The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Palmer, Emma Woodbridge
Record 6 of 15

System Number: 06434
Date: [26 December 1853 / January 1854[1]]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: New York
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[3]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: Whistler W429
Document Type: ALS

220 West Fourteenth St

Jemie[4] my dear Son

How welcome the envelope directed hither by my own pen ever is, for its contents never fail to impart a tone of your cheerful spirit to your fond Mother.

Daily more & more earnestly I pray for a blessing from heaven upon my Cadet, do you pray for me & for yourself? "Not on a prayerless bed, e'er lay your weary head, for they alone are blest whom angels keep[5]" Jemie dear do resolve if you get thro the coming Examination you will avoid demerits[6] henceforth, it might be excusable in a Plebe to run them up recklessly, but not in a 3rd Class - man. If only for your widowed Mothers sake you ought to turn over a new leaf I [p. 2] cannot be indifferent about talents you have inherited from the best of fathers[7] & for which you must render an account to a Heavenly.

I fear too after the close attention demanded now to make up for lost time - your health must pay the penalty. I am shocked at your wearing summer drawers still! I supposed you would put on your elastic winter set which I altered by your direction & you will find them in your trunk, try them at once dear Jemie, the waist bands were altered to fit. if they are not comfortable mention in your report of the Exam in time for me to have a Canton flannel set[8] made to send by the Misses Bart[9]. Your watch & chain shall be also sent by them, [p. 3] for I cannot but hope you will not be disgraced. Col Lee[10] told George[11] if your conduct continued correct you might get thro. We all lament you have not ambition to take a higher aim, but hope you will by June.

A Happy N Year to you my dear son. You did not remark snow storms which made sleighing enough for a few days in this go ahead population. What think you of $60 for the hire of a sleigh for New Years day calls? I know $30 was asked one of the gents in this house. Doct Church[12] advised George (before snow) to get out one of his Locomotives! Willie[13] went to Scarsdale Saturday & did not get back till too late to make calls on Monday. Jacks[14] waited at Brooklyn as they had agreed. College[15] opened on Wednesday. Willie has too easy a course I judge, but when Jacks goes back to work, next Monday, I hope dear Willie may become more attentive to my wishes. It is now eight o'clock in the evening [p. 4] I suppose he went to Brooklyn from College & may not return till tomorrow, he cannot comprehend a widowed Mothers anxiety. he promises, but forgets, the weather may be his excuse tonight.

I shall have great pleasure in thanking Aunt Kate[16], indeed will enclose your letter for her to read your compliment. Emma[17] has returned to Stonington after five weeks at her Uncle Courts[18] in this St. Jacks & Willie are to dine at Georges tomorrow he wants to talk with them about their future professions. Write when you can to your devoted Mother


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1.  26 December 1853 / January 1854
It dates from after 26 December 1853 from references to the New Year events mentioned in this letter. Also the letter is dated from address; see AMW to JW, 16 December 1853, #06433.

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

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

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

5.  Not on a prayerless bed, e'er lay your weary head, for they alone are blest whom angels keep
'Not on a Prayerless bed,' poem by Margaret Mercer (d. 1846), published later in The Ladies' Repository, Cincinnati, OH, 1872, vol. 10, p. 98.

6.  demerits
During September 1853, JW received more demerits than in any other month, seventy-three resulting from thirty-two offences. Overall, during the autumn of 1853 JW behaved well, and passed his examination. See Gordon H. Fleming, The Young Whistler 1834-66, London, 1978, p. 100, and AMW to James H. Gamble, 28 September and 1 October 1853, #06428.

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

8.  Canton flannel set
See AMW to JW, 3 September 1852, #06418.

9.  Misses Bart
Harriet 'Rittie' Bartlett, and Neva Bartlett, daughters of Professor William Holmes Chambers Bartlett (1804-1893), mathematician [more].

10.  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].

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

12.  Doct Church
Probably Dr W. Henry Church, physician [more].

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

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

15.  College
Columbia College; see AMW to JW, 27 August 1851, #06399.

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

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

18.  Uncle Courts
Courtland ('Uncle Court') Palmer, Sr (1800-1874), merchant, brother of Dr G. E. Palmer [more].