The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Whistler, Ross
Record 10 of 12

System Number: 06555
Date: 9-20 September 1875
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Hastings
Recipient: James H. and Harriet Gamble[2]
Place: [Staten Island?]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: Whistler W548 and W551
Document Type: ALS

[embossed monogram:] AMW

Talbot House. 43 St Marys Terrace

Sept 9th 1875

My dear friends

I was yet confined to my bed in Lindsey Houses when your sad tidings[3] of June 30th reached me & continued too feeble to write my sympathy in your loss until now. In April I was so low, I think the letter you mention of Homeland date that month must have been mislaid in the anxious state of all in Jemie's[4] home about me. To give you an idea of the first alarming crisis, my beloved Physician, my own Son Willie[5], did not change his clothes or lie down for 80 consecutive hours. 3 servants were sent at 2 o'cl in the night in different directions for my dear daughter[6] in Sloane Street, for Jemie who was staying at a friends house & for a doctor who has a high regard for Willie. he & another on intimate terms frequently called while I was unconscious of the weeping home circle in the prospect of my death & they afterwards said that only such care & skills as Willie's could by Gods blessing have arrested such prostration. Stimulants & strong beef tea had to be administered every hour. It was Bronchitis & the heart affected. I had a most devoted hired Nurse, but as a dear friend[7] in Londonderry had written me the year previous (when feeble health had caused me to write her my conviction that I ought to go to my sister in Stonington[8]) if ever I needed a Nurse to send for her, my tender daughter telegraphed secretly for Mrs Livermore & 2 hours after the tidings were received, she was passenger in the Mail train & was welcomed in Chelsea the next evening. She staid seven weeks, taking Nurse's place when she had to rest & cheering dear Debo & my Sons, such a bright Christian she is! No wonder my Pastor remarked to me once, that Mrs L made religion charming! Would that none made it gloomy! I was confined to bed nearly all those 7 weeks & when it was made I was lifted in a sheet from side to side by my doctor & nurse. And when at length I had the change to the sofa, I could not stand alone & it was long ere I could step alone across my room. The unceasing [p. 2] & generous contributions of dear friends & neighbours I can never repay. Mrs Livermores pen was kept in circulation answering enquiring notes, or thanking them for hampers, the best old Port wine, Brandy, jellies, fruit, fresh eggs, &c.

Thro the tender mercy of the Lord in answer to my childrens prayers, I was so far recovered at the end of June I persuaded my dear Willie to avail of an invitation to go for a few days to the Winans[9] boat off the Isle of Wight for sea air & change of scene, he hesitated to leave me but satisfied his apprehensions by giving me the address of his friend Dr C[10]. I laughed at the idea of any danger of my needing anyone in his stead. I was then moving about the room or on the sofa, able to read to Nurse while she sewed for me. My cough was all gone & consequently I slept at night as I had not done in months. Ere my dear Willie's short holiday was ended I was suddenly attacked by Erysipilas[11] and Dr C had to be telegraphed for & came without delay. I need not tire you or my rather weak eyes by details of the anxiety I caused, or the sufferings prolonged.

We had no summer warmth, so I had to be confined to my room with closed windows til August, its temperature yet had to be regulated by a thermometer & now & then a small fire in the grate. My cough had become seated & my strength exhausted so that my doctor felt change of air only could be tried & Nurse prepared for our availing of the 1st favorable day. I had almost to be lifted by my dear Jemie downstairs, & I had no voice! You may judge how fearful Willie was at my attempting a journey. He had arranged his Hospital work & private practice with kind doctors, & so was my escort on Saturday, 7th of August, when South wind rendered it less hazardous, & he was encouraged as he for three days observed gradual improvement! during his stay here[12] He had selected this elevated situation as easier for me to breathe in, than down on the beach, & providentially my landlady[13] (a Scotch dame [)] has a heart of loving kindness & she is skilled in cooking, especially for invalids, but I no longer need her strong soups, and tho I never expected to be rid of a cough, this air has cured mine. Hastings is the loveliest seaside resort. it is separated in parts, so undulating, we look down on a brae, a thickly built portion. At night the gas lights through its streets are to us a brilliant illumination, but moonlight shining on the sea beyond is far more attractive, the bow windows of my sitting room & also one in my bedroom above it faces South West, and tho this Terrace is higher that [sic] the hill of the Old Castle, hills in our area protect us from N E winds. they have imprisoned me in Chelsea! Willie [p. 3] decides I must not venture to return to my Chelsea home for another Winter. My prospect is to stay here. I stroll to & fro on a nice paved side walk daily as a duty & rest in an easy chair in the pretty flower garden ere I slowly mount the stairs. I think now that I can walk alone again I must dispense with my dear good Nurse, only because a guinea a week is beyond my means to pay wages. I yet thank God that one of His own servants was appointed in my faithful Nurse, we have become mutually attached & shall ever be so. My Sons & daughter think her as valuable to me as I experience & Mrs Livermore is very fond of Nursie. It has been managed for her to enjoy the privilege of attending public worship on Sundays, & she regularly reads the daily service in my room. But I can again use my eyes, thanks be to God. I remember in my last visit to Homeland[14] Your dear Sister talked to me so fondly of your beloved Mother[15] & what a comfort a faithful nurse was in her sickroom & at her death! Had dear Mrs Wann the same? How sad it was for her fond husband[16] to witness her sufferings tho her religion sustained her. They were a most devoted couple! how inseparable their lives! and what a link to draw his heart to things above. This world is full of wrecks, hopes, & plans stranded on the borders of the grave. But the Comforter is able to console the followers of Jesus. I realized that my only confidence remained in Him, while I was for days in the Border Land. I expected death all thro the 7th of April, the anniversary of my husbands release & my Mothers[17]. It was not til the 9th that Willie felt hopes of my rallying. Does my pen linger too long on this report of my own illness? As tho not touched by your account of the affliction at Homeland! But you know I love the memory of your Sister & appreciate the loss Mr Wann & you have sustained. I have been a week adding a few lines daily to my explanation of the delay in answering your last letter. I never can forget your sweet Sisters loving kindness, & how she graced her beautiful home in the hospitality of her own nature & her husbands. She read to me her parting gift to me at Homeland - "Today, Yesterday & Forever[18]" God grant we may all meet her in that blessed Home Above!

I have been thinking while writing you, dear Mr Gamble, that if you will, after reading my poor scrawl, let our dear friends at Scarsdale Cottage[19] also read it, how interested Miss Margaret will be, she knew Kate Prince, & the enclosed letter from her will revive her pleasant memories. My sister at Stonington keeps fresh my interest in Scarsdale by a letter from our loved M G Hill. when[20] she has one to enclose in her own home circle

[p. 4] Saturday 18th

I could not finish this for today's mail but its first date will be too old if it is not ready for Monday & I have a prospect of my dear Willie's coming this evening & hope some kind doctor may free him from Hospital duty til Tuesday. he never will direct the poor patients who throng Mackenzies[21] lung & throat hospital, he once said to me at about 10 ocl at night, you are the 82nd Patient I have examined since 3 ocl this afternoon. That was when he no longer staid by me yet could not rest til assured I did not need him thro the night. I trust he will be prospered in his medical career as he is so faithful. I am thankful for the health both my Sons enjoy, for Jemie is rather closely confined to his Studio tho he has changes of scene & air at Speke Hall[22] & other charming homes where he paints Portraits[23], as is now the case, at Speke, this bright & warmest season of our Summer. his Moonlight pictures[24] are from his own look out on the Thames, & one lately finished of Cremorne Gardens at Chelsea. I wish he may be loyal enough to cross the Atlantic to contribute some of his genius to the Centennial Exhibition[25]. My heart would go with him, tho I might not, to my loved native land. A dear Grandson[26] who with his bride has been devoting a month to me at Hastings, often has repeated the wish for my returning home to Baltimore in Oct. At Scarsdale Georgie Whistler, a feeble child, will be remembered with his fond aunt P Ducatel[27], she died after three days illness, Diptheria [sic], a lovely Cousin nursed her, & had comforted her from the time of her Mothers[28] death. How natural that George, in his desolation, should love Hetty too fondly to part from her. Their wedding day was 23rd June at a relatives house in Washington City, he soon after brought her to London. They have cheered me by their amiable considerate attentions[.] Many a drive have they given me at this interesting place, & tempting my appetite by my dining every day with them, they had the parlor of this house, as I already occupied the drawing room, so we shared its bow window & enjoyed the sea view & all our surroundings doubly. It was George who took me to Ireland & Scotland two years ago, he & my aged Cousin A C[29] were very fond of each other. I had not been able to write to enquire about her health, til at Hastings I wrote of his remembrance of her & of his happiness in a wife so suited to him. I enclosed your last letter tho the tidings I was sure would distress. for your loss of the Sister, she loved so much, I scarcely expect her to answer. I know our Scarsdale friends will lament to hear that the children of my dear departed Son George, are soon to be orphans[,] his widow [30] is dying of Cancer! is aware of it & resigned

Talbot House.

Monday Sept 20th

It was all for the best I could not send off my tardy scrawl at the end of last week tho I wished it.

A letter written by my Cousin Ann Clunie[31] reached me this morning, so expressive of her sympathy in your sorrow[32], wishing me to assure you both & Mr Wann[33] of her grief for his bereavement. The wonderful old lady, seems stronger tho she finds writing difficult. she explained why she is occupying the Flat a flight of stairs above Mrs Wilkinsons[34], where she was when I was with her two years ago, she has purer air, a finer view & the advantage of being with honest people! she parted from Mrs Wilkinson June 14. Miss Rutherford[35], her Cousin ministers to her comfort in every way & has put a hand rail to her stair case, so I think she yet goes out, sometimes, tho she does not tell me more. I am to direct as heretofore to 67 Hanover St Edinburgh - And answers to my letters, may be directed to me at Talbot House, for my prospect is to remain in these comfortable apartments, during the winter. My good land lady is trust worthy, truly a christian & I shall write my doctor today of all she promises. I shall need no other Nurse, please God to spare me any alarming attack of illness. The faithful Nurse who has attended me nearly seven months, is to go home to the Association of trained Nurses in London[36], on friday. as she says, "While you are under Mrs Mudies roof Ma'am I [am] sure you do need no one else." We shall part as true friends, lovingly interested in each other welfare. Looking out of the N E window, the 3rd room in my suite (Nurse's room which I shall retain [)], I can see the Church, where I may yet be able to go! as the walk round to it is not greatly beyond my daily stroll, tho rather more up hill than I can yet attempt[.] Mrs M is to ask her clergyman to call to see me, this week, And she says "If any of the District ladies come you may enjoy a half hours call from them, it will be more cheerful than for you to sit alone" And now adieu dear Mr & Mrs Gamble, you are inseparable in my remembrance of your friendly calls on me when I was alone, the season you spent in London. God bless & spare you to each other, til He takes you to the Home provided for us all. Where partings are over forever!

[p. 5] I shall expect another letter from you soon & hope one also from Scarsdale Cottage. I have this morning received a most interesting letter from my neice Mrs Adolph Rodewald[37] & hope to be able to answer it by end of this month, she with her sons & daughters expected to return to New Brighton to day 20th. My nephew Donald Fairfax[38] (who is not yet Admiral, as you heard he was, but expects to be if he serves our country a score of years longer! has lately written me, assuring me of his unabated affection! his wife[39] & he rejoice in my marvelous recovery! My dear Willie could not come on Saturday but will, by Gods help, next & probably to stay 2 or 3 days. How favored I am! thro the tender mercy of our Heavenly Father. Remember dear friends my sons in your daily petition for absent loved ones. I never forget any in my Native land.

Your affectionate


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

2.  James H. and Harriet Gamble
James H. Gamble (b. 1820), clerk [more], and Harriet Gamble, née Wheaton, wife of J. H. Gamble.

3.  sad tidings
The death in June 1875 of J. H. Gamble's sister, Jane Wann (1822-1875), née Gamble, wife of S. Wann [more].

4.  Jemie's
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more]; she had been staying with him at Lindsey Row.

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

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

7.  friend
Kate ('Cousin Kate') Livermore (1820-1907), née Prince, wife of A. Livermore [more].

8.  sister in Stonington
Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer (ca 1812 - d.1877), née McNeill, AMW's sister [more]; lived at Stonington, CT.

9.  Winans
Probably the family of Walter Scott Winans (1840-1928), civil engineer [more].

10.  Dr C
Dr John Cavafy (ca 1839-1901), physician and collector, son of G. J. Cavafy [more]; see AMW to Mary Emma Harmar Eastwick, 19 July 1876, #12635.

11.  Erysipilas
Erysipilas, known as St Anthony's Fire and Rose, a febrile disease, manifesting itself in acute inflammation of the skin, which becomes vividly scarlet and ultimately peels; confined chiefly to the head; is contagious, and recurrent.

12.  during his stay here
Added in the right margin.

13.  landlady
Janet Mudie (b. 1821), AMW's landlady at Hastings [more].

14.  Homeland
Homeland, Staten Island, NY was the residence of the Wanns and Gambles.

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

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

17.  husbands release & my Mothers
Both George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more]George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, AMW's husband, and Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, AMW's mother died on the 7th day of April.

18.  Today, Yesterday & Forever
Edward Henry Bickersteth, Today, Yesterday and Forever, 1866, New York; a poem in twelve books. AMW read it in August 1867; see AMW to Jane Wann, 23 August 1867, #06534.

19.  friends at Scarsdale Cottage
Margaret Getfield Hill (1802-1881), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY [more], and the family of William Sherbrooke Popham (1793-1885), merchant [more]; M. G. Hill owned the Scarsdale Cottage in which AMW lived intermittently between 1851 and 1857.

20.  when
'when ... circle' continues in the right margin.

21.  Mackenzies
'The hospital for Diseases of the Throat,' 32 Golden Square, London (see #06553, and #06554). Its founder and consulting physician was Sir Morell Mackenzie (1837-1892).

22.  Speke Hall
The Elizabethan Liverpool mansion of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more]; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 7-10 September 1870, #06545.

23.  Portraits
F. R. Leyland commisioned JW to paint his family. This resulted in the creation of Arrangement in Black: Portrait of F. R. Leyland (YMSM 97), Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106), Portrait of Miss Florence Leyland (YMSM 107), and several unfinished portraits: Portrait of Miss Leyland (1) (YMSM 109), Portrait of Miss Leyland (2) (YMSM 110), and The Blue Girl: Portrait of Miss Elinor Leyland (YMSM 111). In addition JW made numerous drawings and etchings of the Leyland family; see M.425-439, and K.101-112. JW was probably still working on Portrait of Miss Florence Leyland (YMSM 107), and The Blue Girl: Portrait of Miss Elinor Leyland (YMSM 111); the latter was never completed (see #06545, and #08181).

24.  Moonlight pictures
In September 1875 JW painted Nocturnes of Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea (YMSM 163-9), including Cremorne, No. 1 (YMSM 163). The most important, Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (YMSM 170), was exhibited at the 9th Winter Exhibition of Cabinet Pictures in Oil, Dudley Gallery, London, 1875. In 1871 JW had exhibited in 'Harmony in Blue-Green - Moonlight' later re-titled Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea (YMSM 103); see AMW to Catherine Jane Palmer, 3-4 November 1871, #10071.

25.  Centennial Exhibition
The Centennial Exhibition, which celebrated 100 years of American independence, opened on 10 May 1876 in Philadelphia. It was visited by 8 million people over six months. The exhibits ranged from a cheese factory distributing free cheese, to paintings from France and Italy, that were considered immoral by many. See Brown, Dee, The Year of the Century: 1876, New York, 1966, Chapter 5, pp. 112-137.

26.  Grandson
George ('Georgie') Worthen Whistler (b. 1851), JW's nephew [more], and his wife Esther ('Hetty') Whistler, née Barry. George W. and Esther married on 23 June 1875; see Francis P. O'Neill, Index of Obituaries and Marriages in the Baltimore Sun, 1871-75, Westminster, MD, 1995, vol. 2, p. 312.

27.  P Ducatel
Aunt P. Ducatel (d. 1875), sister of Mary Ann Whistler, née Ducatel.

28.  Mothers
Mrs J. T. Ducatel, mother-in-law of George William Whistler.

29.  A C
Anne Clunie (b. 1793), a Scottish cousin of AMW [more].

30.  widow
Julia de Kay Whistler (1825-1875), née Winans, JW's sister-in-law [more]; she died on 29 September. She was the widow of George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more]. Their children were Julia de Kay Revillon (b. 1855), née Whistler; Thomas Delano Whistler (b. 1857), engineer; Ross Winans Whistler (b. 1858); Neva Winans (1860-1907), née Whistler, wife of R. R. Winans; Joseph Swift Whistler (1865-1905), art critic.

31.  Ann Clunie
Anne Clunie (b. 1793), a Scottish cousin of AMW [more].

32.  sorrow
The death of Jane Wann; see above.

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

34.  Mrs Wilkinsons
Mrs William Wilkinson, Ann Clunie's landlady. She lived at 67B Hanover Street, Edinburgh; see PO Edinburgh and Leith General Directory, 1874-1875, p. 293.

35.  Miss Rutherford
Miss Rutherford, a cousin of Ann Clunie.

36.  Association of trained Nurses in London
'Association of Nurses' (The London), 62 New Bond Street, W and 86 Kennington Park Road, London SE; see PO Directory, 1881, p. 706. AMW was probably looked after by Nurse Taplin; see AMW to JW, 11 July 1876, #06559.

37.  Mrs Adolph Rodewald
Julia Catherine Rodewald (1825-1897), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of A. Rodewald, Sr [more].

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

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