The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Palmer, Emma Woodbridge
Record 3 of 15

System Number: 09558
Date: 13 February 1851
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Pomfret
Recipient: Margaret Getfield Hill[2]
Place: [Scarsdale]
Repository: Cornell University Library, Ithaca, New York
Call Number: Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Carl A. Kroch Library, 1629
Document Type: ALS


Feb 13th 1851. Thursday

We have heard of your affliction[3] my beloved friends thro a few lines from Eliza MacNeill[4], my dear Mother[5] & self sympathise with you all, I especially for the lone widow & fatherless[6]. let us hear how it is with them & with you all dear Margaret as soon as you are able to write us. How many our heavenly Father is taking home from our circle this season. I trembled lest I must resign my darling Willie[7] to death (the angel messenger to believers in the Lord) when after he had suffered ten days from erysipelas[8] a typhoid fever appeared to be prostrating him, but God turned my prayers into thanksgivings & my invalid came down to the parlor for a few hours yesterday - the first time in nearly four weeks & is sitting writing beside me now to his sister[9]. Jemie[10] has had a sore throat ever since his return journey from Washington where he caught cold, & has complained of pain in the chest latterly that he must submit to blistering & calomel[11], but I do not apprehend one of his severe attacks, My dear Mothers health has been better this winter, I feel the effects of anxiety & fatigue at last breaking down my strong constitution, but I find mentally "as my day so is my strength[12]" by casting my care on the Lord. How touching the picture Fredich Rodewald[13] sent from sea of Marys[14] confinement & christian resignation to the burial of her beautiful babe[15] in the Deep [p. 2] what a comforter she has in such a husband he seemed so thankful at Julia[16] being with them. I expect Eliza to spend next month here, & that my mother may go to Kate[17] then - the last report was of Scarlet fever at "the Corner house[18]" from Emma to Annie, but Julies[19] symptoms, were most alarming.

Kate has sympathised so deeply with Capt Alex Palmer in his loss of his wife[20] - in her last confinement five days ill only, but Priscilla said it "was not hard to die" & her only wish was to linger till the sabbath to enter upon an eternal one, which was granted. I wish you could read Kates beautiful description of the mother & wife taking care of fond husbands & those little ones, it is so tender & so comforting it does the heart good. Love to all you love dear Meg[.] You all know - in your joys & sorrows you have a sincere sympathiser in your widowed friend

Anna M Whistler

It would be a benefit to me I know to spend a week with you all at Scarsdale but duty binds me to my post here God bless you. He does & he does not leave your comforters[21].

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

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

3.  your affliction
William Stewart Hill (1804-1851), brother of M. G. Hill [more]; he died on 29 January 1851.

4.  Eliza MacNeill
Probably Eliza Flagg (1830-1855), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of Rev. E. O. Flagg [more].

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

6.  lone widow & fatherless
Jane Hill (1802-1872), née Clarkson, wife of Wi. S. Hill of Scarsdale and her children Jane Clarkson Hill (1837-1907), Alethea Blanchard Hill (1838-1908), Mary Clarkson Hill (1840-1913), and William Hill (1842-1869).

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

8.  erysipelas
Erysipelas, an acute contagious disease, characterized by a special inflammation of the skin caused by a streptococcus.

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

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

11.  calomel
Calomel is a chloride of mercury which is therapeutically useless, but in the intestine it breaks down into highly poisonous components, which irritate and purge. Late in the eighteenth century, calomel gained great popularity when Benjamin Rush mixed large doses of calomel with another powerful purgative in treating patients during the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic. By the early nineteenth century calomel was the 'standing cathartic' both in the minds of physicians and patients. The drug became a panacea for all ills. One physician reminisced that in the early decades of the century, when a practitioner was puzzled about the administration of any medicine in a disease, it was deemed perfectly proper for him to prescribe a dose of calomel; which he did conscientiously, with well satisfied assurance, that if he did not give the exact medicine adapted to the case, he could not be far wrong! See William G. Rothstein, American Physicians in the Nineteenth Century, Baltimore and London, 1972, p. 50. Not surprisingly AMW adopted a similar attitude to that of the above physician. In this letter she remarks on JW taking Calomel. On 10 June 1851 AMW will take calomel herself for a different pain. See AMW to JW, 10 June 1851, #06396.

12.  as my day so is my strength
'As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.' Jos. 14.11.

13.  Fredich Rodewalde
Johann Frederick Rodewald (1808-1886), banker, husband of Mary Isabella McNeill [more].

14.  Marys
Mary Isabella Rodewald (1823-1867), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of J. F. Rodewald [more].

15.  her beautiful babe
Mary Isabella McNeill and Frederick Johann married on 2 April 1850, so the baby could not have been more than 1 month old. AMW had lost a baby too at sea, Charles Donald Whistler (1841-1843), who died on board the steamer taking AMW and her children from Lubeck to St Petersburg. See AMW's 'St Petersburg Diary,' 1843-1848, James McNeill Whistler Papers, New York Public Library; Elizabeth Mumford, Whistler's Mother, The Life of Anna McNeill Whistler, Boston, 1939, pp. 68-69.

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

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

18.  the Corner house
The house owned by Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), physician, AMW's brother-in-law [more], built in 1787, situated in the corner of Main and Wall Streets at Stonington, CT.

19.  Emma to Annie, but Julies
Emma Woodbridge Palmer (1835-1912), daughter of Dr. G. E. Palmer by his first wife and Anna Whistler Palmer (b. 1848), later wife of G. Stanton, and Julia McNeill Boardman, née Palmer, daughters of Dr. G. E. Palmer and C. J. Palmer.

20.  Capt Alex Palmer in his loss of his wife
Alexander Smith Palmer (1806-1894), sea captain [more], and his wife Priscilla Palmer (1815-1851), née Denison Dixon.

21.  comforters
Continues in the right margin.