The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Winans, Thomas de Kay
Record 14 of 82

System Number: 06442
Date: 17 March[1] 1854
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: Springfield
Recipient: JW
Place: [West Point[3]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W437
Document Type: ALS


Thursday 17th 54

Probably a letter from you my dear James[4] may be awaiting my welcome back at Mr Pophams[5]. your silence adds to my home - yearnings, I read over your hurried notes expressive of too much love & duty to Mother, willingly to neglect her. But now that my last home - boy has gone I am the more dependent upon West Point post marks. George[6] said when he spent an evening the end of last week here, that whenever the Hudson became clear he intended going to see you & that he had sent my parcel for you to Mr Bartlett[7] per Express. Willie[8] strolled part of the way down to his hotel tête à tête with George, & disclosed to me a new prank of the cadets! besides mortifying my hopes of "few demerits" for this half year, 30 run up since your last Examination! How little you resist folly & indolence - or how irresistible must be your chums, that a desolate Mothers claims are forgotten by so affectionate a son as my Jemie! Your ambition I know was to brave the Authorities at the Military Academy! for I heard you declare [p. 2] your preference to 199 demerits annually to blanks! But surely you have established your recklessness, and you realize the hazardous game you had played to render even your buoyant hopeful habit threadbare, at the close of last year. Oh Jemie dear, why will you not let me rejoice over a reform in your course, as Mrs Barnes[9] does continually in her midshipmans[10] steady perseverance? you are a great favorite of hers as with the Howards[11] - & she would not make a comparison to your disadvantage, neither does she ever extol her John. but as she read parts of his letter recd yesterday I wished in my heart silently, you would be as truly manly & soldierly! his honorable career at the Naval Academy has put him in advance a year! he is now studying more closely than ever for his last examination! Often in the Observatory till past midnight, yet compelled to be up at dawn to work out the preceding nights work to carry up to 9 oclock recitation. now I know you study very hard by fits & starts dear Cadet, but Jack Barnes[12] has boned demerits! & does not fear becoming unpopular among his mess mates because [p. 3] he acknowledges the deference & obedience due to their superior officers. he is explaining to his mother why his letters are only one a fortnight (& a full larger sheet nicely written it is) when he gives her a list of his studies. Chemistry, Naval Tactics, Fabrication of Material, Moral Sciences, International Law, & the Constitution of the United States - then Nautical Surveying & Naval Architecture will finish his course at Anapolis! How unalloyed will be his Summer holiday at home! He mentions with evident pain the dismissal of Ed Allen[13], long threatening! but witheld [sic] till the 14th inst! What will be his career now? his Aunt[14] (now free from her anxieties by death! - was his only true friend. he will feel the pangs of remorse I fear. I grieve over his folly, his wasted talents & neglect of priviliges [sic] & his indifference to valuable advisers. he deviated from an honorable & truthful conduct in pecuniary affairs too! Oh my heart trembles lest Willie or you should stoop to accept pecuniary favor from any. I have tried to impress on you both never to put yourselves in the attitude to have such overtures made you. I blush when I think of Mr Winans[15] opinion that you never could be expected to support yourself! he judged you no doubt [p. 4] by your extravagance last Summer & your ignorance of the value of money! I beseech you never to apply to any one but your natural guardians! make free with us only & confide in us under any perplexity. George will disclose to your tête à tête his prospects. he takes Willie to Balt[timore] tomorrow. it will be a severe but wholesome discipline no doubt, or the trial of this "breaking up" would have been spared me. for my compassionate Saviour does not willing afflict those who trust in Him, as your bereaved & heart stricken widowed Mother. Mary[16] & I expect to return on Monday over the Harlaem R R[17], we propose using our free ticket on the Albany road[18] to meet that route to Scarsdale, without going to the city, tho we came here via N Y & N Haven. Willie, Mary & I together! he was not quite a week here & I watched his lingering look as the carriage drove him off tuesday morning. Many of your little playmates of Springfield memory Foote - Orne - Dwight[19] &c are in Tylers[20] machine shop here, Oliver Edwards[21] most in his element there, they draw Willie out of his exclusiveness & he went to see them in their uniform of check shirts & over-hauls, with oil & iron rust palms! I think his tastes are for College, but it is by his own consent, not mine he has cut short his course at Columbia, for the shop[22]!

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1.  17 March
According to the Perpetual Calendar Whitaker's Almanac, Thursday could only have been the 17th in August 1854. However, it is unlikely that the Hudson river would have had ice during the summer. JW was dismissed from the USMA in June 1854, hence AMW could not have been dependent on 'West Point marks' (see below). Probably AMW made a mistake on the day. The most possible date for this letter is Thursday 16 March 1854. It is also dated with reference to Edmund Allen's official dismissal from the Naval Academy in March 1854 (see below).

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

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

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

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

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

7.  Mr Bartlett
Professor William Holmes Chambers Bartlett (1804-1893), mathematician [more].

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

9.  Mrs Barnes
Charlotte A. Barnes (b. 1811), née Sanford, wife of James Barnes [more].

10.  her midshipmans
John S. Barnes (b. 1836), naval officer and lawyer [more]. John Barnes was a midshipman by 10 June 1854. See List of Officers of the Navy of the USA and the Marine Corps, from 1775 to 1900, New York, 1901, vol. 11, p. 41.

11.  Howards
Probably the parents of Hannah Worthington Swift, née Howard, wife of William H. Swift.

12.  Jack Barnes
Jack Barnes, brother of John S. Barnes. There is no record of a Jack Barnes graduating from the United States Naval Academy. The List of Officers of the Navy of the USA 1775-1900, New York, 1901, vol. 2, p. 41, registers only a John S. Barnes.

13.  Ed Allen
Edmund Allen (b. 1836), of Pomfret, CT; see AMW to JW, 10 June 1851, #06396.

14.  his Aunt
Mrs Wilkinson, neighbour of AMW at Pomfret, CT.

15.  Mr Winans
Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more].

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

17.  Harlaem R R
New York and Harlem Railroad; see AMW to JW, 27 August 1851, #06399.

18.  Albany road
From the estate of George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more], AMW received 6 per cent stock shares of the Albany City Western Railroad worth $700,00. Probably AMW received a token or ticket of some kind as part of her shares. See Estate of Whistler George W., St Petersburg, Russia, 1850, no. 4350, Connecticut State Library (formerly of Pomfret), G. 16. See AMW to JW, 6 August 1851, #06398.

19.  Foote - Orne - Dwight
G. Dwight, Orne and Foote were JW's boyhood playmates when the Whistlers lived at Springfield, MA between 1840-1842. JW's father was at the time engaged in the construction of the Great Western Railroad of Massachusetts (Boston and Albany).

20.  Tylers
Tyler, machinist at Springfield, MA.

21.  Oliver Edwards
Oliver Edwards, unidentified.

22.  Columbia, for the shop
Columbia College, private institution of higher education, founded in 1754 as King's College; see AMW to JW, 27 August 1851, #06399. Winans Locomotive Works in Baltimore owned by Ross Winans (1796-1877), locomotive manufacturer, father of JW's sister-in-law [more]; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 3 April 1854, #06438.