The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Koritzkii, Aleksander Osipovich
Record 11 of 11

System Number: 06418
Date: 3 September 1852
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Scarsdale
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W413
Document Type: ALS[3]


Sept 3rd 1852

My dear Son[4]

It is an ill wind &c - your disappointment about Willies[5] visiting you at breaking up of Camp has excited you to favor your fond mother with a few lines & she thanks you for this proof of thinking of home, but while my dearest Cadet has been revelling I have been ill & in in sorrow & yet in suspense as to the issue of darling Julie Palmers[6] attack of dysentery & fever. poor Aunt Kate[7] reported her dying, two consulting physicians called in who gave little hope! she had swallowed nothing but ice for for nearly a week & was so low her bed had not been made for two days, this loveliest of your cousins at the corner house has been a candidate for confirmation to take place this month, but perhaps the Holy Spirit was preparing her for the church triumphant. death to me seems life when the heart is given to God, her parents were resigned to the will of Him whose love for her exceeds theirs, yet if she is spared to them it will be a fresh proof that our heavenly father does not willingly afflict or try us, Kate Prince[8] was the devoted nurse, Uncle P[9] watched his child each night & Ellen Bowers[10] was invaluable in the nursery.

Emma[11] I am grieved to know is not in the habit of helping any one, May this call "be ye also ready[12]" be heard by her. Georgie[13] who has been spending August at the cottage had just left here when these tidings of threatened death came, a seamstress came from Stonington for a week to help Mary[14] & I get Willie out fit of shirts &c finished, & I placed Georgie under her care to return to his school Georgie was welcomed home this morning I hope. You must have recd my letter accounting for Willie's not joining you before the encampment was over. I was thankful he was thus sheltered from Saturdays storm. by the end of this month if convenient to Mrs Bartlett[15] we will go together, for mutual adieus, till next summer unite us under this [p. 2] roof. If you may not come with honor where shall I hide my distress, no where but in the cleft of the Rock of ages[16]. It is only at the footstool of mercy my prostration of spirit is poured out in prayer with tears. It seems to me that if possible I ought to rent the Cottage ready furnished for the winter & go to Sloane St[17]. it is lamentable indeed to have warm affections checked, Sisters children[18] would keep mine in circulation & lessen the weight at my heart, Willie does not know how I shall miss him, but I must sacrifice my self entirely for my children. Mary urges me daily, to go to England for health, from the middle of Oct to the end of May. I shall write brother George[19] about it, tho this & every other question concerning me I have implicit faith the God of the widow[20] will decide wisely & mercifully. lovely as is this cottage & favorably situated for me, it is only the shadow of home to me but it is the home provided for you & Willie, only improve the winter! & I may enjoy the Summer with my loved boys. A fortnight hence I shall try to take your case of instruments tho not that of Shagreen & silver it is too valuable for West Point. Cannot you have the pattern of drawers cut by your tailor in thin paper just half a pr, & send it by mail done up as a newspaper? it would relieve me to take your Canton flannels[21] ready made & marked, & we have have no time to lose. do you need flannel shirts beside the elastics you have? have you shirts enough for the winter? Mary will make you a set after Willie's sewing & mine is finished. I bought you ½ doz cambric pocket hkds[22]. Willie ditto, command my services dear Jemie to the extent of my limited income, avoid extravagance & debt, you ought not [to] tax George unnecessarily, as he has not your purse in keeping. I enclose you his last few lines my dear dear Jemie. When are all your wild oats to be sown? Are you & Willie to become scourges to your widowed Mother who would die to save you? One whose love exceeds mine has done this. May He incline you to [p. 3] repentance & to redeeming your time & talents, What about the Holy Innocents[23]? do you attend church with Childes[24]? remember your Mother affectionately to him I hope you & he are to room together. You will enjoy your drawing lessons[25]. I am sure, & trust you will become as fond of the American Artist[26] who told me he felt the want of such sympathy in the art as you are supposed to have - as you loved Karitzkie & Mr Boxall[27] so ardently! This is a tender chord to me! Oh Jemie those were blessed days to us when your father's gentle & virtuous influence reigned in the happy home, but any earthly home is only a type of the eternal family union, Oh that you would see realities, instead of counting on long years of freedom here, know you must suffer for righteousness sake [28] if you are a prodigal in the abuse of our Lords gifts. don't you see how naturally the human heart is opposed to God? how you seal the bible which I thought habit at least would render [torn paper] necessary to you. Do you pray for your Mother as she does for you! but we must individually seek graces for ourselves. I saw an idea in a fathers parting address to a son, "be your fathers monument[29]" is it not a sacred motive dearest Jemie for you to commence new term with? Oh what will be this months report from Washington! it must mortify our earliest friends in the circle of Genl Tottens[30] family that their favorite Whistlers [31] son slights his fathers example & makes no effort to comfort his broken hearted mother. But I am helpless except thro prayer to God who is with you on guard & in your chamber, the sooner you seek Him the happier you will be. Forgive me for pressing this on your time, eternity is a solemn & hourly contemplation with your anxious Mother


I observe by the last tuesdays Semi-Weekly[32] Mr & Mrs Harrison & five children [33] arrived last saturday at Phila, but our correspondence is like yours, not vigorous as in brighter days. The caligraphy [sic] is not so free, but it relieves my heart to talk with you thro the pen, God bless you dear James

[p. 4] Adolfe Rodewalde[34] sends me word he will come to Scarsdale Cottage by tea time tomorrow to spend Sunday with us, he writes me of his Loulou[35] being the first American child at a Mineral spring in Hungary, the people are astonished at her fairness, they thought all our race either copper colored or black. Good night dearest! Oh what would I not give to be in the place of this letter, welcomed by you. write soon & often a few lines ere the Atlantic makes it more formidable to your poor Mother

This document is protected by copyright.


[Address panel:] Cadet James Whistler
Military Academy
West Point. New York

Paid, 3

Scarsdale[36] Sept 4


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

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

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

6.  Aunt Kate
Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer (ca 1812 - d.1877), née McNeill, AMW's sister [more]; she lived at the 'Corner House' at Stonington, CT.

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

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

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

10.  Emma
Emma Woodbridge Palmer (1835-1912), JW's step-cousin [more].

11.  be ye also ready
"Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." Matt. 24.43-45.

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

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

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

15.  cleft of the Rock of ages
'Rock of Ages', hymn by Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778), published later in Augustus Montague Toplady, Hymns and Sacred Poems, on a Variety of Divine Subjects, Comprising the Whole of the Poetical Remains of the Rev. Augustus M. Toplady, London, 1868, p. 163.

16.  go to Sloane St
AMW spent the winter of 1853 at the residence of her step-daughter Deborah Delano Haden, at 62 Sloane Street, London; see AMW to George William Whistler, William McNeill Whistler, and JW, 18 and 19 November, #06422.

17.  Sisters children
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more], and her children Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918), and Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne.

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

19.  God of the widow
'Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.' 1 Tim. 5.3-7, 5.9, 5.14; see AMW to JW, 10 May 1849, #06392.

20.  Canton flannels
'John Billings used the term 'flannel' continuously when talking about underclothes. He wrote that flannels were the order of the day. If they were what they drew from the government stores, it was often as rough to the skin as course sandpaper, which it somewhat resembled in color. It seems that this was a period term in the army for federal issue underclothing. Canton flannel is usually white or off-white.' Quoted in Michael Hayes, The Truth about Flannel Underclothes, Company G, Fourteenth Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry 1862-1865, @; also see John Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, The Unwritten Story of Army Life, ed. Richard Harwell, Chicago, 1960.

21.  cambric pocket hkds
Handkerchiefs made out of cambric, cotton or linen fabric.

22.  Holy Innocents
Church of the Holy Innocents, 112 Main Street, Highland Falls, NY; it was built ca. 1846; see AMW to JW, 29 and 31 July 1852, #06416.

23.  Childes
Frederick Lynn Childs (ca 1831 - d.1894), room-mate of JW at USMA, West Point [more].

24.  drawing lessons
JW took drawing lessons at West Point, and became the top of his class. See Elizabeth Robins Pennell & Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, Philadelphia, 1911, 5th edition, revised, p. 21.

25.  American Artist
Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889), artist and art teacher at USMA, West Point [more]; see AMW to JW, 29 and 31 July 1852, #06416.

26.  Karitzkie & Mr Baxall
Aleksander Osipovich Koritzkii, Professor at St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts and court painter [more], and William Boxall (1800-1879), portrait painter, Director of the National Gallery [more]; see AMW to JW, 12 December 1848, #06376, and AMW to Joseph Harrison, 25 June 1849, #07633.

27.  suffer for righteousness sake
'But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled,' 3 Pet. 13-15.

28.  be your fathers monument
George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more].

29.  Genl Tottens
General Joseph Gilbert Totten (1788-1864), military engineer [more].

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

31.  Semi-Weekly
It is not clear as to which Semi-Weekly AMW refers. In 1851 there were various publications of journals from different locations throughout USA entitled Semi-Weekly, such as Semi-weekly Tribune, New York, begun in June 1850.

32.  Mr & Mrs Harrison & five children
Joseph Harrison (1810-1874), jr, partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more], and his wife Sarah Harrison, née Poulterer. Their children were: William Henry (b. 1837), Annie (1839-1915), Alicia McNeill (b. 1845), Marie Olga (b. 1847), and Theodore Leland Harrison (b. 1849).

33.  Adolfe Rodewalde
Adolfe Rodewald, Jr (b. 1853), son of J. C. and A. Rodewald.

34.  Loulou
Mary Louise ('Louloo') Rodewald (b. 1850), daughter of J. C. and A. Rodewald.

35.  ALS
[embossed paper mark:] RHOADS & SONS, EXTRA SUPERFINE, LONDON.

36.  Scarsdale
'Scarsdale ... 4' written in an another hand.