The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06372
Date: 21 November 1848
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: St Petersburg
Recipient: JW
Place: [Portishead[2]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W368
Document Type: ALS

St Petersburg

Tuesday Nov 21st 1848.

My own darling Jemie[3]

I must limit myself to a half sheet this time because more might out weigh single postage to Sloane St and as Mr Prince[4] will be setting out for London next week I shall write you fully by him & add the simple prayers you wished from Mothers heart, ah dear Jemie I love to recall the seasons we have prayed together, the long nights of watching by your sick bed mingle in the retrospect. May God answer my daily petitions for you now, & grant that while we are separated, you may never need a night watcher. dear father[5] will I dare say write you by Mr Prince & send you some token of his thoughts cherishing his dear absent boy. He so often wishes he could find something to send Jemie! & he was annoyed that he had omitted to tell you how valuable the gifts you sent him by Mother are to him! dear father is not able to go out now, he caught cold when he ventured as far as the station in 14 deg. of frost, that was last friday, the day the river closed, poor Willie[6] was so sad at being compelled to stay at school two nights last week while the ice was passing, but just as we were sending Peotre[7] for him sat night a soldier delivered him safely to us, they employ them at the Commercial school[8] on such especial occasions, & right glad I was to give him ha chi[9][.] Willie has to keep articles for his toilette at school while the weather is so unsettled, he has been made a prisoner today & Peotre too! a thaw has come on so suddenly, that the dvanie[10] must be included in those prohibited recrossing on the ice as we have not seen him since 7 1/2 this morning, the wind is so strong & the water now rising I think the river will break up, I do hope by saturday dear Willie may be allowed to come home, he was telling me last night he should have his first praznic[11] then & should write dear Jemie then by Mr Prince. It keeps my heart soft thinking of you both and of dear sister too away from me.

[p. 2] I am sustained by committing you all to the care of our heavenly Father. Oh that you may each love Him & honor His day & study His word & pray to Him & dread to offend Him! Capt Kruyger[12] may now be in imminent peril, his ship was among 24 others enclosed in the ice last week, we heard of their getting out of the harbour of Cronstadt yesterday, and feel anxious for them in this gale of wind because of the quantitites of ice, he is a true disciple of Him whose footsteps are on the deep[13]. What a security to have Jesus as the Anchor of his soul! If the good Capt reaches Hull in safety you will receive by him dear Jemie a package of books & your skates, Mr Maxwell's work on Russia[14] you will like to read I'm sure, and it will amuse dear Sister[15] too. And so you are to spend your Christmas holidays with Seymour[16]! Then I am sure it will not be lost time if you profit as you ought by his example & precepts it will not be "all play". Father sent Mr Fairbanks[17] by Capt Kruyger the steam coffee pot because of his attention to us, & as an article he admired and wished for. Offer my regards to Mr & Mrs Phillott [18]& your companions & do not put off writing father until you hear again from your fond Mother.

For dear Jemie

I [19]will write Fred Smith[20] by Mr Prince.

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

2.  Portishead
JW was at a boarding school at Portishead.

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

4.  Mr Prince
Probably George H. Prince, engineer.

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

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

7.  Peotre
Peotre, AMW's servant at St Petersburg.

8.  Commercial school
See AMW to JW, 30 September and 12 October 1848, #06368.

9.  ha chi
Probably a tip.

10.  dvanie
A colloquial term for servant; probably derived from 'Dvornik,' yard-man. They were employed to keep the exterior of the houses in good order; see John S. Maxwell's work on Russia (see below), p. 78. Alexander Dumas wrote that he was often 'a kind of a policeman employed and maintained by a private householder, not by the government.' See Alexander Dumas, Adventures in Tsarist Russia, translated by A. E. Murch, London, 1960, p. 75.

11.  praznic
Russ., holidays.

12.  Capt Kruyger
Captain Kruger, sea captain; see AMW to JW, 5 November 1848, #06371.

13.  footsteps are on the deep
Probably a paraphrase of 'Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.' Ps. 77.19.

14.  Mr Maxwell's work on Russia
John S. Maxwell, secretary of the American Legation in St Petersburg in 1842 [more]. His work was The Tsar, His Court and His People: Including A Tour in Norway, and Sweden, London, 1848; its thirteenth chapter included references to Alexandroffsky Mechanical Works, and George Washington Whistler (pp. 71-74)

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

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

17.  Mr Fairbanks
Fairbanks, a merchant.

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

19.  I
'I ... Prince' continues in the left margin of p. 2.

20.  Fred Smith
Fred Smith, a young friend of AMW.