The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Williams, Seth
Record 3 of 10

System Number: 06476
Date: 23 September 1856
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Stonington
Recipient: JW
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W471
Document Type: ALS


Sept 23rd. 56

Probably dear Jemie you can dispense with written reports after having talked with George[2] of all you care about in your native land. So this is to indulge a Mother's yearnings, an extra to be enclosed for Sisters[3] forwarding. in hers recd this morning dated the 3rd she tells me of one of mine to you having been lost & found again in Seyrs[4] pocketbook! so may-be it has surprised you. day after tomorrow will be a week since I started from the cottage at dutys call, to poor Eliza. The Black Topsy[5] - she has been nearly a year a sufferer & since Febry placed entirely helpless in the very nicest asylum ever supported by any community. I drank a tumbler of milk, more like cream - at the poor invalids desire, each day I went this last week to refresh her with devotional exercises. on friday Cousin Kate[6] & Aunt Kate[7] went with me at the especial invite of Mrs Nelson[8] the matron of the "Poor house[9]" to take tea in her parlor. our dinner having been purposely early & frugal that we might gratify her by partaking hungrily of her varieties of tea cake, custards, stewed fruit & rich cream. The poors farm well managed by Mr Nelson yeilds [sic] abundantly. 9 cows a fine dairy.

Eliza tho stretched on her mattress helpless felt [p. 2] gratified that her ladies were entertained as if by her. surely for her sake the interest the matron extends. you saw Eliza at Bath[10] as Cousin Kates maid of all works, but now tho her heart is ever stirring with pure heavenly desires, she is wasted away to a shadow, I will not send you the painful sketch of gradual decay. it was a mutual comfort to poor Eliza & her "dearest mistress" as she called me, to listen to each others voices. probably we shall not meet again on earth. I wish you could see Cousin Kate & Arthur[11] with their bright tiny Susie[12]. "Papa" she screams & "where is my daughter Susanna" her voice is like a flageolet, her complexion fair & delicate are her proportions, but she is so much in the bracing mountain air she is perfectly healthy & not likely to be spoiled as Cousin Kate never loses sight of her or sound, tho you know how well she superintends her table & larder. We talked of you often Jemie dear. Heber[13] desires me to say to you he hopes to meet you at "the brick Castle[14]" after you & he have acquired wisdom at least far away! he is more interesting than ever, since his severe illness & consequent lameness. he walks with a cane now, he was in the train of R R[15] Cars of Tom O Sullivans[16] party when he was killed a year ago you may have heard it was at the opening of one of the roads at the West. poor Heber [p. 3] was ill at St Louis three months then had to go to Florida for climate to recruit, now he is about to try St Louis as a lumber merchant, he loves the mountain streams of N Hampshire but its breezes are too bracing. I persuaded Aunt Kate to go with me to Bath in dear Willie[17]'s stead. she was charmed by the scenery & we enjoyed Sunday at Father Princes[18] what a perfect model of a home is theirs. Robt[19] only sharing it, Fred[20] on a visit to Bath, to return home & re-enter the Works[21] 1st Oct, While the dear old couple are spared to each other so sympathisingly! they will be cheerful for each others sake. I had enquired of Johnie Prince[22] at Bath how his grandfather was. Oh he is droll as ever! good morning lords & peacocks[23] often his good morning to us. So Jemie dear he entered into your sketches of a students life in "The Latin Quarter" as if one of your jovial fellows, he declared it was better than any novel as he wiped the moisture from his eyes. Dyneley tho looking handsome & well, is not equal to attend to his business, so Father Prince & Robt do for him, they are neither of them in the Works now tho they have the home the Camp[24] built for them. Aunt Mary[25] said she had often wished to write you. I encouraged her to do so & I'd forward a thin sheet. Stonington is very calm now after the summer's excitements. I must not ask questions of you for they scarce will be answered, but I wonder if you have stumbled upon the Williams[26]! I cant write you a sketch of his rudeness at me for I never have personal intercourse with him, but I hope you may never seek him tho he & Bessie & Georgie B[27] are from Stonington

[p. 4] A sad warning of the evil effects of smoking I could tell you, but I forbear[,] you know my Son how I have tried to impress my boys to avoid every leading to vice or debauch. My daily prayer is that you may "keep to innocency[28]"

I hope to hear from dear Willie (at Hartford[)] when I return to the cottage by tomorrows boat. Aunt Kate greatly enjoys your old letters[29] to me. I have no news from Jemie for my friends. All unite in love to you. Will you offer mine to Madme Bergeron[30] & say how pleased I am at her invitation to you. I hope to hear of your proffitting [sic] by it. it is so good to be in the country, its clear firmament & atmosphere & natural beauties with time & quiet for meditation so salutary. Tomorrow is the wedding day of Henry Whitehouse[31], so the cards tell us, but I shall only go to Cousin Isabellas[32] & to Gdma Cs. Now receive my blessing. I am amended in health & equal to answering any of your questions.

devoted widowed Mother.

Sis forward to Jemie without delay.

This document is protected by copyright.


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

2.  George
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more].

3.  Sisters
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more]; her letter does not survive.

4.  Seyrs
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

5.  Eliza. The Black Topsy
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. 'Topsy' was an orphan slave girl in Mrs H. E. Beecher Stowe's famous anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, published in the National Era in 1851-52 and in book form in 1852.

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

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

8.  Mrs Nelson
Mrs Nelson, matron of a hospice in Stonington, CT.

9.  Poor house
Its original name was 'Town Farm,' an asylum for the poor on Wheeler Road, Stonington, CT. Information from Mary Thatcher, Stonington Historical Society, Stonington, CT.

10.  Bath
This was Bath, NH, where JW as a child had visited the Livermores.

11.  Arthur
Arthur Livermore (b. 1811), lawyer [more].

12.  Susie
Susannah ('Susie') Plumridge Livermore (b. 1855), daughter of K. and A. Livermore, later wife of E. Sutton.

13.  Heber
Heber, probably a relation of J. D. Prince.

14.  the brick Castle
Probably the Smithsonian Institution, nick-named 'The Castle,' for its red brick, parapets, and high-flying flags; it was designed in 1849 by James Renwick, Jr and completed in 1855.

15.  R R
i.e. Railroad.

16.  Tom O Sullivans
Thomas O'Sullivan (d. 1855), engineer. AMW refers to the Pacific Railroad train disaster. Hundreds of citizens of St Louis prepared for the excursion marking the opening of the Pacific Railroad from St Louis to Jefferson City, Missouri on 1 November 1855. In addition to the people killed, about 100 were injured when the Gasconade Bridge trestle collapsed as the 15 wooden railway cars reached the first pier. Nine of the cars sank at the edge of the Gasconade River and dragged three other cars off the track. Washington King, mayor of St Louis, was among those injured. The president of the St Louis city council and O'Sullivan, the chief engineer were killed. The Pacific Railroad was founded to build the first rail line west of the Mississippi River. In 1872 the line was reorganized as the Missouri Pacific Railway; see Pacific Railroad, report of the committee appointed by the directors of the Pacific railroad to investigate the cause of the accident at Gasconade bridge, St Louis, 1855; Robert B. Shaw, A History of Railroad Accidents, Safety Precautions and Operating Practices, New York, 1978, pp. 51-52.

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

18.  Father Princes
John Dyneley ('Father Prince') Prince, engraver and printer [more].

19.  Robt
Robert Prince, relation of friends of the Whistlers in St Petersburg.

20.  Fred
Frederick ('Fred') Prince, relation of friends of the Whistlers in St Petersburg.

21.  Works
Probaby the Winans Locomotive Works in Baltimore owned by Ross Winans (1796-1877), locomotive manufacturer, father of JW's sister-in-law [more]; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 3 April 1854, #06438.

22.  Johnie Prince
John ('Johnie') Dyneley Prince, Jr, son of the engraver.

23.  lords & peacocks
Phrase traced back to George III (1738-1820), King of England, famous for addressing an assembly as 'My lords and peacocks;' see Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, revised edition by Ivor H. Evans, London, 1981, p. 842.

24.  Camp

25.  Aunt Mary
Probably Mary Prince, wife of J. D. Prince.

26.  Williams
Probably Captain Seth Williams (b. 1841?), of Stonington, CT, an early patron of JW [more]. JW could not afford to take his mother's advice. Williams commissioned a portrait of himself (YMSM 10) and several copies of paintings in the Louvre, including a Copy after Schnetz's 'Les Adieux du consul Boëtus à sa famille' (YMSM 13);see also Copy after Ziegler's 'La Vision de St Luc' (YMSM 15), Copy after a Picture of an Inundation (YMSM 16), Copy after a Snow Scene (YMSM 17)).

27.  Bessie & Georgie B
Bessie Williams (1833-1902), of Stonington, CT, and Georgia Palmer Babcock (1837-1910), daughter of Courtlandt Babcock. She went on a grand tour of Europe in 1855-56 with her friend Bessie Williams and her father Charles Phelps Williams (1804-1879). She became Williams' second wife in 1861 after the death of his first wife, and had two children with him.

28.  keep to innocency
See AMW to James H. Gamble, 27 May 1856, #06473.

29.  letters
JW's letters to his mother were exceedingly rare. The previous recorded letter was on 10 October 1855 (#06466).

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

31.  Henry Whitehouse
James Henry Whitehouse (1833-1924), banker. He was married on 25 September 1856 to Mary Schenck, daughter of Elizabeth and John Schenck. See Alvak P. French, The History of Westchester County, New York, 1925, vol. 4, pp. 17-18.

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