The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Willey, J. M.
Record 1 of 3

System Number: 07631
Date: 20 and 21 [September 1850][1]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: [Pomfret[3]]
Recipient: Margaret Getfield Hill[4]
Place: Scarsdale[5]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 34/19-20
Document Type: ALS

Friday afternoon 20th

Many is the times [sic] I have left the sheet begun yesterday to you dear friend & just now filled up so perhaps it will be too disjointed for you to make out. How much I could say to you that I cannot write. You will come again to me if you may next year for my comfort, my boys[6] have taken a fancy to you[.] Willie was saying today, how he should enjoy a visit with me to Scarsdale, if it were not so near the city I might trust Jemie to spend Christmas with you, but I say nothing to interrupt their new term of study now. Last monday evening then occupying our only spare chamber (Doct P & Donie[7][)], I was startled by an arrival. Mary[8] seemed overjoyed, & soon young Ingersoll[9] our late Secry of legation at St. P. flew upstairs where I stood, to embrace me, he had so loved Whistler[10]! he had been daily at our fire side at our table unceremoniously welcomed! he has lately returned from Europe & brought his brother[11] this far out of their route from N Haven to New Port to spend a night with us, My good land lady lent her best chamber & Mary arranged it for their accommodation, she was up by dawn to secure a nice breakfast [p. 2] she minds no extra labour - to bring back imitations of past enjoyment to our dwindled circle. I could not but be grateful to our young friend, for coming so far purposely to see us, but oh Meg you know that more sadness than gladness must even attend my memories however fond, & you will not wonder that I could not sleep when I sought the rest my weary frame needed, after all had retired & my little patient[12] was calmly reposing, tho in fever - she has been gently dealt with by Him, who appoints me this fresh cause of anxiety - no pain any where, and she is so gentle, so grateful to Aunt Anna & so unwilling to add to my trouble, she takes her kind doctors[13] prescriptions without demur. I read to her whenever I can snatch the time, Mary is now seated beside her bed, the neighbours all offer - Mrs Williams[14] comes in every evening with the doctor to repeat her offers to relieve me, but in every case of illness I have retained my past feeling thankful for the health alotted [sic] me, for this privilige [sic]. Before Julie was taken ill, she spent an afternoon at Doct Vintons[15] place with Ellen Bowers[16], went in their carriage, my Willie & I walked over & joined them at tea, I enjoyed the old lady's conversation, what an uncommon woman she is at 77 to retain charm of mind & manner.

[p. 3] Mrs Wilkinson[17] has returned from her summers trip to R I[18], she looks & feels better for having spent weeks with her mother & sisters. Those who have been away for variety, enquire of me eagerly how I enjoyed my visit (in the only way I could now) I devoted the mornings to Annie[19] & Grandmother[20], and the afternoons to dear Maria[21]. I only indulged in one solitary visit to our family enclosure & was more grateful than she would imagine to have one hour alone, at my husbands grave[22] holding converse with that unseen world upon which my hopes rest. Emma[23] drove me to the ground & then she drove me to the Phelps domain[24] to enquire after Mrs Edwards[25] & infant, for the doctor was of the party to Norwich, & we all left in an hour by the Alice[26], If you see Cath[27], you will hear of Mr Flagg[28] a very talented young clergyman of your church there - tho not the beautiful edefice [sic] the Brewers[29] attend. he devoted himself to the Willey party[30] that day at Norwich - of my return hither with my youthful trio - Alfred Brewer[31] was waiting for me & remained at the depot till our train started. Mr Willey[32] (you may have heard) has been in Ohio for a month, Mr Vail[33] preaching the half day [until] the Stonington church is opened. Tom Vail[34] has returned to school here, but is not to study Greek. Willie will get on faster without him. Willie seems determined to study hard this term to shew Mr Park[35] what he can do[.] Jemie is full of thoughts of going to West Point[36]. Many influential friends are exerting themselves to get him in - I am passive, wishing he would bend his talents to architecture[37], but leaving the decision to God, who will I trust over rule all [p. 4] for the final good of James. He continues to bless both my dear boys with health & I feel grateful that my head & side are free from the attacks which till now distressed me. I am so pleased that all in your home thought you had gained health by your exertions to please us. My love to all , say to your dear Sisters[38] I know of no place more attractive to me for a visit than Scarsdale, & when I can go without neglect of duty, I will surely seek their welcome & yours. I shall not be surprised if your prediction of Cath's next season be realized. I hear good accounts from Preston[39] & from London[40], they were all depending upon Mary & Mr R[41] being more with them this month, but how eager they will feel to see the little neice[42] [sic] in Brooklyn. It is tea time now almost. my boys will be returning from school, my time is theirs. You know then they are willing to be entertained by their devoted mother. Our neighbours ask after you. Mrs Searles[43] has gathered seeds for you which I enclose now. she thinks, you ought to soak them before putting them in the ground. Capt Bowers[44] house presents now to our view an Octagon end which has extended their best parlor to admit a piano for the girls.

Saturday morning 21st

This lovely weather would make us forget Sept gales, I do hope it may continue for dear Kates[45]'s visit. Imagine her arrival on monday with our mother & little Annie, but I must not be so fast you will not get this scrawl till the middle of next week, it must rest at our Depot till monday! Julia had an undisturbed night & is reading "Scriptural instruction for the lowest & the least"[46] get the work dear Meg for your young tribe, I bought The Earls daughter[47] as a gift to Ellen Bowers, in passing thro N York & shall read it aloud evening next week I hope in expectation of Willies second communion, God bless you[48] all. write when you can to

your attached friend

A M Whistler

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  20 and 21[September 1850]
The most probable date of this letter is September 1850. It can not be 1849 as AMW was still in St Petersburg, and cannot be 1851, as that was the year of the wedding between the Rev. Edward Octavius Flagg (1824-1911), and JW's cousin, Eliza McNeill. In this letter they appear as acquaintances. Letter also dated with reference to Whittaker's Almanac.

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

3.  Pomfret
AMW was recorded in the census of Pomfret, CT, 1850, living with two boys, a servant and a grandmother; see AMW to JW, 9 April 1850, #06394.

4.  Margaret Getfield Hill
Margaret Getfield Hill (1802-1881), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY [more].

5.  Scarsdale
In June 1852 AMW moved to Scarsdale, NY.

6.  my boys
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more]. and James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more].

7.  Doct P & Donie
Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), physician, AMW's brother-in-law [more], and his son Donald McNeill Palmer (b. 1845).

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

9.  Ingersoll
Colin Macrae Ingersoll (1819-1903), secretary of the American Legation at St Petersburg [more];.

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

11.  his brother
Colin Ingersoll had three brothers: William A. (b. 1825), Charles Robert, (b. 1822) and Ralph Apothea (b. 1817).

12.  patient
Probably Julia Catherine Rodewald (1825-1897), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of A. Rodewald, Sr [more].

13.  kind doctors
Probably Lewis Williams (b. 1815), physician, of Pomfret, CT [more].

14.  Mrs Williams
Probably Mrs C. Williams (b. 1820), wife of Dr Williams, of Pomfret, CT.

15.  Doct Vintons
Francis Vinton (1809-1872), clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church [more].

16.  Ellen Bowers
Ellen Augusta Bowers (1834-1890), daughter of Captain P. Bowers, Sr [more].

17.  Mrs Wilkinson
Mrs Wilkinson, neighbour of AMW at Pomfret, CT.

18.  R I
Rhode Island.

19.  Annie
Probably Anna Whistler Palmer (b. 1848), AMW's niece, later wife of G. Stanton.

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

21.  Maria
Maria Matilda McNeill (d. January 1852), née Camman, wife of AMW's brother, W. G. McNeill [more].

22.  grave
GWW's grave in the Evergreen Cemetery at Stonington, CT; GWW's monument still stands there.

23.  Emma
Emma Woodbridge Palmer (1835-1912), JW's step-cousin [more].

24.  Phelps domain

25.  Mrs Edwards
Mrs Edwards, unidentified.

26.  Alice
Probably Alice (1845), built in Brooklyn, New York (326 tons.); see William M. Lytle and Forrest R. Holdcamper, revised and edited by C. Bradford Mitchell, with the assistance of Kenneth R. Hall, Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States, 1790-1868, Baltimore, 1975, p. 6.

27.  Cath
Probably Catherine Julia Cammann, a relation of Dr G. P. Cammann [more].

28.  Mr Flagg
Probably Rev. Edward Octavius Flagg (1824-1911), husband of JW's cousin Eliza McNeill [more].

29.  Brewers
Harriet Tyler Brewer (b. 1790), and her husband Lyman Brewer (b. 1777), banker.

30.  Willey party

31.  Alfred Brewer
Rev. Alfred Lee Brewer (1831-1899), Curate at the Church of Epiphany in New York (1856-57), founder and Rector of St Mathews School, San Mateo (1864-1899).

32.  Mr Willey
J. M. Willey (b. 1820), clergyman.

33.  Mr Vail
Vail, preacher at the local church at Pomfret, CT.

34.  Tom Vail
Thomas Vail (b. 1837), fellow student of JW at Pomfret, CT. At this stage Thomas was living with and studying under Rev. Roswell Park; see Windham Co, CT, Film no M432, Roll 51, Pomfret census 1850, National Archives, Washington, DC, p. 382.

35.  Mr Park
Rev. Roswell Park (1807-1869), minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Principal of Christ Church School [more].

36.  West Point
JW attended the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York between 1 July 1851 and 16 June 1854; see AMW to JW, 10 June 1851, #06396.

37.  talents to architecture
It is apparent in this letter that AMW wanted JW to study architecture. However JW entered West Point in 1851, following his father's footsteps.

38.  dear Sisters
Sarah Stewart Hill (1800-1864), Jane O'Neill Hill (1793-1882), and Elizabeth Carmer Hill (1796-1834); sisters of Margaret G. Hill.

39.  Preston
Eliza Isabella Winstanley (1788-1857), née McNeill, JW's aunt, AMW's half-sister [more] lived in Preston, Lancashire.

40.  London
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more], was married to Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], with London as their residence.

41.  Mary
Mary Isabella Rodewald (1823-1867), née McNeill, JW's cousin, married Johann Frederick Rodewald (b. 1808).

42.  neice
Probably Julia (Catherine) Rodewald, née McNeill, JW's cousin, who married Adolphe Rodewald and stayed with AMW in Pomfret for a short period.

43.  Mrs Searles
Mrs Searles, AMW's neighbour at Pomfret, CT.

44.  Capt Bowers
Captain Perry Bowers, Sr (1794-1870), of Pomfret, CT [more].

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

46.  Scriptural instruction for the lowest & the least
Probably American Sunday School Union, The Day Spring: or, Simple Bible Instruction for the Least and Lowest, Philadelphia, 1853. A book intended initially for the instruction of deaf and dumb children using the simplest form of language. Still the authors thought it might possibly be made useful among children in general. Hence it reached a wider circulation to the one intended.

47.  The Earls daughter
Elizabeth M. Sewell, The Earl's Daughter, New York, 1850; a religious novel. In the book the daughter of the Earl of Rutherford sins, but confesses to God and gets his forgiveness. The book ends in the following way: 'like the last Earl of Rutherford, they [people] may one day rest in the sure and certain hope of those who sleep in Jesus.'

48.  you
'you ... Whistler' continues in the left margin of p. 1.