McRae)
McRae Swift (b. 1819), son of General J. G. Swift.

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

17.  her chicks
Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918), and Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne.

18.  Tunbridge Wells
Borough and district, county of Kent, England; a fashionable Spa town since the 17th century.

19.  the Maingays
Probably family relations of Emma Elizabeth Maingay (1826-1904), a friend of AMW of St Petersburg.

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

21.  Virgil
Virgil (70-19 BC), né Publius Vergilius Maro, Roman poet.

22.  Rectory
Christ church, Pomfret, CT. JW had studied there.

23.  Dwight
G. Dwight, of Pomfret, CT.

24.  Mrs Park
Mary Park (1815-1854), née Brewster Baldwin, wife of Rev. R. Park [more].

25.  his fathers
Dwight, of Pomfret, CT.

26.  John Barnes is to enter the Naval school at Anapolis
John S. Barnes (b. 1836), naval officer and lawyer [more]. He was sent to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, whence he graduated in 1854. The academy was founded as a Naval School on October 10, 1845, by George Bancroft, historian, educator, and secretary of the Navy, to improve the then unsatisfactory methods of instructing midshipmen.

27.  Middy Allen
Probably Edmund Allen (b. 1836), of Pomfret, CT. See AMW to JW, 10 June 1851, #06396.

28.  Mr Barnes
James Barnes (1806-1869), soldier and civil engineer [more].

29.  William
William H. L. Barnes (b. 1834), son of C. and James Barnes [more]. If William did go to Yale, he never graduated; see Catalogue of Yale University Alumni - 1925-1954, Supplement to Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Yale University 1701-1924, New Haven CT, 1955.

30.  Doctor Parks
Rev. Roswell Park (1807-1869), minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Principal of Christ Church School [more].

31.  Georgy Phinny
George Phinney (b. 1841), of Pomfret, CT. In 1850 George was living with and studying under the Rev. Roswell Park. See Windham Co, CT, Film no M432, Roll 51, Pomfret census 1850, National Archives, Washington, DC, p. 166.

32.  Banyan" is here, Sam
Sam Holbrook, son of James Holbrook, and brother of J. B. Holbrook; his nickname was 'Banyan.'

33.   Miss Charles
Miss Charles, of Pomfret, CT.

34.  E Bowers
Ellen Augusta Bowers (1834-1890), daughter of Captain P. Bowers, Sr [more].

35.  Lloyd
Lloyd Henry Bowers (1836-1886), son of Captain P. Bowers, Sr [more].

36.   Capt
Captain Perry Bowers, Sr (1794-1870), of Pomfret, CT [more].

37.  Doctor Williams
Probably Lewis Williams (b. 1815), physician, of Pomfret, CT [more].

38.  Aunt Debby
Aunt Debby (d. 1851), of Pomfret, CT; see AMW to JW, 13 November 1851, #06406.

39.  Bridget
Bridget, servant.

40.  Moris
Moris, unidentified.

41.   Aunt Alicia
Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill (1786-1863), JW's aunt [more]; she lived at Berwick, UK.

42.  Uncle McNeill's
William Gibbs McNeill (1800-1853), railway engineer, AMW's brother [more]. McNeill went on a trip to Britain on July 1851; see AMW to JW, 10 and 11 July 1851, #06397.

43.  Mrs Vallance
Mrs Vallance of Liverpool (d. 1851).

44.  Sloane St
The home of Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

45.  Bartletts
The family of Professor William Holmes Chambers Bartlett (1804-1893), mathematician [more].

46.  astronomers predict
By 8 October 1851, many parts of the East Coast of the USA were hit by bad weather, which brought catastrophe. The north-east coast was the worst affected as it was swept by a terrible and destructive gale. One hundred fishing vessels were driven ashore on the north side of Prince Edward's Island, and more than three hundred persons perished in the wrecks. See Hatrford Weekly Times, CT, 11 October 1851, vol. 35, no. 1816.

47.  I hope
'I hope ... Jacks' added in the upper right margin of p. 4; 'or rather ... tuesday' continues in the bottom right margin of p. 4; 'The Misses ... this year' continues in the left margin of p. 1; 'Sis writes ... Annie' continues in the left margin of p. 3; 'Mary ... see you' continues in the left margin of p. 3.

48.  Jacks
Patrick T. Jackson ('Jacks') McNeill (1835-1898), accountant, JW's cousin [more].

49.  Mr A Jones
Alonzo V. Jones, husband of Eliza Ducatel, the sister of JW's sister-in-law, Mary Ann Whistler (c. 1826-1852), née Ducatel.

50.  The Misses Vinton
Eleanor Vinton (b. 1838), and Mary Vinton (1840-1930) daughters of Rev. Alexander Hamilton Vinton.

51.  Aunt Mitt
Aunt Mitt, unidentified.

52.  Uncle Clarke
Uncle Clark, of Boston, and his daughter Annie Clark.