The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Holbrook, James
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System Number: 06409
Date: 15 and 16 January 1852
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Pomfret
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W405
Document Type: ALS


thursday Jan 15th 1852

My own precious Jemie[3],

Are you so satisfied with being no longer conditionally - but really a "passed" of the corps of Cadets, that you feel happy without the congratulations of your mother? I suppose we shall feel willing to give you the credit we do Aunt Kate[4] when a "quarterly" comes to charm our senses we say "it is worth waiting for"

George[5] reported to us very soon after his visit to your barracks that your examination was "creditable", hoping you would distinguish your talents more next June, & that you were well, tho you had been exposed to cold without a Gt Coat, & that he had taken all I sent you. I naturally shall be glad to hear if the soft, warm garments which I procured from Liverpool for my cadet, prove comfortable, & whether the mince puffs were according to the approved taste of the corps of Cadets, & the ginger snaps savored of home. But most of all I am anxious to hear of health & the military overcoat, Willie[6] has found his shube[7] necessary (except for a moderate day such as today) for weeks, the old folks say such intense frost has not "held on" for seventy years past, but we are all the healthier for it no doubt, as we are all blessed with sound health thus far.

I believe I have not written you since Eliza & Mr Flagg[8] surprised me (in Marys[9] absence) I had of course to make extra effort to secure the enjoyment they seemed to realize. No butcher came! but the Rectory larder spared me a fine fat turkey & good Mrs Searles[10] helped me get an excellent dinner their second & last day. Willie drove them to Mr Camps[11], for Mr Flagg was engaged to deliver a lecture, his subject refinement - at Danielsonville! a pelting rain storm however destroyed this benefit to the community, it was the last evening of the old year, the young couple returned to Norwich. A Brewer[12] was among the many who called upon them on N Years day & he reported them unscathed by the storm, he spent a few days here ere his return to Trinity[13], called upon me & asked affectionately after Jemie to whom he desired to be remembered. [p. 2] I never saw Eliza appear so happy or to such advantage, she is quite popular in his congregation & among the clergy. she is president of the ladies sewing circle organized since her becoming the wife of the Pastor - 70 meet in her parlor on friday evenings, she left love to be enclosed you dear Jemie, & is cheered by the report of Willy Wyatt[14] being so happy in Marys[15] delightful home, & giving his brother[16] satisfaction in the Counting house.

Uncle McNeill[17] is spending the winter in England, Aunt A[18] is so happy in personal intercourse with him. how fondly she writes of you Jemie, & so does your Sister! I wonder if you will ever write either of them the few lines I have long waited to enclose! I sent a doll, exquisitely dressed by Mrs Parks[19] sewing circle, for Annie's[20] birth day gift, it was welcomed by Cis & Emma Maingay[21] on the 11th of Dec. Annie was three years old on the 13th. E & Cis recognised my neat stitches & nice taste in the beautiful dresses. Cis shed tears at the proof of "Mother's thoughts of her darling" she reports all well. Emma wrote me also under the Gas light in the dining room at noon for a yellow fog obscured the light of day in London. Doctor Park[22] & his two senr [i.e. senior] pupils are studying German[.] Willie has joined their evening class for mutual benefit. Seven weeks from tomorrow the last examination at the school under its present principal, will set Willie at liberty from study (which he is very diligent in to prepare for) to be resumed in April by the blessing of God upon our settling at Scarsdale[23]. My friends there watch the Carpenters at work & rejoice in the prospect of our occupying the Cottage, which is promised by April to be finished, but I suppose we shall find as the Eastwicks do in their Castle[24], that painters must not be considered intruders, Hass[25] writes a very lively account to Willie & we are informed that a fourth sister[26] was welcomed on Christmas day, just as they had taken possession of the new Castle. Hass is making some progress in fresco painting, I dare say he will embellish their sanctum, perhaps he will condescend to give a few touches to adorn my Cottage! if you do not promise yourself a holiday & me a visit.

Oh Jemie how I do miss you & how earnestly I hope that your prayers for a widowed Mother & mine for a dear Cadet, mingle as incense [27] before the throne of God. I thought a new trial was coming to me when I fell & nearly fainted from hurting my back upon the ice, but I knew if I was crippled as my friend Miss Hirst[28] had been by a fall, I could sit at the feet of Jesus & hear His words. but God has prolonged my activity, I trust to fulfil my duty to others more perfectly. Grandmother[29] is quite well for her, she is knitting you Summer suspenders, & I ought to have sent in the parcel to you a "wash cloth" which she took such pleasure in knitting for your Christmas gift, do take notice of her love for you when you write us. tell Mrs Bartlett[30] that Gd Mother often speaks of the pleasant visit under her hospitable roof. do you hear of [p. 3] apples[31] I sent them? we have a barrel of the same "Pecks Pleasant" & find few decay. Willie of course has the chief benefit of this fine fruit. Grandmother says he is as tall as I am & he is twice as stout, yet out growing his pants, he sleeps in the maple room & is indulged with a fire night & morning, but I do not indulge my pet in letting him join the night sleigh rides, tho A B[32] says their party of 14 was very select, they could not get entertainment at Brooklyn among the hundred collected at the hotel there for supper & a dance, so they went to Danielsonville, there is a great quantity of snow now & the drift tolerably leveled will tempt many to turn night into day I fear, but my Willie is not to break thro the home bounds. he drove Mrs Parks, Mary and myself last Friday to Brooklyn - he saw Holbrooks house[33], but we only went to Mr Camps & to the pretty church. We did not suffer from the cold in our furs & returned home to tea. The Widow Eldridge[34] has been calling upon us this afternoon, Helen & Constance[35] are at E Greenwich at school, the latter improving in music, You must be tired reading this large sheet dear Jemie, so I shall only ask if you were provided by George with fur gloves, & beg you to deliver my love and best wishes for a happy New Year to the family of Proff Bartlett.

Friday morning 16th

Mary B returned a week ago & is well & doing all she can to make up for 3 weeks holiday. We have a "cold snap" again today. but the sun shines brightly on the windows of my room where are my flower stands, green as spring. May the Sun of Righteousness[36] shed His Heavenly beams to melt your heart with thankfulness to God for closing the old year with favors & opening more encouragingly to you the path of duty this New Year. It is as an unsoiled leaf in your common place book dear Jemie, keep it so as well as poor mortal may, by yielding only to conscience. You are surrounded by temptations to forget God & eternity, your own heart being the most powerful of your foes. but confession of daily sin & a steadfast endeavour to resist evil & to cleave to good by the help of the Holy Spirit will secure your happiness. Do you ever recall the gentle voice of your dear father[37] "Jemie my boy" always reconciling you to self denial & obedience, do you ever now think of our [son?] & walk with him on his birth day, in the summer gardens[38], when he so charmed you as to render you indifferent to the great military parade in the Champ de Mars[39] - Oh my own loved one! may we all hear thy tones of gentle admonition yet sounding upon our hearts, to induce us to live in constant preparation to meet thee in the paradise of God!

Mrs Wilkinson[40] is here, she called to read me such a nice letter from Edmund Allen[41], that I rejoice with her over it, he is trying[42] he says to meet the Feb examination, which will dismiss many! I like his tone, Mrs W begs you to accept her love, she always expresses such an interest in you, as I feel also for Edmund, Write soon to your Widowed Mother


This document is protected by copyright.

[Address panel:]Cadet James Whistler
Military Academy
West Point
State of New York
[Postmark:] QUINEBAUG / Ct. / JAN / 17
[Rubber Stamp:] PAID

Z. D. Whistler
Z. D. Whisller [sic]
Z. D. Whislle [sic]

This document is protected by copyright.


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; see AMW to JW, 10 June 1851, #06396.

3.  Jemie
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more]. Fleming writes that on 2 January 1852, JW took his semi-annual examination, an oral test held in the library before the Academic Board. He received a permanent appointment and he signed papers pledging him to eight years of military service, four as a cadet and four as an officer, if he completed his work at the Academy. See Fleming, Gordon, The Young Whistler 1834-66, London, Boston, Sydney, 1978, p. 89.

4.  Aunt Kate
Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer (ca 1812 - d.1877), née McNeill, AMW's sister [more].

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

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

7.  shube
A long fur cloak; see AMW to JW, 11 December 1848, #06375.

8.  Eliza & Mr Flagg
Rev. Edward Octavius Flagg (1824-1911), husband of JW's cousin Eliza McNeill [more] (1830-1855), JW's cousin.

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

10.  Mrs Searles
Mrs Searles, AMW's neighbour at Pomfret, CT.

11.  Mr Camps
Camps, unidentified.

12.  A Brewer
Rev. Alfred Lee Brewer (1831-1899), Curate at the Church of the Epiphany in New York from 1856-1857 [more].

13.  Trinity
Trinity College, Hartford, CT, was founded in May 1823 as Washington College (the name was changed in 1845).

14.  Willy Wyatt
William Wyatt McNeill (1833-1853), JW's cousin [more].

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

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

17.  Uncle McNeill
William Gibbs McNeill (1800-1853), railway engineer, AMW's brother [more].

18.  Aunt A
Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill (1786-1863), JW's aunt [more].

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

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

21.  Sis & Emma Maingay
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more], and Eliza Ann Maingay (1821-1899), AMW's friends, of St Petersburg.

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

23.  our settling at Scarsdale
AMW moved in a cottage at Scarsdale, NY sometime in June 1852.

24.  the Eastwicks do in their Castle
The family of Andrew McCalla Eastwick (1810-1879), partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more]. On his return to Philadelphia, he built a luxurious retirement residence called Bartram Hall. Its name was taken from the site, which had once been occupied by the botanical gardens of John Bartram (1699-1777), botanist [more].

25.  Hass
Joseph Harrison ('Hass') Eastwick (1834-1917), son of L. A. and A. M. Eastwick [more].

26.  a fourth sister
Mary Emma Harmar Eastwick (1851-1928), daughter of L. A. and A. M. Eastwick [more].

27.  incense
Probably 'And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.' Rev. 8.3.

28.  Miss Hirst
Miss Hirst, a friend of AMW, of St Petersburg.

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

30.  Mrs Bartlett
Harriet Bartlett, née Whitehorne, wife of Prof. W. H. C. Bartlett.

31.  apples
AMW mentions Pecks Pleasant, a variety of apples sent to the Bartletts on 25 November 1851 (AMW to JW, #06407).

32.  A B
Anna Bowers (b. 1831), daughter of Captain P. Bowers, Sr.

33.  Holbrooks house
The Brooklyln house of James Holbrook (1812-1864), agent of the U. S. Post Office [more].

34.  Widow Eldridge
Hannah Eldridge (1799-1865), née Grosvenor, widow of Edward Eldridge of Pomfret, CT [more].

35.  Helen & Constance
Helen Grosvenor Eldridge (b. 1838), and Constance Eldridge (b. 1833), daughters of H. and E. Eldridge.

36.  Sun of Righteousness
'But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall,' Mal. 4.2.

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

38.  summer gardens
Summer Gardens, St Petersburg, Russia, founded in 1704; by the end of the 18th century, they contained more than 250 statues and busts, mostly the work of Venetian masters.

39.  Champ de Mars
Fr.: Champs de Mars, a large parade ground. AMW is probably talking about the 'Admiralty', St Petersburg, Russia, originally designed to be a dockyard, where some of the first ships of Russia's Baltic fleet were built; it was rebuilt in 1806-23 by Adrian Zakharov and was the naval headquarters of Russia till 1917. The Summer gardens are in front of the Admiralty.

40.  Mrs WIlkinson
Mrs Wilkinson, neighbour of AMW at Pomfret.

41.  Edmund Allen
Edmund Allen (b. 1836), of Pomfret, CT; AMW to JW, 10 June 1851, #06396.

42.  trying
'trying ... A M W' continues in left and upper margins of p. 1; 'Cadet ... Whislle' continues on p. 4; 'Paid ... Whislle' written in an another hand.