The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: King, Ralph
Record 1 of 41

System Number: 06474
Date: 11 July 1856
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Sulphur Springs, Sharon[2]
Recipient: JW
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: Whistler W469
Document Type: ALS

Sulphur Springs, Sharon

July 11th 56

Your birthday[3] my own loved absentee,

I must try to offer cheerful greetings, tho you have not since Feb[4] sent me a line. I must too borrow from your plume[5], that mine may not be too tedious in detail, it is going far, an envied messenger from a fond mother & your numerous engagements might set it aside even for perusal - not to say for responding to. So I'll imitate that prized New Years letter[6] of yours which I read over so often as to know it by heart. You skimmed my Oct circuit[7] from Scarsdale thro Stonington & Fourteenth St.[8] so pleasantly! I have not seen any of Cousin Abbys[9] home circle since, but hear often thro Mr Barrow[10] they are all well. Hami[11] being in his department in the business house. Hal[12] in Europe no doubt will tell you more than I can. neither have I been at "the Corner house[13]" since last Oct! not any indifference of mine, but the Palmer[14] family branches first in their visits, which is all right. Mrs Court[15] flew from her splendid place at Dobbs Ferry to the Doctor with her dying child[16], hoping Stonington air might revive it. Aunt Kate[17] was a tender nurse & her hands performed the last offices of love to the precious body, softening the hearts of the bereaved parents towards her. The Lords ways are not as ours[18], & I doubt not more sympathy mutually between the Sister in laws since they have drawn together by suffering & by solemn realities. Wm Palmer[19] has placed his wife & two children[20] under his fathers roof for this month. it is gratifying that they all love the old home. I have a free ticket[21] for "Mrs Whistler, son & niece["] for the season, so Willie & Ida[22] will be glad to accompany me in Augt, when "Aunt Amos[23]'s" visit at least will be thro. I must have reconciled Aunt Kate to her having to put me off so long, by writing of coming here with Cousin Isabella[24] to try the effects of the Sulphur waters. yearning as I have done thro months of weakness to soothe pain in the warm baths, hesitating only at the expense! but Cousin Isabel & Ida spent a week in June at the cottage, her health needing Sharon, a double motive to me to venture, having prayed that the Lord would frustrate or perfect our plan, by His own wisdom for our good. I wrote to Albany, that Eliza Van Vechten[25] might expect us en passant. her response was prompt & affectionate, only let her husband know the day to meet us at the boat! Mr Gamble[26] made his visit at the cottage while I was waiting for funds to square my ac/ Uncle Swift[27] in Boston was prompt in sending [p. 2] my semi annual resources[28]. Mr Gamble was my escort in the city, saving me all bustle & did not leave me till under Mr Kings[29] protection. Cousin Isabella met me in N Y for a little shopping. I was three days in Brooklyn, sitting each evening in the sick rooms of Grandma C & Mary R[30]. they had been alarmingly ill but convalescing. of course I was Cousin Isabels guest, Mr King & Ida went with us to "the New World[31]" last Tuesday night, I am so thankful for a protector thro the herd of porters &c at any thoroughfare - dearest Jemie may your Mother cherish the hope if her term is lengthened out to your return - that you will not forget her infirmities? memory fondly ennumerates your manly courtesy to her, in the Nevsky at the Empress[32]'s illumination! & on our route thro Boston to N Hampshire - I shall always cherish too Mr Van Vechten[33]'s cordial welcome to me & mine each time I pass thro Albany. What a happy home Cousin Eliza has - & what an excellent husband! a group of five children, all beautiful but the eldest girl, who is graceful & intellectual & so dutiful, she is already a comfort, little Annie[34] I thought like Kirkie[35] with her large black eyes & curling hair. Aunt Hamilton[36] was there & we all talked of you! Wednesday was Elizas birth day 32 years she does not look it. she is in blooming health & a distinguished fine woman. it was George's[37] birthday also! he had breakfasted in State St the day before on his way to Boston. I should have lingered to meet him yesterday on his way back to Cunandaiqua, but a friend of Mr Kings had arranged to be our protector on the 6 ½ oclock train - Central R R[38] - to Sharon. So we had early breakfast & Mr Van V took us in his nice H[ack] to the depot. (he will no doubt escort us to the boat from his house, as we promised to Eliza to go at once to them for as long as we might on our way back to N Y.[)] I enjoyed the twelve miles in a carriage up the hills to Sharon after leaving the cars. the weather just right for a shawl & no dust from recent showers repeatedly since the 4th. At "the Pavilion[39]" set upon a hill, which has a charming prospect 100 miles - we drove there to ascertain from Capt Swift if he had reserved rooms for us - not there we knew how full it always is, he had written me about my coming when he & Aunt Hannah[40] were just starting from Boston to open this month at the Pavilion. so he came with us to the next best The Eldredge House[41], equally respectable & nearer the Spring. Ten dollars a week suiting my purse better that [sic] Fifteen! he had reserved very nice rooms next to each other exactly alike, he did not stay to hinder our settling, but before luncheon I was so eager to try the waters, I walked to the spring, drank a tumbler [p. 3] of the cold clear beverage, not heeding its smell, then a warm bath! I could scarcely bear to get out of it, so soothing to the hurts & weakness in the limbs, the frost fixed & Summer has not thawed. Uncle & Mrs Swift came to sit with us last evening & beg us to come often to their apartments where the extensive view is so attractive. There are hundreds of people at the Pavilion & this house is nearly full. we find it well managed, quiet & orderly, the table excellent my appetite is sharpening. We were in our sulphur baths at 6 ½, after our draught of magnesia & Sulphur. I rested before it was time to dress for 8 oclock breakfast. the coffee, corn bread & broiled chicken I wished in my heart silently, Jemie might have enjoyed with me on his birth morning[.] Cousin Isabella has just stopped in to ask a corner for her love to either of my boys - & adds best wishes for Jemie on his new year. it is like a clean page in your life today my precious first born, how it is to be filled up eternity will disclose. George told Eliza to say to me he would send me a letter he had lately from you as soon as he should hear from me where to direct to at Sharon[.] I wrote him yesterday, they tell me how thin he looks & worn - that vexatious litigation of old Mr Winans[42] has taxed George sadly. It will end in loss to the old man, for the suit will be decided against him Capt Swift says & adds & so it ought! for it would be unjust. How lamentable that one so rich should be so grasping! the love of money truly is the root of evil![43] Willies affairs as yours dear Jemie are now managed by George[44], my regency has ceased, but not my maternal interest or influence I hope! my home, my needle will be only as it may benefit either of you delighted in by me. I managed my ménage with frugality, but you know I have had years of practise to make the most of a little. Mr Barrow in his voluntary visit of a day or two, Mr Gamble in his week, says Mary[45] ought to have a patent for her bread! & the Scarsdale butter ought to take a premium. Oh I think if Sis & her pets[46] could visit my rural retreat I should be so engaged, so delighted & use all my skill for their benefit. Mr Gamble often wished for my dead boys[47], but I listened to his vol at my sewing. the memories of Hedley Vicars[48] who was killed in the trenches in the Crimea[49], gave me such an insight into the scenes of war as I ever should have had. how much a religious spirit may effect & how blessed the missions of a Commander who enlists his men under the banner of the Lord of hosts. Oh Jemie dear while you are so engaged in your race as an aspirant for Artistic distinction I tremble lest you forget how uncertain is this life, in which you ought to acquaint yourself with God. You surely intend to be a christian [p. 4] if you would use the means He has provided, the bible, daily Prayer, keeping His day. God would bless you & help you & your experience would be that you would progress more surely & sturdily in your earthly calling. As I witnessed a Confirmation on the 2nd I thought of George & Jemie & wept over their danger in delaying. And now of Willie, his examination is now on the tapis[50]. I will propose to him on my return to the cottage to write you of it, he will be there next thursday - a week before I can join him. I came here for a fortnights benefit & feel that I am in a fair way to realize it. I intend to go directly to Scarsdale, so anxious to lose none of dear Willies society. We came up in the evening boat & shall go down the beautiful Hudson by moonlight. I must not forget to report Major Denny[51] at his post in St. Louis, Annie[52] admired & beautiful as ever, but more delicate in health than ever! "the sweetest, ever fleetest" dazzling & dying! Ginnie[53] is in revived glee in Brooklyn expecting Donald[54] there this month. You surely will encourage your mother to write you of her next visit, to Stonington, by gratifiying her longing for one very graphic from your easy pen. Receive my embrace of devoted affection. Oh Jemie keep innocency[55], & do all that is right to honor your name as a Christian. It is your mothers daily petition for you.

Anna M Whistler

For[56] James A Whistler. from Mother

Sis reported you well tho she had not heard from you, but of you.

This document is protected by copyright.


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

2.  Sulphur Springs
Sharon Springs, NY, was by the early 20th century an internationally renowned resort and health spa.

3.  Your birthday
JW; his birthday was on 11 July.

4.  Feb
JW's letter has not been located.

5.  plume
Fr., pen.

6.  New Years letter
Not located. JW's first letter from Europe was dated 10 October 1855 (#06466) and would presumably have arrived at least a month later. Much of the later correspondence between JW and his mother is missing. Her previous surviving letter was dated 2-5 November 1855 (#06469), and the subsequent one, 23 September 1856 (#06476).

7.  Oct circuit
Probably AMW's letter to JW, 12-15 October 1855, #06468.

8.  Fourteenth St.
West 14th Street was the home address of Richmond W. Jaffrey (1813-1862), merchant; see Rode's New York City Directory, 1852-3, p. 267. Also see AMW's letter to JW, 25 July 1855, #06464.

9.  Cousin Abbys
Abbie Snelling Jaffray (1817-1871), née Hamilton, wife of R. W. Jaffray [more].

10.  Mr Barrow
John W. Barrow, a merchant of New York.

11.  Hami
John Hamilton ('Hami' or 'Hammy') Jaffray (1837-1900), son of A. S. and R. W. Jaffray [more].

12.  Hal
Henry ('Hal') Somerville Jaffray (1839-1922), son of A. S. and R. W. Jaffray [more].

13.  Corner house
The house owned by Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), physician, AMW's brother-in-law [more], built in 1787, situated at the corner of Main and Wall Streets at Stonington, CT.

14.  Palmer
The Palmer family branches in New York (see below).

15.  Mrs Court
Mary Ann ('Mrs Court') Palmer (1812-1867), née Suydam, wife of Courtland Palmer [more].

16.  her dying child
Amelia Parker, daughter of Courtlandt and Mary Ann Suydam Palmer, their fifth child, born on 23 August 1853, died on 25 June 1856 in Stonington.

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

18.  The Lords ways are not as ours
Probably a reference to 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.' Isa. 55.8.

19.  Wm Palmer
William Rhodes Palmer (b. 1828), JW's step-cousin [more].

20.  wife & two children
Caroline Palmer, née Cahagan, wife of William R. Palmer, JW's step-cousin and her two children.

21.  free ticket
Probably a Western Road 'free ticket' to Albany, mentioned before in AMW's letter to JW, 6 August 1851, #06398. The estate of George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father, left 6 per cent stock of the Albany City Western Railroad to AMW worth $700.00. Probably AMW received a token or ticket of some kind as part of her shares.

22.  Willie & Ida
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more], and Ida Bayard King (d. 1863). Ida married William M. Whistler in Brooklyn, on 14 November 1860.

23.  Aunt Amos
Sarah Foster Palmer (1782-1865), wife of Amos Palmer, Sr [more].

24.  Cousin Isabella
Isabella King (1805-1857), née Gibbs, cousin of AMW [more].

25.  Eliza Van Vechten
Eliza Van Vechten (b. ca 1824), née Hamilton, AMW's cousin [more].

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

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

28.  semi annual resources
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, and AMW to JW, 8 January 1855, #06449.

29.  Mr Kings
Ralph King (1801-1878), broker, father-in-law of W. McN. Whistler [more].

30.  Grandma C & Mary R
Maria Margaretta Cammann ('Grandma C') (1774-1862), mother-in-law of William Gibbs McNeill [more], and her grand-daughter Mary Isabella Rodewald (1823-1867), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of J. F. Rodewald [more].

31.  the New World

32.  Empress
Alexandra Feodorovna Romanov (1798-1860), née Hohenzollern, wife of Tsar Nicolas I [more]. 'Dom Ritter,' the Whistler house in St Petersburg, faced onto the river Nevsky, from which they could view firework displays.

33.  Mr Van Vechten
Abraham Van Vechten, Sr (1819-1884), husband of E. Hamilton [more]. Abraham and Eliza Van Vechten had five children: Hamilton Van Vechten (b. 1844); Cornelia Van Vechten (b. 1847); Ann ('Annie') Van Vechten (b. 1852); Abraham Van Vechten (b. 1854); and Estelle Van Vechten (b. 1856).

34.  Annie
Ann ('Annie') Van Vechten.

35.  Kirkie
Kirk Boott Whistler (1838-1841), JW's brother [more].

36.  Aunt Hamilton
Catherine Hamilton ('Aunt Hamilton') (1788-1874), née Whistler, JW's aunt [more].

37.  George's
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more]. His birthday was on 9 July.

38.  Central R R
'New York Central Railroad Company' was a consolidation, becoming effective on 1 May 1853, of various companies having railroads between Albany and Troy and Buffalo, and was organized under a special law of the State of New York, passed on 2 April 1853. It lasted until 1869, where its collaboration with The Hudson River Railroad Company, resulted in the creation of The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company. See Robert L. Fry, ed., Railroads in the Nineteenth Century, New York, 1988, p. 282.

39.  the Pavilion
The Pavilion Hotel, built in 1836 in a Greek Revival-style; it was the largest and most elegant at the springs. It attracted prominent families like the Vanderbilts and Van Rensselaers. John Gardner, senior partner of the firm J. H. Gardner & Sons, and owner of the hotel, was also influential in building the Trinity Episcopal Church in 1850-56 in New York. See Reflections on Sharon, 1797-1997, A Pictorial History, ed. by Sharon Historical Society, New York, 1997, p. 25.

40.  Aunt Hannah
Hannah Worthington Swift (m. 1844), née Howard, wife of W. H. Swift [more].

41.  The Eldredge House
The first boarding house established near the springs in 1825 by David Eldredge. Visitors came to the healing waters by canal boat from Albany to Palatine Bridge, then took a relatively short stage coach ride to Sharon Springs. Its success as a fashionable summer resort was ensured when the Utica & Schenectady Railroad was completed in 1836. See Reflections on Sharon, 1797-1997, A Pictorial History, ed. by Sharon Historical Society, New York, 1997, p. 21.

42.  litigation of old Mr Winans
Ross Winans (1796-1877), locomotive manufacturer, father of JW's sister-in-law [more]. For Winans' law-suit see AMW to JW, 28 February 1855, #06453.

43.  the love of money truly is the root of evil!
1 Timothy 6.10.

44.  George
Although George William Whistler was no longer JW's guardian he still helped supervise his affairs; see JW to George William Whistler, 8 July 1856, #06674, and 30 July 1856, #06670.

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

46.  Sis & her pets
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more]. Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918), Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, Harry Lee Haden (1855-1877), JW's nephews, and Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece [more].

47.  my dead boys
Kirk Boot Whistler (1838-1841), and Charles Donald Whistler (1841-1843), JW's brothers.

48.  Hedley Vicars
Captain Hedley Shafto Vicars (1826-1855), Protestant Evangelical and Crimean war hero of the 97th Regiment [more]. Catherine Marsh, Memorials of Captain Hedley Vicars, Ninety-seventh regiment, New York, 1856.

49.  Crimea
Crimean War (1853-56), between Russia and the allied powers of Turkey, England, France, and Sardinia. Its pretext was a quarrel between Russia and France over guardianship of Palestinian holy places. Turkey declared war on Russia after the latter occupied Moldavia and Walachia; England, France, and Sardinia joined later. The fighting centered on Sevastopol, the heavily fortified base of the Russian fleet. After a long, bloody siege, the city fell and the war ended, thus checking Russian influence in the area.

50.  tapis
Fr., carpet, a phrase used by AMW to indicate a marriage ceremony in the bride's home.

51.  Major Denny
St Clair Denny (1800-1858), army paymaster in Washington, DC [more].

52.  Annie
Anna ('Annie') Harding Denny (1834 or 1838-1913), a cousin of JW, later Mrs Corcoran [more].

53.  Ginnie
Virginia ('Ginnie') Carry Fairfax (d. 1878), née Ragland, wife of D. McN. Fairfax [more].

54.  Donald
Donald McNeill Fairfax (1821-1894), naval officer, JW's cousin [more].

55.  keep innocency
See AMW to James H. Gamble, 27 May 1856, #06473.

56.  For
'For ... Mother' continues in the left margin; 'Sis ... you' continues in the left margin of p. 1.