The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: McNeill, Maria
Record 12 of 20

System Number: 06425
Date: 27 February 1853
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: London
Recipient: William McNeill Whistler[2]
Place: Maryland
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W420
Document Type: ALS[3]

62 Sloane St

Feb 27th 1853The Lords day evening

My own precious Willie

My thoughts have not separated [from] you in aught which has interested me since reading your last, Janry report, recd yesterday morning, & after listening to a most instructive sermon from Doct Cummings[4] today, I resolved to try to sum up for your benefit what memory could aid me in, before seeking rest. But naturally you will desire a home sketch to greet you in response to your college notes. George[5] enclosed them in a very interesting letter from himself to Sis[6], in which he also sent one from Mrs Ducatel[7] describing his sweet little G W W[8]. Sis is so wishful to see her darling nephew here among her trio[9], I do hope George may bring him over to England, little Seymour looks at his Daguereotype[10] that I brought - & says so fondly "this is little cousin George & Grandmama Ducatel" it would take more than this sheet Willie were I to attempt the anecdotes of the children here, which memory will treasure up for our walks on the cottage piazza. I have succeeded in getting Annie & S. to substitute bible stories, pictures & hymns, for toys on the Lords day. little S, however petitioned me just for his whip this morning, but I said no this is the Lords day! which he tried to prove to me I was mistaken in, I began counting Annies fingers to shew her the six play - days, which so diverted him, he came to my knee begging me to count his, then put his arms around my neck & kissing me of his own accord said "I promise you Grandmama I will not ask for my toys on the Lords day" he is a most affectionate child, & now as much as Annie clings to me. it will be a hard struggle for me to leave them, the sweet baby too, so like Sis! gentle & pretty, is getting to know us & to do his lessons in "teerochey[11]" pat a cake & to play & laugh, he is six months old, & is quite revived [p. 2] tho he has been the slowest in recovering from the illness which alarmed us for all three in Janry. the unusual cold weather during Febry has confined them to the house, but they have the change of rooms from nursery to whichever parlor Mama & I sit in, & their dances to her piano[12], little S is perpetual motion & Annie merry enough tho she likes to sew besides Grandmama, exemplifying the rhyme she repeats daily,"work while you work, play while you play, that's the way to be happy & gay[13]" &c - I received a letter from Uncle Genl Swift[14] dated Brooklyn, providentially he was staying at Cousin Josie's[15], upon dear Uncle McNeills[16] arrival, who had on the voyage jaundice & was too feeble to write me, Oh Willie dear you dont know how ill the dear father of Jacks[17] looked when he left England! Aunt Alicia[18] who met him at Liverpool & went on board the Atlantic[19] writes me she is haunted by his shadowy form & palid [sic] face. I often think of his tenderness to me while I was tete a tete [sic] at his lodgings, & on my solitary return walks my prayers & tears mingled silently for blessings on him. his face was covered with fond emotion when we parted, & shall I ever ever [sic] hear him "think aloud" to me again! he is in the keeping of our Heavenly Father, whose ears are open to my prayers for his happiness. Gen'l Swift writes me I would be gratified & consoled to hear my brother's religious sentiments as he converses confidentially to him, he was very anxious to get back & as I was packing his trunks he uttered his yearnings to be with Genl Swift again! "The finger of God[20]" was Doctor Cummings text today, you know dear Willie I have long seen the Invisible hand leading every event for us. This old friend being at Brooklyn on my invalids arrival was not accidental, but providential, as was my coming to London for this season, & your discipline at St James[21] appointed in infinite wisdom tho you do not perceive the necessity, our Lord who has traced all your path of duty guides you with His eye, leads you by His hand!

[p. 3] Sis is pleased you are polishing your German at your music lessons, & thinks how charmed your master must be to talk it with you. Oh Willie, if you could know how your report of conquering your weakness & improving your time & talents cheers me, you'd have the beginning of your reward. I find no fault with your yearnings for home, I should lament if you were indifferent to the few of us left on earth being scattered! for ah how tenderly sensitive I feel my absence from my loved sons, but the belief that God has ordered this for us to rejoice together in on our reunion ought to cheer us. Genl Swift records another death at which Sis & I were touched, from Cousin Louisa Adams[22]! he & Capt S[23], had gone to Springfield to attend her funeral on the l9th of Janry. she was a solitary one whose happiness I tried to contribute to, I was thinking to write her, & Sis was talking of what she should send her by me. it is a pity to delay to do good, & I regret poor Louisa was prevented visiting our cottage[24], tho you know it was because of my expecting little Georgie all summer. By the last N Y papers I saw the death of old Mrs Jarvis[25] at Scarsdale, we shall see changes notching the months of our absence when we meet there! but these must only admonish us to improve time

Thursday March 3rd.

Letters from those faithful friends Genl Swift & Margaret Hill[26] have this morning announced to me my loss of a brother dearer to me than words can express! oh how he loved my boys! you have lost a second father, Willie dearest, you are his name boy, you must use all your ability to keep it bright, not to dazzle in the path of worldly ambition! but with the steady light of piety & truth, the halo of Christs love on your heart, irradiating your path, shewing your supreme love to Him, by resisting temptation in any shape to dishonor your Christian name. Were I not looking to that home eternal in the heavens, where my dear brother has so soon followed Aunt Maria & Grandmother[27], I should be overwhelmed by grief. But the tender mercies of our Almighty Father mingled in this fresh warning to me "to be also ready[28]" makes me thankful [p. 4] I have sympathised with my brother in his longings to get home! our compassionate God gratified his natural desire & it is sweet now to me to think of his thankfulness for it, at home, encircled by children, fond relatives & friends he said he would go to sleep! & it was to awake in happiness eternal! How many sleepless nights he spent in his solitude at Edith Grove[29]! I have many notes from him to testify. How beautifully & neatly he wrote - do not neglect his hints that you should improve your caligraphy, you express your ideas well & attention to this now will save you trouble by & bye. One of the thoughts I had in my attempt to let you share the benefit I have derived in hearing one of the most distinguished preachers of our time, was, the advantage a cultivated & refined mind has in explaining the Scriptures, it is not the poetry of religion, for he is a laborer, & seeks only his Master's glory! but his taste for music, his love of flowers, his purity & elevation of feeling - gives a poetry to his similies [sic] making truth charming to all who hear him. Willie dear now is your time for enriching your mind. that you may become an enlightened christian, to captivate for Christ many to seek first His Kingdom & service. I must tell you how[30] considerate [are] all under this roof for me in my sorrow, I am in my own room, Seymour[31] first came to express his sympathy, dear Sis to weep with me, the little ones are in their nursery that I may be quiet, Our united love is felt for all God bless you my dear home boy! be happy, go to the loving Saviour in all your weakness & you will find grace & strength for every time of need in prayer unite with

your devoted


This document is protected by copyright.

Jacks dear, read this & enclose it in a few words at least to this fond brother of yours. lose no time

This document is protected by copyright.


[Address panel:] William G McN Whistler
St James College


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

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

3.  ALS
There is a taped piece of paper inscribed: 'Willie W.'

4.  Doct Cummings
Dr Henry Irwin Cummings, clergyman; see AMW to Margaret G. Hill, 21 and 22 February 1853, #07640.

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

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

7.  Mrs Ducatel
Mrs J. T. Ducatel, mother-in-law of George William Whistler.

8.  G W W
George ('Georgie') Worthen Whistler (b. 1851), JW's nephew [more].

9.  her trio
Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, and Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918), JW's nephews; Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece [more].

10.  Daguereotype
Daguerreotype, untraced; see AMW to Joseph Harrison, 11 June 1849, #07627.

11.  teerochey
Presumably a children's game; see AMW to Margaret G. Hill,21 and 22 February 1853, #07640.

12.  piano
See AMW to Joseph Harrison, 11 June 1849, #07627.

13.  work while you work, play while you play, that's the way to be happy & gay
Children's rhyme.

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

15.  Cousin Josie's
Louisa Josephine ('cousin Josee') Richards (1821-1859), née Swift, wife of P. Richards.

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

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

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

19.  Atlantic
Steamer Atlantic (1850), Collins Line (2,860 tons.); see AMW to Margaret G. Hill,21 and 22 February 1853, #07640.

20.  The finger of God
See AMW to Margaret G. Hill,21 and 22 February 1853, #07640.

21.  St James
St James College, located near Williamsport, Maryland; see AMW to JW, 12 September 1852, #06419.

22.  Cousin Louisa Adams
Louisa ('cousin') Adams (1813-1853), a relation of AMW [more]; see 'Died,' Springfield Daily Republican, 22 January 1853, vol. 10, no. 19.

23.  Capt S
Captain William Henry Swift (1800-1879), brother-in-law of JW's father [more].

24.  our cottage
AMW's cottage at Scarsdale, NY.

25.  Mrs Jarvis
Mrs Jarvis (d. 1853), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY.

26.  Margaret Hill
Margaret Getfield Hill (1802-1881), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY [more].

27.  Aunt Maria & Grandmother
Maria Matilda McNeill (d. January 1852), née Camman, wife of AMW's brother, W. G. McNeill [more], and her mother-in-law Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, mother of AMW [more].

28.  to be also ready
Probably 'Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not,' Luke 12.40

29.  Edith Grove
Edith Grove, Brompton Road, London. AMW's brother was struck by illness when he was on a vocational visit to England.

30.  how
'how ... all' continues in the left and upper margins of p. 1; 'God ... weakness' continues in the right margin; 'and ... Mother' continues in the left margin of p. 2; 'Jacks ... time' continues on p. 4.

31.  Seymour
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].