The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Whistler, Julia de Kay
Record 11 of 44

System Number: 06449
Date: 8 January 1855[1]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: [Baltimore][3]
Recipient: JW
Place: [Washington][4]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W444
Document Type: ALS


Monday evening Jan 8th. 55

My own dear Jemie

Right welcome was Coz Donald home again, & most interesting to me what he could report of you. Only your cramped room gave me the heartache. Surely you will not continue in it, remember health demands means for ventilation, & your economy may not prove so in the end. As I unpacked the little valise, I admired your skill in fitting the contents, which are not yet washed, except the cuffs, collars & hkds [i.e. handkerchiefs]. Willie lends you the Parisien cravat[5] until I can supply you with one. I hope soon to hear of your having recd. the black valise & its contents safely as despatched today 3.ocl PM[.] it went full. I think 5 shirts. 8 collars 4 prs [i.e. pairs] wrist bands. 5 prs stockings 2 silk hkds 5 or 6 cambric[6]. 1 pr drawers. 1 sheet. 4 towels. bottle blacking. brush. pr shoes. mended. 3 loaves of bread & some ginger snaps[7]! [p. 2] From the care you take in packing I trust you begin to think it necessary to have "a place for every thing & every thing in its place[8]"[.] while you were sowing your wild oats Mother could make up for all you scattered, but now my resources[9] are so low, it becomes your duty to take care of your personal estate! if you have no other lock up, you ought to have one on your trunk. Your Xmas gift might be fancied by some "stranger" who may see it decking your "tongue of time[10]"[.] now you are in the hurry of visiting I fear for your eleventh hour arrangements. Take care of health dear Jemie, & do not delay coming home if you should be indisposed for office duties[.] Willie[11] is threatening to resume his studies for it seems settled he is not to go back to the shop[12] this winter. he reads history an hour daily to me, & is so much on the pavement he has had to buy another pr of shoes while his $7 boots are being soled. We are all to dine with George & Julia[13] tomorrow, then the two husbands & wives are to go to Grisi's[14]. [p. 3] I had a letter from Capt Swift[15] today, stating that a portion of my semi annual[16] is suspended by there being no dividends made by the parties. I must be submissive, faith meekly bends to adverse gales. this world which is so alluring to you in your inexperience, to me is known, as merely a school for eternity. I can say sincerely "let the Lord do what seemeth best[17]". ["]The Lord will provide[18]" what is convenient for the widow who trusts in Him as her only security. The tenderest chords of lamentations are touched as I think of what I would delight to do for you & for dear Willie, & now have no prospect of retaining the privilige [sic], still I do not repine. I pray in faith that adversity be sanctified to us, my only yearning is that my boys may be led to confess their Saviour, to honour God before men. You are so much with your Cousins[19], may I ask if they attend our church[20]? Will you comfort me by going every sunday twice a day? I was so thankful because of Willie accompanying me to the Communion yesterday! I shall try to persuade him never again to avoid commemorating the love of Christ towards us. [p. 4] I should feel richer if you & Willie were interested as members of our church & improving your talents, than if we were independent. My dear dear boys you know not how tenderly & fondly you are cherished. Jacks[21] writes Willie he is to study in N Y this winter. Our good Mary[22] wished she had had time to go out today to get some token of her remembrance to send Mr James. You must let me know how soon you'll want your clean clothes, then she may make you a cake perhaps. This reminds me of Lew Pophams[23] marriage on the 3rd to Miss Annie Fleming. Miss Gittie & Campbell[24] engaged! Good night my dearest, "sleep well". "Grieve not the Holy Spirit[25]".

Read[26] & burn this hurried note of love from


A very interesting letter from Revd R Park[27] offers love to you.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  8 January 1855
This was written a week after her letter of 1 January (#06448), to which no reply from JW has been located.

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

3.  Baltimore
AMW was staying at 176 Preston Street, Baltimore, with Donald McNeill Fairfax (1821-1894), naval officer, JW's cousin [more] and his first wife Virginia Carry ('Ginnie') Fairfax, née Rayland; see AMW to JW, 26 and 27 November 1854, #06446.

4.  Washington
JW was working at the US Coast and Geodetic Survey office in Washington; see AMW to JW, 6 and 27 November 1854, #06446.

5.  Parisien cravat
The word 'cravat' derived from the word 'Croat,' as the tie apparently originated in Croatia. In Europe, in 1837 cravats, usually of black satin with a bow in the front, were worn with a white frilled shirt-front showing above the waistcoat, often over a collar. By 1840 neckwear was mostly a matter of individual taste. By 1848 the traditional cravat had gone out of fashion, its place being taken by a narrower neck tie fastened in front by a pin or tied in a small bow or knot. By 1855 the collar was generally superseded by a stiff narrow collar. See Herbert Norris and Oswald Curtis, Costume and Fashion, The Nineteenth Century, Volume Six, London, 1933, p. 95.

6.  cambric
See AMW to JW, 3 September 1852, #06418.

7.  ginger-snaps
For AMW's recipe on 'Sugar Gingerbread' see MacDonald, Margaret F., Whistler's Mother's Cook Book, London, 1979, p. 113.

8.  a place
'A place for everything, and everything in its place.' The first examples of this saying in print appear to be those in Thomas C. Halliburton, Nature, 1855, I, 164; see Wolfgang Mieder (ed.), Selected Writings on Proverbs by Archer Taylor, Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, Helsinki 1975, pp. 129-32.

9.  resources
AMW's Rail Road shares were yielding poor dividends, hence her near bankruptcy; see AMW to JW, 21 [March 1855], #06455.

10.  tongue of time
'Tongue of time'; the oldest use of this quotation is found in the letters of the Rev. John Newton (1725-1807), Time, The Tongue, 27 January 1778, Olney, England.

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

12.  shop
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. William McNeill Whistler resumed his studies in March 1855; see AMW to JW, 13 February 1855, #06452, and 15 March 1855, #06454.

13.  George & Julia
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more] married Julia de Kay Whistler (1825-1875), née Winans, JW's sister-in-law [more] in 1854.

14.  Grisi
Carlotta Grisi (1819-1899), ballet dancer. She was on tour in the USA and gave one concert in Baltimore, with 'Signor Mario and Mr Hackett's Troupe' on 9 January 1855, at the New Assembly Rooms, corner of Hanover and Lombard Streets; see American and Commercial Advertiser, Baltimore, 5 January 1855, vol. 110, no. 18,204.

15.  Capt Swift
Captain William Henry Swift (1800-1879), brother-in-law of JW's father [more]. Captain Swift was one of the executors of the will of AMW's husband, George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer. Swift was also on the board of the Western Railroad of Massachusetts, from 1851-1854. Both AMW's brother William Gibbs McNeill (1801-1853), railway engineer, and husband George, worked on the railroad. Its first line, Boston to Albany through-service, was inaugurated in December 1841.

16.  semi annual
A reference to AMW's semi-annual income deriving from the estate of George W. Whistler; see AMW to Joseph Harrison, 19 June 1849, #07629.

17.  let the Lord do what seemeth best
'And the king said unto them, What seemeth you best I will do. And the king stood by the gate side, and all the people came out by hundreds and by thousands.' 2 Sam. 18.4.

18.  The Lord will provide
'Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together,' Gen. 22.8.

19.  Cousins
Probably St Clair Denny (1800-1858), army paymaster in Washington, DC [more] and family.

20.  church
Protestant Episcopal Church.

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

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

23.  Lew Popham
Lewis ('Lew') Charles Popham (1833-1899), son of E. C. and W. S. Popham; he married Annie Johnson Fleming on 3 January 1855. The marriage is mentioned again in AMW's letter to JW, 13 February 1855, #06452.

24.  Gittie & Campbell
Margaret Gertrude Popham (1827-1892), married Allan Sheppard ('Shep') Campbell (1834-1876), a friend of JW from Stonington, CT [more] on 13 January 1857; see AMW to JW, 13 July 1857, #06485.

25.  Grieve not the Holy Spirit
'And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.' Eph. 4. 30. 'Grieve ... Spirit' continues in the right margin.

26.  Read
'Read ... you' continues in upper margin of p. 1.

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