The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06358
Date: [20-21 June 1848[1]]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: [St Petersburg[3]]
Recipient: George Washington Whistler[4]
Place: [Russia]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W354
Document Type: ALS

Tuesday noon 8/20th June

Our precious Jemie had more sleep last night my own dearest Whistler, than any since his illness & enjoyed a moderate breakfast & a small tea cup of fresh milk & a saucer of hominy[5]. I read a morning portion & we prayed together for the dear absent members ere I left my room at eight o'clock. Mons Biber[6] & I had a tète à téte over our cup of tea, after which he sat with James a half hour previous to his going out, I have ordered him a nice little dinner in case he comes back, but shall take my own of sweet curds & bread & butter beside James to gratify our dear boy while he enjoys his bit of boiled chicken, the doctor promises to come in about eight o'clock this evening so I shall take tea with him in this room & deny myself to other visitors, he has just left us, he happened in when his patient was rather hysterical & has changed his drops for the present, from colchicum[7] to a calming medicine, he has also with his own hands put on a blister, where the pomade was previously applied, because Jemie complained of pain so decidedly at the heart, he gives us great hopes this blister will be much more effectual than the pomade, & expects the drops will charm Jemie into better spirits about himself, for however he may suffer pain, the doctor is sure & so am I that his nervous debility magnifies it. He says there has not been any retrograde motion since his first beginning to convalesce, he finds him each visit a little better. When Jemie first awoke this morning he remarked how much we should miss father & Willie[8], and then said Mother I want you always by me, why can't you take all your meals in my room? You may be sure dearest I shall do everything in my power to make him feel less the sadness your absence causes. My own heart was ready to burst [p. 2] last night, it was a comfort to press my darling Willie once again in a fond embrace when he so unexpectedly return[ed] for a few moments! I know not when I have wept so freely, nature asked the indulgence, & only prayer could calm my distress, I realized that our present separation, tho brief I trust, must be the prelude to a longer! but you know dearest I do not yield selfishly, tho sometimes overcome by the infirmities of my fallen nature, I am entirely submissive to the will of God. Most earnestly do I implore at the throne of grace, that every event whether afflictive or beneficent, may bring each of us nearer to Christ, temporal changes ought not thus to absorb our attention dearest, for they are inevitable to all mortals, but to profit by them should be our anxiety: How faithful is our Lord to us! He doth not willingly afflict or try us, but He knows we are so happy in our home, in each other & in our children, we might forget that this world is not our rest, were He not to ordain us occasional separations, & call upon us to endure sorrow far away from each other, to induce us to seek comfort from the promises of the gospel. Adieu for today dearest, I am well.

Wednesday 21st.

Our darling James has not complained of pain since his blister drew so well! he is in every way better this morning dearest and I hope by monday I shall send word he is walking about, I feel hurried now as it is past ten o'clock, must despatch this without the billet doux to darling Willie my heart had dictated, kiss him and bless him for me. Mons Biber is to leave us this week, no doubt he would have hung on, he really troubled me by coming so much to our room, because you know James should be kept quiet & he seemed to think he must entertain him. I had to get Jemie to explain to him for me that I had no time to lose in preparing for our own departure, & you will be [p. 3] relieved that the task imposed on me so painful! is over & he comprehends the necessity, tho if I had not explained, he would I am sure have remained with you all summer, as he made some observation upon his being out of place for perhaps two or three months now! Think of us, as doing all we can Jemie & I to cheer each other, our servants doing all in their power to make us comfortable. I hope to hear from you dearest & pray God you may be quite well & that darling Willie may not be knocked up by fatigue. The weather has been sour ever since you left, chilly & threatening rain. I am sending Mr Ingersoll[9] a supply of Ginger snaps now, & a pudding ready for the pot for his todays dinner. E Ropes[10] is better. In great haste but always your faithful & fond


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1.  20-21 June 1848
8 June 1848 in the Gregorian Russian calendar, would have been 20 June in the Julian Western calendar. Dated with reference to the Perpetual Calendar Whitaker's Almanac, and N. Dershowitz and E. M. Reingold, Calendrical Calculations, New York, 1997.

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

3.  St Petersburg
AMW was about to leave for England, due to JW's illness; see AMW to George Washington Whistler, 6 August 1847, #06357.

4.  George Washington Whistler
George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more], was probably away surveying the railroad between St Petersburg and Moscow.

5.  hominy
A popular American cereal, coarsely ground maize prepared as a food by boiling in milk or water. It was used frequently by AMW; see AMW to JW, 25 December 1848, #06379, and 9 April 1850, #06394.

6.  Mons Biber
Biber, teacher at Peters School, St Petersburg.

7.  colchicum
A genus of poisonous, liliaceous plants. The roots (corms) of colchicum autumnale, the fall crocus or meadow saffron, yield colchicine, which is used as a biochemical tool and to treat gout.

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

9.  Mr Ingersoll
Ralph Isaacs Ingersoll (1789-1872), lawyer and U. S. Minister to Russia from 1846-1848 [more].

10.  E Ropes
Ellen Ropes, daughter of E. H. and W. H. Ropes.