The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: King, Ralph
Record 2 of 41

System Number: 06477
Date: 15 December 1856
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Scarsdale
Recipient: JW
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W472
Document Type: ALS


Monday evening, Dec 15th, 56.

Really my own Jemie

the preoccupied state this may find you in makes your Mother fear it may be less eagerly read than she would welcome one of your letters[2], but at the close of the year her yearning is not to be over ruled by prudence. At a leisure hour then extract the love which prompts these lines. you are so bouyant [sic] dear youth I must not associate dull care with a Mothers greeting. You are often alluded to at the Cottage, always with a smile mentioned by Miss S & M.[3] you having promoted their ready wit and cheerfulness. As I read a few lines from Sis[4] one evening last week referring to a letter[5] she had recently recd from Jemie, I said "if he does not soon send me a report of his doings I must e'en as the widow to her hour glass read over his one letter in a year to me. "Come friend I'll turn thee up again[6]". Mrs Barnes[7] wrote me on her return from Europe last month of the much she would have to say to me of Jemie! she had seen him several times! he was matured & improved! Of course I am grateful that tho you are a delinquent in filial interest, you are not an enemy to yourself, for Oh how much more tenderly I feel for your welfare than for my own selfish gratification, tho the deprivation of affectionate communication between us is keenly felt. I have no worldly ambitions you know dear Jemie, it will not compensate me, even if you win fame & wealth. May the preserving grace I daily ask for you keep you in innocency! Tho an active routine is mine every morning, that by frugality I may provide for hospitality and maintain the respectable caste, bequeathed me. I have solitary musings while resting on the old sofa in the library, sewing, & memory is very faithful. again Jemie is presented, our readings to amuse his convalescence at Dom Ritter[8], or his sketching at the Isle of Wight[9] on the Camp stool, or he is my protector journeying in our native land! or yielding to his mothers reasonings his wild schemes, kissing her hand fondly & dutifully! [p. 2] the last month we were together! You Jemie dearest if you had set aside my comfort while you were under the roof with me, as you have done during our years separation, how bitter my memories now! I recd a response from Jacks[10] to mine of the 3rd of Nov early this month. so creditable to his heart I sent it to Willie[11] to read. and now I am arranging my claims to devote myself to Willie during his holidays, he wrote me to expect him by tea time day after tomorrow. I have succeeded in some apple & mince pies[12] today, as part of my economy for frugal meat dinners, not to feast upon yet not to fast upon. Mrs Popham[13] generously supplies the Cottage with apples, that would decay if uncooked, tho some of the finest I select & take especial care of for Willie's enjoyment, these are secondary, only proofs of affections fore thought. Mary B[14] wrote her brother James[15] yesterday - alas she does not profit as I do by our Church being so close by that even a rainy Sunday I am not debarred the benefit - that he may hope for her spending the winter in Springfield. this argues that I am to go South, for she would not desert me - our frost has not yet set in, we had one snow, & ice firm enough for skating here, but the old Indian token the springs not being filled, rain has repeatedly been sent lately & by the New Year the icy look may be [fastened?]. I feel so well whenever the frost yields, that altho I would not run away from "the crinkling snow" merely to save myself discomforts, the benefit to my health will be undoubted, if the path of duty for me this season be at the South. My Mothers Cousin in S. C. & my own in Georgia[16] write urging me. Poor Elizas[17] hope that I might visit Florida & be a missionary (as her dear old Mistress[18] was while we were in Russia) makes my desire great to be my brothers[19] helper in the work of Christianizing his people & if after all mine & Willies ac/ are ballanced [sic] at N Y, I find enough left for my travelling expenses. & if I hear of some friend, who is to visit her native South, I shall see the smiling Providence, as I did when I went to Sharon Springs[20], so peculiarly favored was I, by hands stretched out all the way & hearts even of strangers to help me. Involuntarily at the close of the year, I express to you my grateful sense of the watchful care of our heavenly father, His dependant, lonely ones trust in Him! [p. 3] What a dream this world appears to me! how blind I have been not to see the pilgrimage by the light of eternity. Jemie dear do you ever think of Willy & Eliza McNeill [21] those loving & beloved companions of yours? where are they gone? Eternity how solemn do not banish this thought, when Willy was so suddenly taken how much more you were on the brink of the grave! Oh if you would but read your bible & meditate upon the truth & walk in the path of Gods commandments, should we never in this world meet, we should have the hopes of embracing in the heavenly home where most of ours are I trust awaiting us. you would then have the blessing requisite to success, to enjoyment improving the talent given, you to cultivate. do not I beseech my own dear first born, put off seeking your imperishable portion, religion is not gloomy. I find when I have sought God most, I am most cheered. I have had one report from Cousin Isabella[22] in Savannah, her health is brightening tho slowly by change of climate. Ida[23] will be all the more blooming after recovering from her sea sickness, & the sadness her mothers[24] alarming attack on the lungs caused her in Brooklyn. Cousin Ralph[25] is well, he has rented the house furnished & occupies a room & a seat at the table & fire side. Grandma C[26] & Aunty, Nurse & Sarah[27] are well & no doubt preparing for Xmas, when Jacks is expected. Julia R[28] & and family are to spend the holidays there, no doubt to make less the vacancy death of Eliza & little McNeill[29] has so deeply impressed. Mr Flagg[30] is travelling in England for health. I suppose tho you have talked with Ch Camman[31] & have been introduced to the bride of Henry Whitehouse[32]. I hope when sister[33] sees them she will explain to them why they ought not to visit Preston, even to call at the once hospitable old home would distress.

Sometimes young Will is at Scarsdale, the Proff[34] became lame from rheumatism last winter, went to Sharon for his cure in Summer, but probably could not stay long enough. I never hear from any one at West Point now. I wonder Aunt Hamilton[35] has not fulfilled her promise of visiting me. I went to see her in 14th Street twice. Cousin Abby[36] has a lovely little sister for her pretty Clara[37] now, it looks so like my babies I dare say the grandmama finds it difficult to leave it. I have not seen Hamie[38] since he left you. both he & Hal[39] are in the business of their father in the Dept Mr Barrows[40] presides over. Mr B never wearies of offers to me to serve me & I often avail of them for he is sincere. he is very highly appreciated by the Jaffreys [p. 4] Our friend Gamble[41] continues his friendly letters. & begs to be remembered to Jemie. he is in business in NY. his mother & sister[42] reside with him on Staten Island. they invite me with Willie to spend the holidays at their house. of course it must be deferred till Summer. A delightful letter came to me last week from Alfred Brewer[43], now Revd. he will come to see me when he can, he is in the Church of Epiphany NY. he surprised me by mentioning Mary Park[44] at school in Brooklyn. I have written inviting her to spend Xmas at the Cottage, rather would I be inconvenienced than to omit kindness to the daughter of my deceased friend[45], but I may be too late in inviting the dear girl. your friend Bob P[46] staid [sic] at Scarsdale today to join the party of young ladies & school boys with our Pastor[47] in gathering greens in the woods to [dress?] the church, next week no doubt the evening circles will be at the Pastors school house to make wreaths &c I am excused from joining in these Parish festivities - We all feel grateful for such mild weather & bright skies during shortening days. whenever a frosty change comes I feel every thing an exertion tho I am stronger than for some years past. writing or using my right hand a few hours, excites pain all thro that side.

And now how I envy my scrawl & how I hope for a New Year to send one from my Jemie. My best wishes to Mrs Bergeron[48].

Your[49] fond Mother blesses you do you forget her?

For James from


This document is protected by copyright.


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

2.  letters
JW's replies, if any, to his mother's previous letter of 23 September 1856 or subsequent letter, of 29 January 1857, have not survived (see #06476, and #06480).

3.  Miss S & M.
Margaret Getfield Hill (1802-1881), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY [more], and her sister Sarah Stewart Hill (1800-1864); they owned the cottage in Scarsdale where AMW lived intermittently at Scarsdale, NY between ca September 1851 and November 1857.

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

5.  letter
Not located. The first extant letter from JW to his sister is dated October 1858 (#01912).

6.  Come friend I'll turn thee up again
Perhaps a reference to Isaiah 37.29: 'Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.'

7.  Mrs Barnes
Charlotte A. Barnes (b. 1811), née Sanford, wife of James Barnes [more].

8.  Dom Ritter
AMW's residence in St Petersburg, Russia. JW's last illness in St Petersburg was pneumonia, and occurred in the Spring of 1848. As a result JW moved to Portishead, England, in the summer of the same year; see AMW to GWW, 8 June 1848, #06358, and AMW to JW, 9 September 1848, #06359.

9.  Isle of Wight
In July 1848 AMW took her two sons to stay in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, England. JW sent a sketch to his father, The Isle of Wight (M.20); see AMW's 'St Petersburg Diary,' 1843-1848, James McNeill Whistler Papers, New York Public Library, and G. W. Whistler's letter to JW, 8 August 1848, #06662.

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

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

12.  apple & mince pies
Meat, rather than sweet, was used in these pies. Her recipe is given in Margaret F. MacDonald, Whistler's Mother's Cook Book, London, 1979, pp. 86-87.

13.  Mrs Popham
Jane O'Neill Hill (1793-1882), sister of M. G. Hill, second wife of W. S. Popham [more].

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

15.  James
James Brennan, brother of AMW's servant, Mary Brennan.

16.  Mothers Cousin in S. C. & my own in Georgia
Probably Anna Johnstone (1787-1870), cousin of Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, mother of AMW [more], and Mary Corbett (b. 1804), cousin of AMW; see AMW to Margaret G. Hill, July/October 1867, #08180.

17.  Elizas
Eliza (d. 1856), a servant of Kate Livermore [more]; see AMW to JW 27 August 1851, #06399, and AMW to JW, 16 September 1851, #06400.

18.  Mistress
Kate ('Cousin Kate') Livermore (1820-1907), née Prince, wife of A. Livermore [more].

19.  brothers
Charles Johnson McNeill (1802-1869), brother of AMW [more]. C. D. McNeill lived at Reddie Point, on the St John's River, Florida.

20.  Sharon Springs
AMW spent some time in July at Sharon Springs, NY, internationally renowned resort and health spa. See AMW to JW, 11 July 1856, #06474.

21.  Willy & Eliza McNeill
William Wyatt McNeill (1833-1853), JW's cousin [more], and his sister Eliza Flagg (1830-1855), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of Rev. E. O. Flagg [more].

22.  Cousin Isabella
Isabella King (1805-1857), née Gibbs, cousin of AMW [more].

23.  Ida
Ida Bayard Whistler, née King (d. 1863), JW's sister-in-law [more].

24.  mothers
Isabella King (1805-1857), née Gibbs, cousin of AMW [more].

25.  Cousin Ralph
Ralph King (1801-1878), broker, father-in-law of W. McN. Whistler [more].

26.  Grandma C
Maria Margaretta Cammann ('Grandma C') (1774-1862), mother-in-law of William Gibbs McNeill [more].

27.  Sarah
Sarah Cammann, a relation of Dr G. P. Cammann.

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

29.  Eliza & little McNeil
Eliza Flagg (1830-1855), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of Rev. E. O. Flagg [more], and her son William McNeill Flagg (b. 1852).

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

31.  Ch Camman
Probably Charles ('Charlie') Cammann, JW's uncle.

32.  Henry Whitehouse
James Henry Whitehouse (1833-1924), banker [more]. His bride has not been identified; see AMW to JW, 23 September 1856, #06476.

33.  sister
Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill (1786-1863), JW's aunt [more].

34.  Will is at Scarsdale, the Proff
William Chambers Bartlett (1839-1908), soldier, and his father Professor William Holmes Chambers Bartlett (1804-1893), mathematician [more].

35.  Aunt Hamilton
Catherine Hamilton ('Aunt Hamilton') (1788-1874), née Whistler, JW's aunt [more].

36.  Cousin Abby
Abbie Snelling Jaffray (1817-1871), née Hamilton, wife of R. W. Jaffray [more].

37.  Clara
Clara Jaffray (1847-1898), daughter of A. S. and R. W. Jaffray [more].

38.  Hamie
John Hamilton ('Hami' or 'Hammy') Jaffray (1837-1900), son of A. S. and R. W. Jaffray [more]. He travelled to Europe with JW; see JW to AMW, 10 October 1855, #06466.

39.  Hal
Henry ('Hal') Somerville Jaffray (1839-1922), son of A. S. and R. W. Jaffray [more].

40.  Barrows
John W. Barrow, a merchant of New York

41.  Gamble
James H. Gamble (b. 1820), clerk [more].

42.  his mother & sister
Jane Gamble (1790-1864), mother of J. H. Gamble [more], and her daughter Jane Wann (1822-1875), née Gamble, wife of S. Wann [more].

43.  Alfred Brewer
Rev. Alfred Lee Brewer (1831-1899), Curate at the Church of the Epiphany in New York from 1856-1857 [more]; see AMW to Margaret G. Hill, 20 and 21 September 1850, #07631.

44.  Mary Park
Mary Park (b. 1839), daughter of Rev. R. Park.

45.  deceased friend
Mary Park (1815-1854), née Brewster Baldwin, wife of Rev. R. Park [more].

46.  Bob P
Robert Park, an acquaintance of AMW.

47.  our Pastor
Rev. William Whittinghame Olssen (1827-1911), Rector at Scarsdale, NY [more]; see AMW to Margaret G. Hill, 24 December 1852, #07639, and AMW to James H. Gamble, 28 September and 1 October 1853, #06428.

48.  Mrs Bergeron
Emma Bergeron (d. 1858), née Haden, sister of JW's brother-in-law, F. S. Haden [more].

49.  Your
'Your ... Mother' continues in the left margin.