The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Wann, Jane
Record 3 of 56

System Number: 06438
Date: 3 April 1854
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Scarsdale
Recipient: James H. Gamble[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W433
Document Type: ALS[3]


April 3rd 1854

My dear Mr Gamble

Your New Years greeting was welcomed by me at my pleasant West 14th St lodgings, & it was only the claims of family connections surrounding me there that prevented my immediate response of cordial & Xtian greeting. Since then I have been too unsettled to write more than absolutely necessary. the Lord sees not as man sees[4]. my friends all thought me so properly settled here in this happy valley, but He finds it necessary again to admonish me I am but a sojourner. My heart was sorely stricken when required to part from Willie[5], the more because of my long cherished hopes that his collegiate course would fit him for the highest occupation, I had given him to the Lord, as Hannah did her Samuel[6].

And now when he writes me the sad contrast of the din & rust of a Machine shop in Balt[7], & his pleasant life at college [p. 2] I can only pray, while I weep in the solitude of "the Prophets Chamber[8]" that the severe discipline may be wholesome to higher ends, than Engineering. If the Lord will He can by His Holy Spirits power after my Willie suffer [sic] awhile stablish [sic] settle him in the ministry[9].

My soul has been brought to Gethsemane[10] by this last passing under the rod more than ever! but in Lent how seasonable! And how the Lord mingles mercies with needful afflictions. Your knowledge of the friends here renders it unnecessary for my pen to expatiate, how they lighten my cross, the moving away from the sweet cottage! room has been made here for my valuables, & the indispensibles [sic] for furnishing mine & Marys[11] rooms at Stonington are boxed & ready for a car to transport. And I expect to go tomorrow, My solace will be in lightening my sisters[12] cares, & especially in helping to train her [p. 3] children[13] to adorn the doctrine of God our saviour in all things. Our Church there needs "widows indeed[14]" I shall be recognised in my Mothers[15] place in the home & in the Church. her room looking out upon the sea I have selected, tho it is a mere Prophets Chamber.

But duty will call me oftener through Steam power than is suited to my love of repose. Willie I hope to go to see in May. James at West Point[16] may not come to me. his last report of health recorded a miraculous escape from sudden death in his cavalry exercise[17]! Our excellent friends under whose roof I have been except a fortnight when I took Willie to friends at Springfield Mass. for a change of air after his rheumatic attack, since 16th of Feb. talk of you with sincere affection[,] they cling to your parting words in reply to their hopes for your visiting them again "Where there's a will[18]" & Mr Popham[19] was charmed by your Sister[20], we both felt as if she were a friend, not a stranger. & we were all here concerned about her while the papers expressed anxiety for the Steamers arrival at Lpool [i.e. Liverpool]. I do hope Mr [21] & Mrs Wann may devote 24 hours to this family circle [p. 4] en route to your honored Mother[22].

Offer our united, respectful & affectionate greetings to her, & when you write your Sister, say I have prepared my daughter[23] to welcome her at 62 Sloane St when she is in London. Mrs Wann must not be ceremonious with a Mother of little ones[24] & a very fragile one too. I shall hope to share your good news of the travellers. Direct to care of Doct Palmer[25]. Stonington Connecticut for your attached friend.

Anna M Whistler

'Answered / 5th May June 1854[26]'

This document is protected by copyright.


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

2.  James H. Gamble
James H. Gamble (b. 1820), clerk [more].

3.  ALS
Written on sheet with narrow mourning border.

4.  Lord sees not as man sees
'But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.' 1 Sam. 16.7.

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

6.  Hannah did her Samuel
'Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.' 1 Sam. 1.20.

7.  Machine shop in Balt
Winans Locomotive Works in Baltimore owned by Ross Winans (1796-1877), locomotive manufacturer, father of JW's sister-in-law [more]. Winans employed Patrick T. Jackson ('Jacks') McNeill (1835-1898), accountant, JW's cousin and William McNeill Whistler in his shop between 1853 and 1855; see AMW to JW, 16 November 1853, #06430, 10 February 1854, #06435, 27 April 1854, #06441, #06442, 7 December 1854, #06447, 1 January 1855, #06448.

8.  the Prophets Chamber
The chambers of a man of God; see for example 'And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.' Gen. 43.30. In the 18th and 19th centuries people would often provide a room at a moment's notice to those doing God's work, as a sign of hospitality and warmth, just like the biblical figure, the Shunamite woman.

9.  Lord will He can by His Holy Spirits power after my Willie suffer [sic] awhile stablish [sic] settle him in the ministry
AMW probably means that the Lord will by the power of His spirit look after Willie while he becomes established in his medical career.

10.  Gethsemane
Both Mathew and Mark talked of the arrival of Christ at Gethsemane. 'Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.' Matt. 26. 35-37. 'And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.' Mark 14. 31-36.

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

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

13.  children
George Erwin Palmer (1843-1909), Donald McNeill Palmer (b. 1845), Anna Whistler Palmer (b. 1848), later wife of G. Stanton, named after AMW, and Julia McNeill Palmer (1851-1902), later wife of W. S. Boardman; they were all JW's cousins.

14.  widows indeed
'If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.' 1 Tim. 5. 15-17.

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

16.  James at West Point
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more]; he was at the time attending the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY; see AMW to JW, 10 June 1851, #06396.

17.  death in his cavalry exercise
On 29 March 1854, JW received two demerits for not taking a gallop at the proper pace. From his classmates' recollections of the event, it seems that he went sliding over his horse's head, causing no serious injuries. See Gordon H. Fleming, The Young Whistler 1834-66, London, 197, p. 101.

18.  Where there's a will
'Where ther's a will, ther's a way,' derived from 'To him that will, waies are not wanting,' George Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs, London, 1640, p. 345, line 730.

19.  Mr Popham
William Sherbrooke Popham (1793-1885), merchant [more].

20.  Sister
Jane Wann (1822-1875), née Gamble, wife of S. Wann [more].

21.  Mr
Samuel Wann (b. 1820), merchant, brother-in-law of J. H. Gamble [more].

22.  honored Mother
Jane Gamble (1790-1864), mother of J. H. Gamble [more].

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

24.  little ones
Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece, and Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918), and Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, JW's nephews.

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

26.  Answered / 5th May June 1854
Written in another hand.