The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Koritzkii, Aleksander Osipovich
Record 1 of 11

System Number: 06660
Date: 21 and 23 June, 3 July 1847
Author: JW
Place: Preston
Recipient: George Washington Whistler[1]
Place: St Petersburg
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W654
Document Type: ALS



Monday june 47.

My dear father

Is not this a nice row of houses on the right side? It is there that Mrs Ropes's[2] cottage stands where we passed last week so delightfully! - Mother[3] says she has told you all about our voyage, but I know you would like me to tell you what I thought of Mr. Fluke's[4] gallery of paintings; he has bought several since you were here, but the one I admired most was a very fine head painted by a spanish master[5]; and Mr. Fluke said if you wished to buy it, he could easily send it to you. After having seen the gallery we went to the marine church where the wonderful clock and the deaths dance[6] are. Deaths dance consists of series of oil paintings representing death in 24 different positions exercising his power over people of all ranks; the picture itself was more curious than pretty. Some think it was [p. 2] painted by Holbein[7], but he was born long afterwards. The clerk then showed us the clock; he claped [sic] his hands, and immediately the twelve appostles [sic] appeared; they pass to a figure representing our Saviour. - The costumes of Lubec are very peculiar, one sees women with bonnets like baskets on thier [sic] heads; and that of Hamburg is very remarkable too. I thought that city the finest I had seen. We were all a little sea sick the last day on board the Helen MacGregor[8], but the second was very fine and we all enjoyed lamb, green peas and lobster very much. We arrived at Hull on Saturday evening, and the next morning set out for York and were in time for mor[n]ing service at the Minster, where we heard some most beautiful singing and a very good sermon. I think there is no church in all Russia like it. On Monday we started in the first train for Scabro' [i.e. Scarborough]: we were all very glad to see the Ropes's.

[p. 3] We spent a delightful week there riding and bathing every day. Last Saturday we arrived here: all are kind to us, and aunt Eliza[9] is as funy [sic] as ever. I like England and the english people a great deal better than I thought I should although we do sometimes have a fight, so tell Mr Prince[10] he need not be afraid of me getting too many english notions. - This morning George Chapman[11] came to see me; he has grown very much and is nearly a head taller than his brother Jemie[12]. He is very fond of drawing and we both agreed to draw the same subject and to compare them afterwards. - Wednesday 23d. Yesterday we went to Fleetwood, I wish Mother could have gone with us but she was sick in bed; we had a very pleasant day there, the Ormerods[13] were very kind and Mr Edward showed me a model [of] a new turntable and he wished me to ask you if you know anything about this improvement, he says that the support is in the [corde?] of the circle and [nontn?] the circumference, and that it goes upon an inclined plane, so as to keep it steady.

Saturday 3d. July. Mother read me part of your letter dear father, and we will try to speak french and german together, and do all you told us; but what do you think of placing us at [Rossel?] school, it is so beautifully situated, just on the open sea; everyone says it is the best school in England, and if it was not for the dissappointment [sic] of not seeing you for such a long time, I should like to go there. Uncle Winstanley[14], aunt Eliza, aunt Alicia and Willy[15] send their love to you, but keep plenty of it from me. Give my love to Mr. Prince, Mr. Ropes, Mr Karitsky[16] and all our friends.

I must say goodbye dear father, I will try to be dutyful [sic] as I am your affectionate son

James Abbot Whistler

P.s. remember me particularly to Doctor Rogers[17], and tell him he was right when he said that the sea side would cure me.

[p. 4] 'No 6. July 3d -'
George W Whistler Esq
St Petersburg
Attention of
Mr Ropes
[broken wax seal]

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  George Washington Whistler
George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more].

2.  Mrs Ropes
Ellen Harriet Ropes, née Hall, wife of William H. Ropes.

3.  mother
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more]; see her letter to her husband, 8 and 10 June 1847, #06357.

4.  Fluke
Flukes or Hukes, picture dealer, of Lϋbeck.

5.  spanish master
Not identified. JW was deeply influenced by the work of Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660), painter [more], in later life.

6.  deaths dance
St Mary's Church in Lübec was a popular tourist destination. Hans Christian Anderson described it in Shadow Pictures from a Journey to the Harz Mountains and Saxon Switzerland, [...] in 1831: 'In St. Mary's Church I saw the famed astronomical clockwork, and the still more famous cycle of paintings, called "The Dance of Death." Every rank, every age, from the Pope to the child in the cradle, is here invited to take a part in Death's cotillon, and all in the costume of the time in which they were painted, which is said to have been in the year 1463. Under each figure stands a verse in Low German - a dialogue between the dancers: these verses, however, are not the original old rhymes, but a later poetical attempt made about 1701. It appeared to me as if the painter had placed an ironical smile in the dancing skeletons' faces' (, accessed 2004).

7.  Holbein
Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543), painter and engraver [more], or Hans Holbein the Elder (1460/1465-1524), history and portrait painter [more].

8.  Helen MacGregor
Steamer Helen MacGregor (1843), Gee and Co. of Hull (436 tons.). In 1845 she was the first Hull steamer in the St Petersburg trade. The fare was 10 guineas first class. There are portraits of the vessel in the Maritime Museum of Hull and the Peabody Museum, Salem; in the latter she is depicted with two other Gee steamers Queen of Scotland and Rob Roy. Information from Arthur Credland, Keeper of Maritime History, Maritime Museum, Kingston upon Hull.

9.  aunt Eliza
Eliza Isabella Winstanley (1788-1857), née McNeill, JW's aunt, AMW's half-sister [more].

10.  Prince
George H. Prince, engineer.

11.  George Chapman
George R. Chapman (b. 1834), artist [more].

12.  Jemie
Possibly J. R. Chapman, possibly an engineer, relation of George Chapman.

13.  Ormerod
Edward Ormerod, engineer, of Lancashire, and family.

14.  Winstanley
John Winstanley (1776-1859), solicitor, JW's uncle [more].

15.  Alicia and Willie
Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill (1786-1863), JW's aunt [more], and William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

16.  Ropes, Karitsky
William Hooper Ropes (1811-1891), merchant [more], and Aleksander Osipovich Koritzkii, Professor at St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts and court painter [more].

17.  Doctor Rogers
Dr Rogers, AMW's family doctor at St Petersburg.