The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Palmer, Emma Woodbridge
Record 14 of 15

System Number: 06563
Date: 11, 12 and 14 February 1878
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Hastings
Recipient: Charles W. McNeill[2]
Place: Florida
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W556
Document Type: ALS[3]

43 St Marys Terrace Hastings, Eng[land] [...][4]

Monday evening February
11th 1878

My very dear nephew Charlie

After having waited for strength sufficient to answer any but the most pressing correspondents - I resolve to begin the letter so long at heart, in reply to your interesting home report of the 15th of Decr 77. You had omitted Hasting in directing, having just only the County - Sussex - which is not essential) so it wandered around a day or two - I only regretted my exhausted state of health when I read it. I felt such a desire to write my approval dear Charlie of all your views & intentions in such filial, dutiful care for the comfort of your widowed Mother[5]. My prayers thro the wakeful nights at the New Year, for each absent member of my family, were most fervent that the life & health of my nephew Charlie might be granted by our gracious & compassionate Lord as the mortal arm on which his Mother might lean & his hand to labor for her support! to be an example to the youngest a school boy now! altho I hope James[6] may live at home & unite in the family worship every night & up by dawn to kneel & pray (undisturbed by lads who may not have been taught as all my nephews, or been helped by such a devout father as yours[)]. It seems to me Charlie that his piety is inherent in his name - son, at least! & I trust it is so with your Sisters & Brothers[7]. It is difficult for me to think of Alvin[8] as a parent! but both he & Anna are heads of a home circle the more important, & they have an innocent lamb of the Good Shepherds fold intrusted to their care, to be trained to obedience & love for Him.

[p. 2] [...] [You][9] must mention in your next letter to me if you have received "The Christian[10]" I take that religious paper for reliable, general information, it is 2 cts a week & I shall like frequently to send it to you, when I know it is welcome in your home. I could not bear to read in political journals, of the scourge of the war in the East[11], but to know of christians going to soften the rigors in the field, to attend in hospitals, to feed those perishing in famine, to clothe the naked, & gather the children into homes & schools, making prayer to God for help to then [sic] the more a daily remembrance.

Do you not think the public charities in London wonderful proofs that the prayers of faith are heard on High[,] Doctor Barnado's work[12] began only a few years ago & now he supports & educates nearly a thousand girls & boys, rescued from the streets, his pity was excited by discovering lads sleeping in market baskets, or barrels or wherever they could hide away, after having done all the evil Satan gives idle hands, famishing for food[,] to do in all large cities, I began to take a half doz of the half penny, weekly papers with the accounts of his work, to send after reading them to Aunt Kate's[13] grandchildren & others, but now I distribute 14 a week & I hope the New Years numbers I've directed to James Bolton MacNeill [sic] have yeilded [sic] a pleasing variety to the Sunday books, you must interest him in, for instruction. When you finish reading the "Childrens Treasury[14]" then send them to Anna, to take care of til her little daughter & neice [sic] are able to value them. while I am able to write, they are to be continually sent to my native land. I am thankful of Donald Palmers[15] little ones in their Missouri forest cottage & by Jackson McNeill's[16] at San Francisco, & by Geo Palmers[17] in Geneva, N Y, & at Stonington, besides children in London & here whose parents need all their pennies for daily food & clothing, even my mite, is a drop in the bucket of the Barnado well, & when he made an especial appeal for the 1000 children's Christmas breakfast, in the Edinboro Castle[18] in the crowded & poorest part of the City, I sent postage stamps [p. 3] $2 worth for bound vols (he wished so to dispose of) & [...] [distributed][19] them as Christmas gifts, & then my kind landladies gave me a half dollars worth of stamps to enclose with me for the breakfast fund. I shall send another paper to James "Sunshine" soon, as we read the first three months of this year, I am sure Ellen will enjoy it with your Mother, it is a profitable way to spend an hour of a winters fireside circle for one to read aloud, you Charlie, to them at their sewing, I have had it so each winter since I settled here. Miss Price[20], who is my nurse in sickness, & does all as a daughter in handy work, or errands down to Hasting town & waits on my meals & rooms, is an excellent reader. I can only knit, for the poor, while Mrs Mudie[21] my other land-lady nits [sic]. I cannot be too thankful for strength & sight to have written thus far, now rest!

Tues 12th

"Willie Palmer[22]" was a baby when I visited the home of my dear Brother[23]! I hope he keeps his name bright! as surely his dear brother Donald did thro the temptations in New York, which assail young lads! I dare say he gets tired enough at the end of his days work on the R R[24], but he should try the refreshment of a good wash & clean clothes & after his evening meal attend a class, to improve the instruction he has had in penmanship, in book keeping, dictionary & reading history, geography &c. Tell him so with Aunt Annas love & say if he has begun to use tobacco to stop "right away" it makes boys feel lazy & by degrees injures health, I know there must be in N Y pleasant reading rooms, in "Coffee Palaces" as in London which formerly alas were ruinous resorts for drinking & smoking!

Thursday 14th

It is difficult for my poor eyes in these cloudy days to write, you perhaps know how afflicted I was for 7 years with a most painful loss of sight[25], during which time I was entirely dependent on others for reading or answering letters but in 1866 I began to feel the benefit a German Occulist's[26] skill by Gods blessing gave me. [p. 4] [...][27] I have never found a pair of spectacles to suit. I use a reading glass, but have to write as best I can, so you see many errors uncorrected, in my scrawls, & now this winter, in my reduced bodily strength, my spine & head suffer from bending over, but I am thankful that I am rather stronger this week than two months past.

It did me good to have the advice of my doctor son[28] when he came with his wife[29] for their Christmas holiday, as he could examine my case, he prescribed a stronger tonic of quinine - with a gentle aperient combined to act upon the liver & ordered a liniment for my back & lungs. My respiration was so labored, I mention particulars dear Charlie, in case you should suffer in returning weakness, for we are all liable to such weakness after such a serious attack as yours was, especially!

I am very thankful you have employment in Florida the winter at the North would endanger your mortal existence.

I had intended to try to live in London as Willie & his affectionate wife invited me to go to their home & be under his care, but October, when the weather on this South coast was like Indian Summer, was bleak & foggy in London & has continued to be so, it was an interposition that I did not accompany my daughter at the end of September when she returned home, after she had been 7 weeks in this sweet rural part of Hastings. she caught cold & was confined a fortnight to her bedroom, a fire indispensable, the cold fog so penetrating. I was all thro October enjoying drives in an open carriage with my very kind next door neighbours, who often invite me. the country is hilly & beautifully green with the sea all around the town of Hastings. This West hill is sheltered from east winds, which are so injurious on all other coasts of England & disagreed with me in the part of London where my son James[30] has a house. I conclude that the short time alotted [sic] to me on earth must be under this roof, where I am very comfortable & thankful to be so cared for.

[p. 5] Thursday afternoon 14th

I have lit a candle at half past three ocl to see, to finish this, in the hope it may be welcomed by the end of this winter month. If you could look out of my window upon the green pastures which slope down from this terrace to Streets in the town, you'd think it not a winter scene. We have had once or twice a passing snow shower melting directly it fell, but in Scotland there has been much snow. the papers stated that the Queen was obliged to stop[31] on her Decr journey from Balmoral[32] the R R so embanked in snow. I hear from Stonington it is a remarkably mild winter at the North. It was a great comfort to me to receive a good report of the health of all in the old corner house! as your dear Aunt Kate used to call her home. her youngest daughter Anna[33], is filling her place now; & Doctor Staunton[34] is in the place of dear "Uncle Palmer[35]" they are worthy for a more truly christian couple never were united. Annas little "Donald Palmer[36]" a year old last Novr is a lively healthy child, full of play & mischief. his Mother had her hands so full while Emma[37] was visiting Donald[s] family in Missouri for three months, she could not write me all summer. I was unhappy in her silence. Emma has written me since her return home, also & gives a very interesting account of Donalds cottage & his comfort in his little wife & three children[38]. I have a letter from Julia[39] too, she was in ill health months after the shock of her dear Mothers death. her husband[40] is a clergyman & thro the summer so many go to Long Branch on the Atlantic coast of N Jersey & his church is in that vicinity, he & Julia have great demands upon their time, besides the Church school & their own regular parish duties & housekeeping. but I was ignorant of all these reasons for her not answering.

[p. 6] Mr Boardman is promising himself a holiday to visit England with Julia in June, by the Lords will. her health needs the voyage & change of climate, & if I am yet here Hastings will be the very best place for her. I form no plans, for my term of days seems to me to be drawing to an end. but I cannot think of any earthly prospect so alluring as that of my welcoming Julia to this sweet rural quiet! I can imagine how interested she'd be in all the historical points on this South Coast. she has such a cultivated & intelligent mind. This year is a most eventful era! The Pope's death[41] will cause a great commotion in the Romish Church! the Bible is being read by the people now & will give light to souls, hitherto ignorantly worshipping the Virgin & Saints, in place of the only Intercessor our Lord & Savior the only God with the Almighty Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit! You see why the Pope & Romanist Priests have burnt bibles[42]! The power of Mahomet[43] too is nearly ended! I hope the Christian of the 10th of Jany interested you all. the Article upon the Bible Stand in the Paris exhibition proposed is so striking. A hymn of Charlotte Murrays[44], is interesting as she is one of my most welcome visitors, she is a blooming young lady, but has taken a fondness for the elderly American stranger! ever since she just saw me leaning on my nurse's arm, for I could not walk without support when brought to this terrace in Augt 75. I had been here two years nearly before her eldest Sister called, & now Charlotte comes most frequently. Julia will like her. they are about the same age & equally studious & intent on loving kindness. I directed The Christian of Novr 22nd to your Mother, to shew her my sympathy & remembrance in her loss, of the beloved Donald[45], to whom I had been a Mother. I think in that paper some sacred poetry may have soothed her sad heart! I was sorting old letters on Saturday, such a cloudy & sea mist, scarcely yeilding [sic] light for writing, I felt my grief so renewed as I read the last I had ever received from your uncle William McNeill[46]! my tears could not but flow, for my heart was bursting!

[p. 7] God knows, I have never murmured at His having early taken to the Heavenly Mansion, all my most precious ties. I am the last left of my generation! But my greatest desire is to know & love the Lord more & more, precious beyond all that in my most gladsome prospect for a happy home in my native Land! & my only ambition for my two Sons, my grandchildren & nephews & neices that they may be true christians, in word & deed, that all who see them may know beyond doubt the Lord Jesus, & are of those His servants who look for His coming again.

How much to be pitied dear Charlie are such despicable followers of the Mamon of unrighteousness who take the law, as a right to deprive the widow of her home! ah if Mr Summis[47] had prayed for guidance! & read any chapter in his bible he dared not have acted so, as to bring a blight over his own children, by "wrong & robbery[48]" We "know all things work together for good to all who love & serve the Lord[49]". so I doubt not you will be content with your lot & I hope you may be prospered in the new house, & that Ellen will stay & help her Mother keep it, for I do not forget her sister Elizabeth's neat & industrious habits & in case of sickness or weakness at least, she should have one of her daughters to help & to cheer her. I'm glad a good neighbor occupies the old house! I do not know where about is the place exactly you are to take possession of! is it nearer St Isabella? I hope you'll have a view of the river. You must plant some cabbage trees - if you can - they were such a distinguishing feature on the St Johns. every root your father planted grew! The Oleanders flourished & were sweet & beautiful, as your grandmothers taste for nature always was & she had begged him to get them from the woods & set them out. And then you know he planted the sour orange seeds instead of throwing them away, when our Mother[50] was using the oranges for marmalade. he intended it to be a hedge at one side of the vegetable garden. I dont forget the sweet songsters so admired building their nests, the red birds! when I taught you on the front piazza!

[p. 8] Ellen & Potter Daport[51], did not agree as the little red birds, for he was a spoilt child & teased her tho he was affectionate. he is a fine tall fellow now 6 ft 2 in height, very fair & good face. his brother in law brought him to London Oct last to be his book keeper. Mr Lane[52] is a business agent for Chicago houses. Potters mother feels too unhappy in her cottage in Kansas City without him & it makes him so, to read her letters, he intends to return soon, & to be in his own brother Joseph's[53] business. Mrs Davenport[54] ought to be happy in such dutiful sons & that her two daughters are married to good men & in nice homes of their own. but the indulgence of selfishness & not being in good health, keeps her complaining.

Let me know by postcard if you receive this & the Papers, I think you had better let your Sisters in N York share my letters, & return them to you dear Charlie. My love to you all. You are all in the daily petitions of

your fond Aunt.

Anna M Whistler

You need never feel that you have no one to go to for advice. "Ask counsel of Me saith the Lord[55]" "It is written[56]" was the repetition which Jesus gave in answer to the Tempter! The Devil left Him! and behold Angels ministered to The Son of Man! who refused to turn stones into bread. tho he hungered 40 days fasting! The Bible, with prayer & meditation will always tell my beloved Brothers Sons & Daughter what to do. God bless you & make this New Year the happiest. I hope you value the Lords Day for reading the Bible & other good books - Make it a cheerful holiday at home for Jemie not to follow the example of idle boys! I used to interest you boys in the illustration of the Church Collects[57] - how pleasant the sunday conversations with my dear Brother Charlie on the front piazza. I can never forget! You must plant multiflora[58] & other running vines for shade at your new house - And a grape vine. The Isabella grape[59] bears in 3 years! it was named Isabella in compliment to my Aunt Gibbs[60], the original vine in her garden on Brooklyn Heights was brought from South America. How it has been spread all thro the United States in the sixty years since hers was the 1st.

This document is protected by copyright.


Charles W MacNeill Esq[61]
Duval County
East Florida
U S. North America
[postmark:] HASTINGS / A / FE 15 / 78
[postmark on verso:] NEW YORK / MAR 1


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

2.  Charles W. McNeill
Charles W. McNeill (b. 1847), JW's cousin [more].

3.  ALS
Written on mourning paper.

4.  Eng[land] [...]
Torn paper.

5.  Mother
Elizabeth McNeill, née Coffee, wife of AMW's brother, C. J. McNeill.

6.  James
James Bolton McNeill (b. 1860), son of Charles Johnson McNeill.

7.  Sisters & Brothers
Anna Alicia McNeill (1858-1950), and Ellen M. McNeill, daughters of Charles Johnson McNeill.

8.  [...] [You]
Torn paper.

9.  Alvin
Anna Alicia McNeill married Alvyn Van Buskirk (1847-1916)

10.  The Christian
Probably The Christian Spectator, London, 1871-1876. Its subject was missions; see #06560.

11.  war in the East
Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), between Turkey and the Slavic Balkan states. The treaty of San Stefano guaranteed independence from Turkey for Serbia, Montenegro, Rumania, and autonomy for Bulgaria. Russia received land in the Caucasus region. By February 1878 there were negotiations taking place between Russia and Turkey for an Armistice; see The Times, 11 February 1878, London, no. 29,175, p. 5.

12.  Doctor Barnado's work
Thomas John Barnado (1845-1905) (known as Dr Barnado), founder of the Barnado Homes in East London in 1866, for the waifs and homeless children gathered from the streets of all British cities. Many children had been placed in British colonies. In 1873, at Ilford in Essex, he founded a village home for training girls, and at N. Elmham in Norfolk, a training school for the navy and the merchantile marine.

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

14.  Childrens Treasury
Probably the weekly periodical The Children's Treasury, Haughton & Co., London, 1875-1880.

15.  Donald Palmers
Donald McNeill Palmer (b. 1845), JW's cousin.

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

17.  Geo Palmers
George Erwin Palmer (1843-1909), JW's cousin.

18.  Christmas breakfast, in the Edinboro Castle
In 1872 Barnardo bought the Edinburgh Castle, a well known public house in London, and converted it into the People's Mission Church and the first Coffee-Palace in the UK. Good meals, games, newspapers and temperance refreshments were provided. Barnado was the only pastor of the Mission Church for thirteen years. On Sunday afternoons the Castle usually had 2,500 people in attendance. See Syrie Louise Barnardo, Memoirs of the Late Dr. Barnardo, London, 1907, pp. 95-110.

19.  [...] [distributed]
Torn paper.

20.  Miss Price
Elizabeth Price (b. 1826), AMW's landlady at Hastings [more].

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

22.  Willie Palmer
William Palmer McNeill (1857-1947), cousin of JW.

23.  visited the home of my dear Brother
AMW had visited Charles Johnson McNeill (1802-1869), brother of AMW [more] at Reddie Point, on the St John's River, Florida, in March 1858; see AMW to JW, 23 March 1858, #06495.

24.  R R
i.e. Railroad.

25.  loss of sight
AMW suffered from a partial loss of sight between c. 1857 and 1866; see AMW to JW, 17 August and 16 September 1857, #06487.

26.  German Occulist's
AMW was treated for an eye condition during the winter of 1865-66, under the care of Dr Meurens, occulist at Koblenz.

27.  [...]
Torn paper.

28.  doctor son
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

29.  wife
Helen ('Nellie') Euphrosyne Whistler (1849-1917), née Ellen Ionides.

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

31.  Queen was obliged to stop
Victoria (1819-1901), Queen of Great Britain [more].

32.  Balmoral
Balmoral Castle, private residence of the British Royal family, on the west bank of the River Dee, Grampian region, Scotland.

33.  Anna
Anna Whistler Stanton, née Palmer.

34.  Doctor Staunton
George Stanton, husband of Anna Whistler Palmer.

35.  Uncle Palmer
Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), physician, AMW's brother-in-law [more].

36.  Donald Palmer
Donald Palmer Stanton (b. 1876), son of Anna Whistler Palmer and George Stanton.

37.  Emma
Emma Woodbridge Palmer (1835-1912), JW's step-cousin; she apparently visited her brother's Donald McNeill Palmer's home in Missouri.

38.  wife & three children
Anna Palmer, née Feazel, wife of D. McN. Palmer, and her children Lillian MacNeill Palmer (b. 1871), George Edwin Palmer (b. 1872), Donald Fairfax Palmer (b. 1874), and Catherine McNeill Palmer (b. 1876).

39.  Julia
Julia McNeill Palmer (1851-1902), JW's cousin, later wife of W. S. Boardman [more]

40.  husband
Rev. William S. Boardman, husband of Julia McN. Palmer. He was the Rector of St John's Episcopal Church at Camden, NJ; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 10-20 April 1872, #06549.

41.  Pope's death
Pope Pius IX (1792-1878), né Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti, Pope from 1846-1878; he died on 7 February. AMW probably refers to the Pope's opposition to liberalism in Italy, and his insistence that the State should respect the traditional rights of the Church. The Pope fought in a politically unstable climate (see #06381) against the intellectual movement that threatened to destroy the essence of faith and religion of Italian citizens. In his famous 'Syllabus errorum,' he condemned pantheism, naturalism, rationalism, indifferentism, socialism, communism, freemasonry, and various kinds of religious liberalism. Many at the time of his death feared secularization; see A. C. Jemolo, Church and State in Italy, 1850-1950, translated by David Moore, Oxford, 1960, pp. 4-7 and 50-54; Eric John, ed., The Popes, A Concise Biographical History, London, 1964, pp. 437-440; John Dixon Hales, Romish Version of the Bible. Facts and Arguments for the Consideration of Bible Societies, London, 1856.

42.  Pope & Romanist Priests have burnt bibles
A reference to Pius IX, who in 1850 issued an encyclical letter which condemned the Bible societies. In 1864 in his 'Syllabus errorum,' he again condemned them. See Frank J. Coppa, ed., Encyclopaedia of the Vatican and Papacy, Westport, CT, 1999, p. 335.

43.  Mahomet
Mohammed (571-632), the founder of Islam.

44.  Charlotte Murrays
Charlotte Murray, writer; the hymn referred to does not survive, but some of her poetry can be read in Songs of the Dawn, Selections From the Poems of Horatius Bonar, Charlotte Murray and Others, London, c. 1889.

45.  Donald
Donald C. McNeill (d. 1876), JW's cousin.

46.  William McNeill
William Gibbs McNeill (1800-1853), railway engineer, AMW's brother [more].

47.  Mr Summis
Summis; unidentified.

48.  wrong & robbery
'The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.' Ezek. 22.29.

49.   love & serve the Lord
'And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,' Deut. 10.12. Also see Deut. 11.13; Josh. 22.5; Isa. 56.6.

50.  Mother
Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, mother of AMW [more].

51.  Ellen & Potter Daport
Ellen Davenport and her brother Potter Davenport, children of Martha Davenport, née Fairfax.

52.  Mr Lane
Mr Lane, estate agent, husband of Isabella Davenport, daughter of Martha Davenport, née Fairfax (see #06559).

53.  Joseph's
Joseph Davenport, son of Martha Davenport, née Fairfax. He owned the firm Davenport & Co., lard oil refiners, 3e Levee Street; see Ballenger & Hoye's eighth annual City Directory of the Inhabitants, Manufacturing Establishments, Business Firms etc. in the City of Kansas, MO, 1878, Kansas, p. 129.

54.  Mrs Davenport
Martha Fairfax (b. c. 1820), JW's cousin, married Isaiah Davenport.

55.  Ask counsel of Me saith the Lord
'And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.' Num. 27.21.

56.  It is written
'Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted ofthe devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.' Matt. 4.1-7.

57.  Church Collects
The Collects, short prayers appropriate to the various times of the church calendar.

58.  multiflora
Probably Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia, bull bay), broad-leafed evergreen tree; see AMW to Mary Emma Harmar Eastwick, 8, 9, 23 and 29 September 1874, #11843.

59.  Isabella grape
Isabella grape, a blue Vitis labrusca grape variety. Silas McDowell (1795-1879), botanist and pomologist wrote in 1859 that the grape was a native, and for the last 40 years had been known to pomologists as the 'Isabella Grape,' in honor of Miss Isabella Gibbs, of Dorchester, SC, who took it to the North and gave it to William Prince, of the Flushing Gardens, on Long Island, near the city of New York; see North Carolina Planter, NC, November, 1859, reproduced in 'A letter,' Articles By & About Silas, @

60.  Aunt Gibbs
Isabella Kingsley, AMW's aunt, wife of George Gibbs.

61.  Charles W MacNeill Esq
There is a black wax seal at the back of the envelope.