The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Whistler, Julia de Kay
Record 12 of 44

System Number: 06450
Date: 15 January 1855[1]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: Baltimore
Recipient: JW
Place: Washington
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W445
Document Type: ALS

176 Preston St Bolton Terrace [3]

Monday PM Jan 15th 1855

My own dear Jemie

I know my loss of dear Donalds[4] companionship will be your advantage, make him your confidant he is so lenient & so experienced & so fond of you. he has taken four of your shirts in his trunk & as a carriage must convey it (on this his start for a Washington winter - to the depot, I tack on your little white valise, but we must not impose on his courtesy. advise with him if you had not best send the black valise filled with your soiled clothes, per Express, and be sure to have it secured by a full direction to this house. You had better hand the key (enveloped in a few lines I beg - to Donald to hand me next Saturday when he promises to cheer Ginnie[5]. I have borrowed a couple of Willies[6] collars for his brother in the visiting ci[...][7] but he will be having sooner than you a supply from [...] wash. he is well & improving, a letter now & then from you [woul]d enliven him & comfort me. he took up Geometry today. do urge him on to revive his studies [in] this to him leisure season. your influence would have weight. As Donald has contributed a box of candles, I send you a few of my store, "waste not want not[8]" is very applicable to our circumstances. I made some lemon paties [sic] for some friends of Ginnies who were to have spent the day. you profit by their not coming. I hope you showed your rolls & have them put in the oven or in front of the kitchen fire by your attentive little waiting girl. Mary[9] thinks a piece of gingerbread[10] may be wholesome when you return half starved to your miserable lodgings. I trust to Donald helping you to find an apartment further off from the idle genius whose family[11] jousted you out. But I am glad you are too truly a Spartan youth to feel annoyed by it. My room is so dark always I have to write on my knee to get in a line with the window. [p. 2] Donald will tell you of George & Julia[12]. I must not forget to beg you to try the drawers before I narrow the legs. I altered the waist & will cheerfully any other part when you wear them once more. I have bought a yd [i.e. yard] of linen[13] to make you some more false wrist bands & will also collars if you will send me a pattern by Donald. How much more care for your body have I evinced than for your soul, but my anxieties about you dearest are all for spiritual welfare[14]. let me persuade you to attend church regularly, as Willie does all day Sunday, this makes me thankful, to hear of your doing so, doubly.

Ever your devoted & fond Mother,


Mr James Whistler U. S. Coast Survey Office[15] Washington City D. M Fairfax Esq.

This document is protected by copyright.


1.  15 January 1855
This the third letter from AMW to JW written during January 1855 (#06448, #06449). It is clear from her next surviving letter, dated 1 February 1855, #06451, that JW did not reply.

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

3.  176 Preston St Bolton Terrace
The house which AMW shared with Donald McNeill Fairfax (see below), and his first wife Virginia Carry ('Ginnie') Fairfax, née Rayland; see AMW to JW, 26 and 27 November 1854, #06446.

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

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

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

7.  ci[...]
Illegible; there is a hole in the letter where it was orginally sealed.

8.  waste not want not
'Waste not, want not. The less we waste, the less we lack in the future,' English proverb, 18th century.

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

10.  Gingerbread
For AMW's gingerbread recipes see MacDonald, Margaret F., Whistler's Mother's Cook Book, London, 1979, pp. 110-12; also see AMW to JW, 8 January 1855, #06449.

11.  family
Unidentified. Neither AMW nor the family concerned approved of JW and his friends (see Connoisseurs in a Studio, M. 186).

12.  George & Julia
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more], and his wife Julia de Kay Whistler (1825-1875), née Winans, JW's sister-in-law [more].

13.  linen
See AMW to JW, 7 December 1854, #06447.

14.  welfare
'welfare ... me' written in right margin; 'persuade ... makes' continues in right margin on p. 1; 'me ... AMW' written in left margin of p. 1; 'Mr ... Esq.' written on p. 2.

15.  U. S. Coast Survey Office
JW resigned from the US Coast and Geodetical Survey on 12 February 1855; his pay record and the last recorded entry of hours was 12 February 1855: information from Barbara Hess, The Office of Coast Survey of US, with the help of historians from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce Library. Also see AMW's letter to JW, 1 February 1855, #06451, and Fleming, Gordon, The Young Whistler 1834-66, London, Boston, Sydney, 1978, p. 115.