The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Document associated with: Abbott, James
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System Number: 06496
Date: 7 May 1858
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Charleston
Recipient: JW
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: Whistler W491
Document Type: ALS[2]

South Bay.

Friday afternoon May 7th 1858.

My own dear Jemie

When you composed that affectionate greeting[3] to your anxious mother on the 19th Feb, you volunteered a pleasant promise soon to write her again! No doubt you take no note of time, but the expectant counts the weeks, now months of neglect. That you are in Paris deepens her tender solicitude, for your well-doing & one of the proofs, required, letters to your mother, confiding in her your interests & cheering her by details of improvement of time.

I hope darling Jemie you do not take this matter of fact as disagreable, or in the spirit of upbraiding, or my letters will not be liked or read as yours to me. God hear my prayers for you then you will be joyous of heart habitually, thro the approval of conscience. Sisters[4] last report of you on 4th April, came thro Aunt Mitts[5] attention to me last Monday. you had left home influences the friday before she wrote. It is in vain for me to wish you could have contented yourself at the Academy[6] in London! I have such a just estimation of Seyrs[7] judgement, & as an artist I would wonder you do not look up to him & profit by intercourse with him. Oh how my heart trembles for you, so exposed to temptations, to frittering away the most valuable portion of your youth, but you are verging on 24 & responsible. So many warm hearted Southerners had shewn sympathy on hearing my distress when you were ill[8], many rejoice with me in the good news of your renovation. A favorite in this circle [p. 2] is a young Artist, who this winter has tried taking Portraits of his friends in his native town, John Irving[9] was five years at Dusseldorf, he says I must not interrupt your course! Ah you know your mother is not weakly selfish, Jemie! shall I live to visit your painting room as I have his in your native land? It may be if you redeem time & now you are a man put off childish folly. I could not resist reading your tones of love & your graphic sketch of the Paris hospital & of the contrast of the blessed home in Sloane St[10] to my Cousin Phil Porchers[11] wife, while benefitting by their hospitality at Otranto[12], where rice & cotton is cultivated by very contented looking negroes[.] No wonder young Phil[13] their eldest now 23, & promoted to Sailing Master has just been ordered to join the home squadron in the Pacific, feels so tenderly leaving such a family circle as his. he wrote his idolized mother[14], or his Sister Jane[15] who loves him so fondly, or his Gt Aunt Anna[16] each fortnight during his last cruize, [sic] long letters, not hurriedly but filled at intervals. I could envy them such a correspondent! tho I am no doubt undeserving the same gallant attention from a Son. Well after having read your letter[17] over & over, dearest Jemie I enclosed it to Hamie Jaffray[18] & have his expression of gratification in return, it had occurred to me, that as he had talked to me last Novr when I spent his birth day with the family circle in 14th St[19] of intending soon to write you, this would excuse [p. 3] to him your silence. besides, he dear fellow is often depressed by attacks on the heart & I thought it might cheer him to know how you were carried through. so I hope you will not be restrained in writing me by my extending the interest your letters excite.

I know Mr Jaffray & Cousin Abby[20] enjoy hearing of all you do or say. Aunt Hamilton[21] is about visiting Detroit as Judge Abbott[22] died lately. you must not expect a legacy as his name nephew! You know the motive for the compliment to the old gentleman was to gratify Cousin Sarah[23] who had been a Summer pet at our cottage on the Passaic[24]. She died before she could rejoice with us in our Jemmie[.] heart disease has cut off early some of the Whistler branches, tho God blessed the ordering of your going to Seyrs skill. I cannot forget how mercifully He has spared you, that if you will you may prove you owe all to His favor. Your gratitude to friends seems never to flag. your attachment to them ardent. Oh that you were prompted to express a sense of the love of God for you - of His unwearied watchfulness over you. you were in hopes that Mr & Mrs Tho Winans[25] would visit Paris as I had told you her wish, but she has written me an invitation to spend as much of the Summer as I can at her Country seat[26]. Ames[27] the Artist was in the studio at the Villa, probably painting portraits of her children[28], as she said he was claiming much of her time. he certainly does succeed in the most pleasing portraits restoring years to his subjects. you will recollect old Mr[29]   [blank]   who was guest at the Villa when you were painting Annie Denny[30] & who found so much fault with your Amateur skill in hands, you had the promise from your host & patron that you should paint the odd old genious [sic] who rather shrunk from daub likenesses, but I am sure Ames has fed his vanity by the flattering yet excellent likeness he has finished. My prospect is to return to Phila by the Steamer hence on the 22nd inst. My mission south has been blessed partially to my health & certainly to my comfort. The month I devoted to Uncle Charles & family[31], I know was not wasted[.] I reserved not a leisure hour & now his letters are the outpouring of grateful affection for what my interest in the improvement of his boys accomplished.

Here my post has been mostly in the chamber of an invalid. My maternal Cousins[32] are feeble old ladies, & they magnify the good my visit has done them. I have endeavoured [p. 4] since their neice[33] [sic] left me at her post, to be as devotedly tender as she has ever been to them. her visit to her daughter[34] in N Y ends on the 15th. The good Aunts have just been in my room, so fondly missing me. they send their love to you & say if they live they hope to have you their guest on your return to establish yourself in your native land.

Saturday afternoon 8th.

How little I have written to interest my Jemie but oh the interruptions to a Southern housekeeper! Willies[35] last was before Doctor Darrach[36] having entered a house in Arch St, the pleasantest part of Phila & that he & Jacks[37] had agreed to occupy a chamber. he thinks when I see it, as his preceptor requires only the first floor for his office & study I may conclude to tenant the upper stories. It will be an economic plan & that is necessary. it will be better for the youths to have a home (or so it seems to me irresistible[)]. I have written Mary B[38] at Springfield to know if she can join me in packing at Scarsdale[39] the last of May & then proceed with me to arrange our batchelors establishment[40]. Direct to me - but I forgot that dear Sis encloses your "Angel Visits" to

your loving Mother


James Whistler[41]

This document is protected by copyright.


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

2.  ALS
Embossed paper mark: SUPERFINE / SATIN / CREAM LAID

3.  greeting
JW's letter does not survive.

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

5.  Aunt Mitts
Aunt Mitt, unidentified.

6.  Academy
The Royal Academy and School, founded 1768, the major professional body and exhibition venue for artists in Britain during the nineteenth century.

7.  Seyrs
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

8.  ill
JW became ill in Paris, probably with rheumatic fever, in January 1858. His friend, George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), art dealer in Paris [more] found him in a Maison de Santé Municipale on 12 January (see Lilian M. Randall, The Diary of George A. Lucas: An American Art Agent in Paris, 1857-1909, Princeton, NJ, 1979, p. 73). He spent two months convalescence in London with the Hadens before returning to Paris; see AMW to JW, 23 March 1858, #06495.

9.  John Irving
John Beaufain Irving, Jr (1825-1877), portrait, genre and historical painter [more].

10.  Sloane St
62 Sloane Street, the Hadens' London home, where JW was a frequent guest in the 1850s until the mid 1860s.

11.  Phil Porchers
Philip Johnston Porcher, Sr (1806-1871), AMW's cousin [more]

12.  Otranto
Otranto Plantation, in St James', Goose Creek, SC, was the home of P. J. Porcher. See 'Some War-Time Letters' by Marion Johnstone (Porcher) Ford, in Life in the Confederate Army, New York, 1905, p. 113.

13.  Phil
Philip Porcher, Jr (1835-1864), Sailing Master, U. S. Navy [more].

14.  mother
Louise Porcher (1809-1869), née Petigru, wife of P. J. Porcher, Sr [more].

15.  Jane
Jane Porcher (1809-1869), daughter of L. and P. J. Porcher, Sr [more].

16.  Gt Aunt Anna
Probably Anna Johnstone (1787-1870), Martha McNeill's cousin [more].

17.  letter
Letter untraced; AMW seems to have received the letter in about mid March; see AMW to JW, 23 March 1858, #06495.

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

19.  14th St
The home address of Richmond Woodriff Jaffray (1813-1862), merchant [more], was 202 W. 14th Street, New York; see Rode's New York Directory, 1852-3, p. 267.

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

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

22.  Judge Abbott
James Abbott (1776-1858), JW's uncle [more].

23.  Cousin Sarah
Sarah Abbott, JW's cousin.

24.  Passaic
AMW and her husband, George Washington Whistler, lived on the banks of the Passaic River, in Paterson, NJ, for a short period in the early 1830s; see AMW to JW, 12 September 1852, #06419. G. W. Whistler was then engaged in the construction of Paterson and Hudson River Railroad.

25.  Mr & Mrs Tho Winans
Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more], and his wife Celeste Winans (1823-1861), née Revillon.

26.  Country seat
The 'Crimea' was T. D. K. Winans' country house, outside Baltimore, overlooking Franklintown Road from Leakin Park; see AMW to JW, 27 April 1857, #06483.

27.  Ames
Joseph Alexander Ames (1816-1872), portrait and genre painter [more].

28.  children
The Winans had four children: Ross Revillon Winans (1851-1912), including, Celeste Winans (1855-1916), mariée Hutton, George Winans, and William George Winans (b. 1853). The portraits are untraced.

29.  Mr
The name is left blank.

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

31.  Uncle Charles & family
Charles Johnson McNeill (1802-1869), brother of AMW [more]children, his wife Elizabeth McNeill, née Coffee, and their children, Donald C. McNeill (d. 1876), Charles W. McNeill (b. 1847), James Bolton McNeill (b. 1860), Joshua McNeill, Ellen M. McNeill, William Palmer McNeill (1857-1947), Anna A. Van Buskirk (1858-1950), née McNeill, Peral E. McNeill (1860-ca 1878) and Alvan C. McNeill (1852-ca 1943).

32.  maternal Cousins
Probably Anna Johnstone (1787-1870), and her sister Charlotte Johnstone (1782-1863), Martha McNeill's cousins; see AMW to Margaret G. Hill, July/October 1867, #08180.

33.  neice
Mary Corbett (b. 1804), cousin of AMW [more].

34.  daughter
Elizabeth Duclos, née Corbett, wife of P. Duclos; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 3/27 August 1867, #06532.

35.  Willies
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more], studied medicine at Columbia College, Trinity College, Hatford, CT and Pennsylvania Medical School, Philadelphia. He graduated from the latter in 1860.

36.  Doctor Darrach
James Darrach (1828-1869), physician in Philadelphia [more], taught William McNeill Whistler for a year in 1857 before he entered the last phase of his training at Pennsylvania Medical School.

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

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

39.  Scarsdale
AMW lived intermittently at Scarsdale, NY, between ca September 1851 and November 1857 in a cottage owned by her friends Margaret and Sarah Hill.

40.  batchelors establishment
AMW lived with William McNeill Whistler at 1205 Arch St, Philadelphia until about the spring of 1860; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 29 June 1858, #06497.

41.  James Whistler
The name was written on the bottom half of the page, at right angles to the main text, and then the sheet was folded, with only this section visible, as if it was to be forwarded, perhaps by the Hadens.