The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: McNeill, Maria
Record 11 of 20

System Number: 06424
Date: 31 December 1852, 4 and 7 January 1853
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: London
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W419
Document Type: ALS

62 Sloane St

the old years Eve

While Sis & Seyr[3] are contributing to ushering in the New Year & Grandmama Hadens[4] birth day by her invitation for us to meet her most social circle at tea in her drawing room, I choosing to remain at this snug fire side, having my boys naturally in my thoughts am not solitary. Seyr pressured me with a new years most tempting vol! of thoughts for all moods[5] elegantly bound & printed, I dont wonder you love him so enthusiastically dear Jemie[6] for you spent a winter under his care as I am benefitting by.

As we have to resign Sis to old London we may do so with fair grace, as it is to a husband so capable of making her happy. I often think now that I know Seymours excellent virtues & how gifted he is with refined tastes & talent, that your father[7] & he would have been kindred spirits in our home! God grant that this, as many other unfinished works of time, may be perfected in eternity! Seyr procurs [sic] for me such recreations as he knows I may reflect upon with renewed pleasure, he selected "The household of Sir Thomas More[8]" for me to read, it relates to the reign of Henry 8th is so simple, so pure, so interesting! the association of Seyr with it in my grateful memory is his reward for troubling himself to think of my amusements[,] he asked me to walk with him some two days since to "the water color gallery for amateurs[9]" where he had been tempted to buy some studies from nature, & I found dear Jemie I have a love for your favorite art. Richard[10] followed us so that we drove back, Sis coming for us & she will describe her Xmas eve at Kensington with little Annie[11], which followed that afternoons call there, Seyr availed of getting thro his visits earlier than usual last tuesday to take Sis & I in the carriage, for she is too delicate yet to walk that far to the Society [p. 2] of Arts to see the Photographs[12] - we always wish for you - the discoverer[13] has generously removed all restrictions to lovers of this branch & the variety & improvement is in consequence charming. The English taste for rural beauties, the foreign for Architectural, gives the palm to this country, but I am a novice, & tho I was charmed, I cannot give you a just impression. Seyr said you had been there & had seen the paintings which cover the walls of that fine hall portraying[14] the contribution to the Arts - by An English artist, tho you had not seen the photographs of course as they are recently exhibited, we met a Don Manuel[15] there, a Spanish Prince whose specimens of animals alive must have demanded expertness to catch them awake yet not stirring. As Sis wished from there to go to the water color Gallery of Amateurs she not having seen the four studies purchased for her home - we enjoyed the 2nd visit even more than our first, & Seyr pointed out one of Turners[16] which would have been a feast to Jemie, such an exquisite specimen of that genius. You know the aged Artist has been taken from time to eternity since you were here, & it will interest you as one of his admirers to hear that he left to the National Gallery his masterpiece "The building of Carthage[17]" upon Condition of its being placed between the Claudes[18] same subject - the eccentric old Artist of England knew the merit of his productions & never yeilded [sic] the palm to anyone. When Seyr recounted to us his peculiarities, I hope to store up some amusing anecdotes for next summer's furlogh [sic]. Not that my Cadet has sent me encouragement! But perhaps a New Year may bring me a letter & promises!

[p. 3] I keep the sadness of this anniversary locked within my tender memories of dear Aunt Maria[19], except in answer to my brothers[20] notes, as during my absence from my own dear lads I must ever try to cheer them by letter. This last day of the year is Uncle Genl Swift's[21] birth day 70 years today I think. Would it not be a blessing to the Cadets to have his benevolent smile to win their to cheerful obedience to order? it will beam upon you if we may go to Geneva for it in furlogh next July or rather August for we'll not go without our meeting at Scarsdale - Sis wrote George & Willie[22] this week, but thinks as she is to go to Brighton for bracing she shall have leisure to add her mite to you, & can slip this in. Letters are my only indulgence, but I have not a regular correspondent left. the motherless & widow have no longer the one never failing to impart & receive comfort, so when responses come to mine I am in proportion grateful. next to reading letters from my sons, is tracing my thoughts of them a privilege, but prayer is my greatest solace, for the omnipresent is the Father of the fatherless & the friend of the widow. Winter has not yet appeared in England - but rainy days are most incessant, I walk when the sunshine invites for health to give my brother all the attention & comfort in my power, he was feeling better when I was there the beginning of this week & tho he wrote as a mourner over his loss on the anniversary of dear Aunt Marias death, yet his wish to prevent gloom was expressed in his thankfulness to God for sources of cheerfulness left, he lets me read the letters which comfort & cheer him, Mary reports Willy Wyatt[23] to have improved in every way during her absence, his health never [p. 4] better than the past summer in N Orleans[24], & he has revived his study of French & become fond of German. Do you correspond with him? I know he only wanted you to agree to answer his letters. I shall conclude not to interrupt your studies, if you remain silent towards this proffer of a happy New Year from a most devoted by affectionate widowed mother.


Offer my most sincere good wishes to our kind friends the Bartletts[25] & Wiers[26], also to your chum Childes[27]. My respects to Col Lee[28], I shall be even more pleased if you write Sis promptly, of your pursuits, how you liked the Illustrations of the Dukes funeral[29] &c. A lady today remarked to me how much my Sons portrait[30] resembles me! think how I improve!

4th Janry

I welcomed your letter with one from George to day. My heart trembles for your future dearest Jemie how many you will disappoint if you are rejected, I think however your conscience accuses you or you'd not have the blues, so I spare reproaches. I[31] welcomed a letter from Racine this week, Mr Park[32] will write my boys his regard for them[.] I leave to Sis this time her nursery as a mothers own. tho sure Uncle Jim is often talked of by Annie & little Seymour, they are delightful pets, but baby is irresistible! This is at least my fourth to you. To dear Willy I look soon for a letter to answer. George will no doubt report his Christmas with his darling little one[33] to me.

Jan 7th

Your examination dearest Jemie, must be over dear Jemie, while your bright & happy associations with Sloane St make you envy us here, we have begun our years with deep anxieties. But tho I close this by little Annies bedside & Sis is in the nursery aiding the two nurses for baby & Seymour, yet ere this reaches you, I hope to follow it with good tidings. You know my experience in sick rooms, & I only live to be useful. happiness depends upon ourselves & I always look to the bright side, and am thankful for every mercy. Your Aunt & Uncle Winstanley[34] forward their best wishes for a happy New Year to you & Willie, I shall lend them your letter to read, all your reminiscences of the happy times in England touch tender things in my memory. Oh my dear boys I pray that you may not by mistaken notions of this life, embitter my prospect of meeting at Scarsdale, we have a choice of rewards or punishment tho rules are written by God who sees the end from the beginning. "The humble shall be exalted[35]" I never had more tenderness evinced for me than by Sis & Seymour[.] Write another 3 weeks reports to your devoted Mother


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Cadet[36] J Whistler
West Point


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.  Sis & Seyr
Deborah Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister, and her husband Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher; they lived at 62 Sloane St, London.

4.  Grandmama Hadens
Emma Haden, née Harrison, mother of JW's brother-in-law, F. S. Haden.

5.  vol! of thoughts for all moods
Anna Manning, The Household of Sir Thomas More, New York, 1852.

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

7.  The household of Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More (1477-1535), humanist, statesman, and Lord Chancellor of England [more], who was beheaded for refusing to accept Henry VIII (1491-1547), King of England [more], as head of the Church of England. More is recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic church.

8.  the water color gallery for amateurs
The exhibition was advertised in The Athenaeum, 18 December 1852, No. 1312, p. 1397: 'THE WINTER EXHIBITION of SKETCHES and DRAWINGS, is NOW OPEN, for the Third Season, at the AMATEUR GALLERY, no. 121, Pall Mall, opposite the Opera House Colonade, from Ten till dusk. - Admission, 1s., Catalogues, 6d. Gallery, No. 121, Pall Mall. JOHN BRITTEN, Sec.'

9.  Richard
Probably Francis Seymour Haden's servant.

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

11.  Photographs
This was the first photographic exhibition in Britain, opened on 23 December 1852. It was advertised in The Athenaeum, 18 December 1852, no. 1312, p. 1377. The Society of Arts was founded in 1754 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1847.

12.  discoverer
In 1851 a new era in photography was introduced by Frederick Scott Archer (1813-1857), who introduced the Collodion process. This process was much faster than conventional methods, reducing exposure times to two or three seconds, thus opening up new horizons in photography.

13.  fine hall portraying
AMW probably means the Great Room of the Royal Society of Arts, which is adorned with paintings by James Barry (1741-1806), executed between 1777 and 1801; see William L. Pressly, The Life and Art of James Barry, New Haven and London, 1981.

14.  Don Manuel
The only Spanish photographer who participated in the photographic exhibition was Count de Montizon, Juan Carlos Maria Isidro de Borbon (1822-1887). See 'Exhibition of Photographic Pictures at the Society of Arts,' The Athenaeum, 1 January 1853, no. 1314, p. 23.

15.  Turners
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), painter [more].

16.  The building of Carthage
J. M. W. Turner, Dido Building Carthage; see 'New Pictures in the National Gallery,' in The Athenaeum, 18 December 1852, no. 1312, pp. 1397-98.

17.  Claudes
Claude Lorrain (1604-1682), artist [more]. Turner in his will asked for his Dido Building Carthage (z.217) and Sun Rising through Vapour (z.218) to be hung between Lorrain's Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba (z.219) and The Mill or Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah (z.220), at the National Gallery, London. See Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J. M. W. Turner, New Haven and London, 1977, p. 53.

18.  Aunt Maria
Maria Matilda McNeill (d. January 1852), née Camman, wife of AMW's brother, W. G. McNeill [more].

19.  my brothers
William Gibbs McNeill (1800-1853), railway engineer, AMW's brother [more].

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

21.  George & Willie
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more], and William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

22.  Mary reports Willy Wyatt
Mary Isabella Rodewald (1823-1867), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of J. F. Rodewald [more], and her brother William Wyatt McNeill (1833-1853). William Wyatt was a close companion of JW in his childhood; see AMW to JW, 30 October 1854, #06444.

23.  N Orleans
See AMW's letter to JW, 6 October 1851, #06403.

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

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

26.  Wiers
Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889), artist and art teacher at USMA, West Point [more].

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

28.  Col Lee
General Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870), Superintendant of USMA, West Point, and later Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate States of America [more].

29.  Illustrations of the Dukes funeral
Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), 1st Duke of Wellington, British Prime Minister (1828-1830); his funeral took place on 18 November 1852. AMW sent copies of the Illustrated London News to JW, regarding the Duke's funeral; see AMW to JW, 18 and 19 November 1852, #06422.

30.  Sons portrait
Probably JW's portrait by William Boxall (1800-1879), portrait painter, Director of the National Gallery [more]. See AMW to Joseph Harrison, 25 June 1849, #07633.

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

32.  little one
George ('Georgie') Worthen Whistler (b. 1851), JW's nephew [more].

33.  I
'I ... them' continues in the left margin of p. 1; 'I leave ... is' continues in the right margin of p. 1; 'often ... irresistible' continues in the left margin of p. 2; 'This ... answer' continuesin the right margin; 'George ... me' continues in the right margin of p. 3; 'Jan ... Seymour' continues in p. 4; 'Write ... AMW' continues in the upper margin of p. 1.

34.  Cadet
'Cadet ... Point' cross-written on p. 4.

35.  Aunt & Uncle Winstanley
Eliza Isabella Winstanley (1788-1857), née McNeill, JW's aunt, AMW's half-sister [more], and her husband John Winstanley (1776-1859), solicitor, JW's uncle [more].

36.  The humble shall be exalted
'and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted,' Luke 14.11 and 18.14.