The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06364
Date: 22 and 23 September 1848
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: [Steamer City of Aberdeen[2]]
Recipient: JW
Place: [Portishead[3]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W360
Document Type: ALS

Friday Sept 22nd 1848

We passed Revel[4] just after breakfast

I wished to continue my diary to you dear, dear Jemie[5] but had some articles to sew to prepare for trunks being inspected. Oh how Willie[6] and I wished for you at Copenhagen. We did not see our kind friend the doctor, neither Mr Sharon. I cannot guess if the Prince[7] was chagrined at their [sic] being no outward demonstrations of welcome to him, he looked elegant and smiling as usual when he wished us all a prosperous voyage to St P and offered his adieus. the Capt [8] took him ashore in his boat, the Danish flag had been displayed from our steamers mast in compliment to his highness, but no salute was offered from the shore. The Prussian fleet had disappeared and the curious of the town no longer bespangled with the scarlet cross on white banners as when we were there in July, the excitement had died away as all such unnatural bursts of feeling do. A valet de place[9] came back to the steamer in the Capts boat and we adventurers were sent to the town in two barges. I had already agreed to take a carriage with Mr Armitage and his nice lady[10] and I invited Miss Anderson[11] to go under my wing, for she well deserved a holiday I thought for having devoted herself to her baby sister[12]. We drove first to the Frow Kurkin[13] of course, but I wanted your enthusiasm my Jemie, the mausoleum to Thorswalsden[14] had been removed to his museum. There we saw it afterwards, in the centre of the quadrangle which the four sides of the fanciful structure encloses. [p. 2] I have marked with a X some of the sculpture which delighted us most at the museum in a catalogue which I used and shall send it [to] you with your books. The Danes are certainly a liberal people, we went thro this choice museum of their venerated Thorswalden without any expense. and also visited their beautiful and extensive cemetery without the gate keeper even waiting for a reward for his civility. comparisons are odious or one might here draw conclusions to the disadvantage of England. After having driven about for three or four hours we went to a confectioners for hot coffee and cake, had a goodly quantity of the latter put up for the children and ladies on board the steamer to which we returned as we came in company with the gents who met us at the public walk which you will remember looked so pretty from the bay. Mr Armitage had shewn his independence by not taking the valet so our expences each amounted to only about six shillings.

We have had the most remarkably fine weather except yesterday when we were attacked by a north easter, & it blew so hard thro the night I feared we might not see Cronstadt tomorrow, I think Wednesday was one of the brightest days I ever spent at sea. we had all assembled in the saloon at about eight o'clock at prayers as usual, then the hot rolls, toast, cutlets, &c. covered the table, when we were suddenly summoned to the deck by the intelligence that Mr Bairds[15] yacht was nearing our steamer, an undefined hope, certainly without foundation that he was bringing friends to welcome us home made me very eager to use my eyes. but I soon was restored to reason, & made up my mind not to expect dear father to [p. 3] meet me even at Cronstadt. Well there were three ladies waving their kerchiefs on the deck of the pretty yacht & I fancied one was Miss Morgan[16] so I waved mine in return. we could distinguish Mr B by his height and black visage he looked at us thro his spy glass, & must have been puzzled at our grand "City of Aberdeen". It is presumed that he was making a visit of pleasure to Stockholm. I should think he'd be quarantined tho - We have been lunching upon lobsters every day since we left Copenhagen none of us the worse for our tasting, as of course among such a number it amounts not to feasting, indeed our good Capt both by example and advice urges moderation and temperance in all things. I hope Willie will do as he has proposed write his dear brother Jemie after lunch today. the weather is so inviting upon deck that I am the solitary occupant of the saloon, but I wish if possible to send the report of the end of our favorable voyage to you by tomorrows mail from Cronstadt, for it may be too late if I wait till I see dear father[17] at St P. How thankful he will be, as I am, to the Almighty for answering all our prayers for protection in all the dangers of the deep. I have never been so well on any voyage before. my appetite has been good for every meal since the first day, and my cheerfulness has never failed. God gives peace and joy to those who trust in Him, and what should I do but for my confidence in the wisdom & love of my heavenly Father, to whom I commit you all in prayer. God bless you especially my own dear boy. I hope you never forget His presence & that you are trying to improve your present advantages for health & education. Offer my respectful regards to Mr & Mrs Phillott[18] and remember me to your playfellows. And now we have had luncheon at which all were in high spirits at the prospect of getting in to-morrow morning at Cronstadt. our luggage is to be arranged today & I must go & see that mine is in order.

[p. 4] Sat 23rd.

About ten o'clock in the morning

This is the winding up of my duties on board "The City of Aberdeen" Stewards fees, fare & c have all been attended to. And I am seated bonnetted beside my new friend Mrs Armitage who is writing her father who resides in Dundee Scotland. All the children on board are nicely dressed to land & when the Custon House officers will liberate us how thankful we shall be to go even thro the inspection of the Custom house. Oh Jemie my heart is full of the meeting, which I wish you could share with dear, dear fathers welcome home! But we shall write each other often dear boy & if God grants you health I shall try to be reconciled to this mode of communication. Arrange with Sister[19] my dear boy about your writing home, Oh how gladly shall I answer your letters. Think always of what would please your Mother.

For dear Jemie

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

2.  City of Aberdeen
Steamer City of Aberdeen (1835-1858), Aberdeen & London Steam Navigation Co.

3.  Portishead
Eldon Villa, JW's boarding school, was at Portishead.

4.  Revel
Formerly Revel, now Tallinn; in the 19th century it was the capital of Esthonia; it is situated on a small bay of the gulf of Finland, 200 miles west of St Petersburg.

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

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

7.  Prince
Friedrich Wilhelm Hessen-Kassel (1820-1884), son-in-law of Tsar Nicolas I [more].

8.  Capt
Captain William Knocker (b. ca 1809), sea captain.

9.  valet de place
Fr., a manservant who attends to the requirements of patrons in an hotel, passengers on board ship, etc.

10.  Armitage and his nice lady
Armitage and his wife, unidentified.

11.  Miss Anderson
Probably, Miss Emily Anderson, daughter of J. Anderson, later wife of W. M. Ellis.

12.  her baby sister
Emmy Anderson, daughter of J. Anderson.

13.  Frow Kurkin
Vor Frue Kirke, church built in c. 1170.

14.  mausoleum to Thorswalsden
Bertel Thorvaldsen (1768/1870-1840), neo-classical sculptor [more]. He desired that the Thorvaldsen museum in addition to housing his works and collections should also be his final resting-place. On 6 September 1848, his coffin was placed in a sunken burial chamber, which was built under the centre of the courtyard decorated with white lilies on a blue ground. The museum was designed by M. G. Bindesboll, and built in 1839-1848, to house Thorvaldsen's collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures. This collection was probably the finest in 19th century Rome, where Thorvaldsen spent most of his working life and where, after the death of Antonio Canova in 1822, he became the foremost Neo-classical sculptor. See B. Jornæs and A. S. Urne (eds.), The Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen, 1985.

15.  Mr Bairds
Francis Baird (1802-1864), merchant at St Petersburg [more].

16.  Miss Morgan
Probably Isabella Morgan (1817-1853), daughter of E. and S. Morgan.

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

18.  Mr & Mrs Phillott
Phillott, JW's tutor at Portishead [more], and his wife.

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