The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Williams, Seth
Record 8 of 10

System Number: 06495
Date: 23 March 1858
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: [St. Johns River, FA[2]]
Recipient: JW
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: Whistler W490
Document Type: ALS

23 March 1858.

My own precious Jamie,

I rise to meet the dawn you know & at six o'clock was on the piazza to inhale the sof[t]est sea breezes & to feast on your letter[3], doubly welcomed, forwarded in one equally affectionate from Willie[4], he remarked himself & Jacks[5] had taken the first reading of the dear fellows report to me, knowing Mother would not disapprove, of course I am glad they did. Lecture term is over, I suppose Dr Jim[6] will be placing our student of medicine in a drug shop. The severe frosts Feby had introduced were yielding. I shall write to Mrs Harrison [7] as I am indebted to her for a few lines of advice about the exorbitant rents in Phila & explain to Mr H[8] why his letter written just a year ago to you has not been answered. Willie says Mrs Tho. Winans[9] who is uniformly so attentive to me, wants my direction. I expect to find a letter from her in Charleston next week as I wrote her soon after I came here. When I hear of their decisions [I] will write you, I mentioned your illness[10] & that you were under your Doctor brothers care in London. It excused my not having written congratulations upon the triumph of the Machinists[11] over the Russian view of the adjusting[,] the question La Trobe[12] went to St P to settle. It would have been so awkward for me to enter into their satisfaction, the gain of seven millions of dollars to H. W. & Co.[13] is so doubtful of future good. I availed of your illness, during which my agonizing suspence - in contrast to rejoicing of the circle at Alexandroffsky Villa[14]. [p. 2] Oh Jemie how soft your Mothers heart is ever towards you, every tender word you write impresses so gratefully. You know I am disciplined not to wish anything! God so wisely orders all for us, why should our impatience not wait His providences! Could I have hoped for you such a favour as you reaching your sweet Sisters home[15] to recover in! Until you have suffered mentally as I have darling, you cannot comprehend what rejoicing in God means. Naturally it would be a holiday to us all if you could visit us in the Summer, but I would wait your views of it & the opinion of Seyr.[16] and Sis. you know I was helped to travel & for the first time enable[d] to nurse my little income, so that I think I could indulge myself by appropriating for your voyage. What do you think of "sidling across the Atlantic[17]" in the same calm way you sailed to London? I dread the excitement on board a Steamer, unless your sojourn in the Maison de Santé [18] subdued your natural exhuberance[sic]. I fear if the Winans Th.[19] go to Paris you will not wish to come, tho they would not establish themselves there til Winter (when I should hope you would go to Italy for your course there), they will visit the Springs in Germany for his benefit I presume, you know he has threatening of paralysis, & she urges him to go rather to Europe to spend years in gradually establishing health, rather than visiting the Springs in the U. S. he does not yeild [sic] in such important points, unless his judgement does, indulgent as he is to her fancies. The Harrisons have taken possession of the grandest Mansion[20] in Phila. of course it launches them into the fashionable world. Annie[21] has resumed her studies her Mama writes & the marriage is not to be til the Autumn. Henry[22] went to St P after his Xmas at home, no doubt in French a word would describe him. [p. 3] I hope he may not disappoint this fresh effort of his fathers to induce him to become useful to the firm in Russia. I never met with any youth as lacking in refinement of taste, his prospect of fortune must have blighted him. I trust dear little Rossie Winans[23] may escape, he is a most talented child & really so dutiful & correct. I recall Sisters darlings[24] as they were & talk of them as Grandmamas are apt to, but do you not find them the pleasantest little group you meet any where? Sometimes I meditate judging of their improvement in a visit, to occupy your recess for a winter, but I demur for several reasons & one is, while Uncle W[25] lives I could not go thro Lancashire. I do yearn to be with Sis a season again, she is my sympathizer & her claim I feel so tenderly, but I trust she is in good health. Willie writes of how snug it will be for us to have a home in Phila., to furnish half a house & have Mary[26] again to serve us. I have gone no further in plans than writing to Scarsdale we must inevitably break up there, even the perplexity of packing I dismiss from my mind til the end of May. I have not been in Stonington dear Jemie since the Williams[27] return, you know I never was invited to their house & if I should be to see your copies it would be with too patronizing an air for me to avail of. I thought there was merit in your copy for Dick Pr[28] but I like him less than any of his family, he towers rather over his relatives at the Corner house[29]. Anna[30] is really a superior girl. I prophesy if you visit us this Summer, you will be more at Walnut Grove[31], than at the Williams. Our Willie is such a pet there & so you would be. I shall lend your letter to Aunt Kate[32], what a good soul she is! & her Doctor[33] shines more and more in his excellence. Whether Donald & his Jinie[34] are at the Corner house I have not heard, he & all the officers of the Wabash[35] are free from sea service for three years I hear. Aunt K's last letter [p. 4] shewed off Jinie as towering towards her as she had ever been towards me! Mattie[36] & her cousin & Sister are proud alike. I have been sharing the same sleeping apartment with her & her little boy here, adversity has not subdued her, but I think she looks well. I have not told you more of my sojourn here, than its lovely climate having benefitted my health, tho I have become so interested in instructing my three eldest nephews as to extend my visit thro this month. You would be fond of your Uncle Charlie[37], he is so true hearted; his only boast being that his father was an honest man! And so my brothers popularity does not ensnare him, his taste for literature leads him to keeping up with the times & their changes, agriculture is his pursuit & he informs himself of the improvements. This visit which he begs me to repeat every winter & I have no idea I shall again has awakened individual interest in his family. I really must commend the mother[38] of his promising sons for training them so gently & firmly to do right. I have been chaplain as regularly as teacher & trust she will never omit family worship. My Mothers[39] lessons are impressed upon Uncle Charlies wife she was a poor girl & motherless, my mother taught her & now she acquits herself really as a lady. The house[40] is a log house, but neatly kept tho so barely furnished. The shrubbery around its enclosure might be a fortune if Oleanders 20 feet high could be transplanted in Tho Winans grounds. Cape Jasmines & a beautiful variety budding now Mother induced Uncle Charlie to set out. I might go sailing if I did not prefer inhaling the sea breezes on the piazza, looking down upon the St Johns two miles wide. Oysters & fine fresh fish we have occasionally but this is planting season & the small band of field hands are in requisition, Uncle Charlie with them. When he comes in he always appears the gentleman. Love to darling Sis & Seyr. & their jewels. Write again to cheer your fond Mother. You can so easily!


If [41] little Seyr could see the real red birds & hear their rich notes he'd want to sketch them among the orange trees. But sand flies would be a hindrance! Heaven bless you all. Tell Annie I could crown her with orange buds & blossoms if she were here now. Berries are getting ripe also. Peach orchards blushing with promise. But I should not wish to live at the South.

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

2.  St. Johns River E. Florida
AMW was at the estate of her brother, Charles D. McNeill, which was on the St. Johns River, E. Florida.

3.  your letter
Not located. Several letters from this period are missing. Her own previous surviving letter was dated 17 August 1857 (#06487).

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

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

6.  Dr. Jim
James Darrach (1828-1869), physician in Philadelphia [more]. William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more], was studying medicine with him in Philadelphia.

7.  Mrs. Harrison
Sarah Harrison (1817-1906), née Poulterer, wife of Joseph Harrison [more].

8.  Mr. H
Joseph Harrison (1810-1874), jr, partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more].

9.  Mrs. Tho. Winans
Celeste Winans (1823-1861), née Revillon, wife of Thomas De Kay Winans [more].

10.  illness
It is not known what was wrong with JW, although he may have had recurring bouts of rheumatic fever.

11.  triumph of the Machinists
In 1851 Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more], and Joseph Harrison (1810-1874), jr, partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more], of Alexandffrosky Mechanical Works, returned to the USA, leaving William Louis Winans (1823-before 1907) to fulfill remaining contracts, which were not closed up before 1862. In 1856 T. D. K. Winans and his brother W. L. Winans were recalled to Russia to resume the management of the St Petersburg and Moscow Railroad under a new contract for a term of eight years. The new firm included George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more] (see AMW to James H. Gamble, 13 January 1857, #06479). In 1858 they were bought over by the government which reimbursed them for their outlay and paid them a bonus of several million dollars. See the Sun, 11 June 1878, Baltimore, vol. 83, no. 22.).

12.  Latrobe
John Hazlehurst Boneval Latrobe (1803-1891), lawyer, counsel for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad [more]. He was legal counsellor for the Winans brothers in his various railroad projects, and represented the Winans brothers in his court proceedings in Russia.

13.  H. W. and Co.
Harrison, Winans, Eastwick and Company.

14.  Alexandroffsky Villa
The Baltimore villa of Thomas De Kay Winans; see AMW to JW, 15, 16 and 18 September 1848, #06363.

15.  Sisters home
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more]. The Hadens lived at 62 Sloane Street, London.

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

17.  across the Atlantic
AMW probably refers to JW's letter of 10 October 1855, in which he described his trip as a long one, #06466.

18.  Maison de Santé
Fr., private hospital, asylum or sanatorium. JW became ill in Paris, probably with rheumatic fever, in January 1858. His friend, George Aloysius Lucas (1824-1909), art dealer in Paris [more], learned that he was 'in a Maison de Santé Municipale' on 12 January (see Lilian M. Randall, The Diary of George A. Lucas: An American Art Agent in Paris, 1857-1909, Princeton, NJ, 1979, vol. II, p. 73). He spent two months convalescence in London with the Hadens before returning to Paris.

19.  Winans Th.
Thomas De Kay Winans.

20.  grandest Mansion
In 1855 Samuel Sloane (1815-1884), the same architect who built the Alexandroffsky villa for A. M. Eastwick, received a commission from Joseph Harrison to build a mansion on Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia. Sloane built a great stone mansion with a central cube and two wings, with rusticated stonework across the lower floor and linked round arched windows. The house had steam heat, extensive interior plumbing and a complex ventilation scheme; see Roger G. Kennedy, Architecture, Men, Women and Money in America, 1600-1860, New York, 1985, pp. 385-386.

21.  Annie
Annie Harrison (1839-1915), daughter of S. and J. Harrison [more]; she married Lewellyn-Fite Barry (1826-1914) on 14 October 1858.

22.  Henry
William Henry Harrison (b. 1837), son of S. and J. Harrison.

23.  Rossie Winans
Probably Ross Revillon Winans (1851-1912), son of C. and T. De K. Winans [more].

24.  Sisters darlings
She had four children: Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece [more], Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918), and Harry Lee Haden (1855-1877), JW's nephews.

25.  Uncle W.
John Winstanley (1776-1859), solicitor, JW's uncle [more]. When AMW had fallen out with him is not known. It is possible that the recent death of AMW's sister, Eliza Isabella Winstanley (1788-1857), née McNeill, provoked disagreement over inheritance issues.

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

27.  Williams
Probably Captain Seth Williams (b. 1841?), of Stonington, CT, an early patron of JW [more]. AMW fell out with him in 1856; see AMW to JW, 23 September 1856, #06476. He commissioned Portrait of Captain Williams (YMSM 10) and several copies of paintings in the Louvre, including Copy after Mignard's 'La Vierge à la grappe' (YMSM 12), Copy after Schnetz's 'Les Adieux du consul Boëtus à sa famille' (YMSM 13), Copy after Ziegler's 'La Vision de St Luc' (YMSM 15), Copy after a Picture of an Inundation (YMSM 16) and Copy after a Snow Scene (YMSM 17).

28.  copy for Dick Pr
W. Richard ('Dick') Suydam Palmer (1834-1870), son of Courtlandt and Mary Ann Palmer [more]. For the copy see AMW to JW, 13 - 15 July 1857, #06485.

29.  Corner house
24 Main Street, the house owned by Dr George E. Palmer, built in 1789 after a house on the site had burned, situated in the corner of Main and Wall Streets at Stonington, CT.

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

31.  Walnut Grove
Walnut Grove, a large estate north of Stonington Borough, which was built at the same time as the Capt. Nathaniel B. Palmer house, 1851-53, for James Ingersol Day (1812-1895), whose daughter Abby Day is mentioned in another letter. There were 5 daughters and 2 sons in the Day family, as a result Walnut Grove was very much the social venue in the 1850s. As the Days were very well off at the time, one can see why Anna Matilda would have liked her sons to be a part of their world.

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

33.  Doctor
Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), physician, AMW's brother-in-law [more].

34.  Donald and his Jinie
Donald McNeill Fairfax (1821-1894), naval officer, JW's cousin [more], and his wife Virginia Carry ('Ginnie') Fairfax, née Rayland.

35.  Wabash
Screw frigate Wabash (1856-1912), built at Philadelphia Navy Yard for the US Navy (4,808 tons.).

36.  Mattie
Martha ('Matty') Fairfax (b. ca 1820), JW's cousin, later wife of Isaiah Davenport [more], and her son Potter or Joseph Davenport; see AMW to Charles McNeill, 11, 12 and 14 February 1878, #06463.

37.  Uncle Charlie
Charles Johnson McNeill (1802-1869), brother of AMW [more].

38.  mother
Elizabeth McNeill, née Coffee, wife of AMW's brother, C. J. McNeill.

39.  My Mothers
Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, mother of AMW [more].

40.  house
Charles Johnson McNeill inherited land, Beauclerc Bluff, from his uncle Zephaniah Kingsley and lived at Reddie Point, on the St John's River, FL.

41.  If
'If ... South' continues in the left and upper margins of p. 1, cross-written.