The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06354
Date: 10 February 1878
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Hastings
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W350
Document Type: ALS

1844. July 10th

To my Mother

They tell us of an Indian tree,
Which, howsoe'er the sun and sky
May tempt its boughs to wander free
And shoot and blossom, wide and high,

Far better loves to bend its arms
Downward again to that dear earth
From which the life, that fills and warms
Its grateful being, first had birth.

[p. 2] 'Tis thus, though woo'd by flattering friends
And fed with fame (if fame it be)
This heart, my own dear mother, bends,
With love's true instinct, back to thee.


Received at breakfast on the morning of my darling James[2] tenth birth day by his fond Mother

Peterhoff road[3]. 1844

[p. 3] Hastings

Sunday PM
Feb 10th 1878

So may it be my own precious Jamie! although during the 34 years since you copied the verses, you have as often let flatterers & the love of Fame usurp my place in your affections, this is a favorable time now for the connecting link to be cemented & let it never again be severed! for my term is short & yours uncertain.

I found this record[4] of your childhood's grace & filial love yesterday & shed fond tears over it, as in truth mine were flowing in the retrospect since my earliest correspondence with your Father[5] & loving notes from my Brother[6] when he was a solitary invalid in Edith Grove Brompton & wrote me in his sleepless nights, calling me his "first-love" & observing the family warmth of affection, in our kindred!

Oh it was a dangerous indulgence of regretful grief! & I to myself cried. My heart is broken! But oh the dread of any love, coming between me & my Savior, hastened my seeking comfort in fervent earnest prayer for restoration to that communion thro the Holy Spirit which unites the few of us left on earth with those gone before to the Home Above! Prepare for it!

We[7] can never be separated in Heaven

This document is protected by copyright.


James[8] first letter to his mother


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

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

3.  Peterhoff road
Peterhof was the royal suburb of St Petersburg where the country residence of Peter the Great was situated. This dates from the time the Whistlers were in Russia.

4.  record
See AMW's original reply to JW's poem, 11 July 1844, #06355.

5.  Father
George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more].

6.  Brother
William Gibbs McNeill (1800-1853), railway engineer, AMW's brother [more]. W. G. McNeill was struck by illness when he was on a working trip to England. He had then stayed in Edith Grove, Brompton Road, London; see AMW to W. McN. Whistler, 27 February 1853, #06425.

7.  We
'We ... Heaven' continues in the right margin of p. 3.

8.  James
'James ... mother' written in another hand.