UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06375
Date: 11 December 1848
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: St Petersburg
Recipient: JW
Place: [Portishead[2]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W371
Document Type: ALS


St Petersburg

Monday morning Dec 11th

Read this to yourself Jemie[3]

I wished on Saturday to write my thoughts to you dearest Jemie for you enjoy beautiful scenery & while I was returning (from taking dear Willie[4] in a sledge to the school for his books & tasks for Monday) in crossing the ice plain of the Neva[5] on foot the whole winter scene was so perfect I felt my mind elevated & refreshed. You know how I delight in the glories of the firmament! the rainbow hues of the clouds thro which the bright sun was glowing, burnishing the windows of the Winter Palace[6] upon which it reflected & every gilded dome & spire sparkling under its influence, I wished for my Jemie, & wondered to myself if Seymour[7] had ever seen anything bright as the wintry skies of Russia? It is one of my few privileges here & I often express my sense of the goodness of our Great Creator that the long season with its attendant trials has its allotment of exquisite delight. And how glorious are the nights at this season! the pure white snow contributing its share to increase the light of the moon & stars, the moon light was so clear last night Willie could scarcely bear to shut his eyes upon it. how sweet it is to me to link you all with the good thoughts which cluster in my heart of hearts when I gaze upwards & get a glimpse of what heaven will be to us, so many are there, absorbed in glorious contemplations, & dear Grandmother[8] waiting to be called to those brighter scenes, loves to look upon the pure bright skies, & she is connected with bright flowers & Angel Kirkie[9] [p. 2] & Charlie[10], so you see Jemie I am never lonely! I pity those who can feel ennui & seek exciting amusements to fill up time. Leisure hours are brief indeed with me this winter, dear father[11] could no sooner spare me from his sick room than our neighbors in affliction required me, & my sledge drives have not exceeded twenty minutes to take father the airing our good doct[or] prescribes. I had been with him thro the English Perspective[12] on Saturday because a review occupied the Gt Square[13], & Willie needed my protection thro the police, to cross the bridge afterwards. When I came home instead instead of indulging in writing you till dinner time, I found a summons from poor Mrs Gwyer[14] which hurried me to her, she is still quite ill herself & her darling Paul[15] was dying. It is a week today since Keate[16] was buried! Jemie dear I fear Sis[17] may be agitated at present therefore do not tell her of the distress of her friends Mrs G & Miss Grant[18] who both remember her, even in their affliction, I think it is a great privilege to be of real service in the chamber of the sick & dying, you may imagine dear Jemie as I paced the room thro Saturday night with little Paul in my arms how vividly the scenes of my own Angel Johnies[19] sickness were brought back, & now these two who were born about the same time are together with Keate & Kirkie & all the thousands of redeemed children round the throne of God, how much brighter are the scenes they mingle in than that which I enjoyed in crossing the Neva!

[p. 3] Monday evening 11th.

I went to the Gostinandva[20] to get a fur for lining a shube[21] for Willie. he went to school early, the frost has increased & we must wrap him up for he catches cold hurrying from his warm bed to cross on foot on the ice. I was greeted by the Sloane St[22] letter on my return, father smiled when he read some of your very graphic scenes of Eldon Villa[23]. Our united regards to Mr & Mrs P[24] when you write. And now Jemie dear let me thank you for thinking it necessary to get Mothers approval ere you could enjoy the play at Westminster school[25], how secure it makes me feel & how safe for yourself - God grant you may ever have that confidence in your parents wish to indulge you when it is proper that you may readily yield to restraints when their experience imposes them on you. I cheerfully agree to you going with James Moran[26] to the exhibition at Westminister, if your doctor[27] consents to your going out at night, I suppose the hour for your return home will not be very late & that you will observe every care to wrap up, lest you take cold & a stop is put to evening visiting for the holidays, indeed I do not apprehend that you will often wish to leave dear sisters cheerful fireside, how happy you will be with Seymour as a companion & I hope you will always yield cheerfully to any restrictions his love for you induces. While your holidays last we shall hope to get a letter once a week from you thro Mr Fairbanks[28], ask him what day [p. 4] & try always to take your letter to his house, for you must call occasionally upon the family. I grieve to learn dear boy that you still suffer so much from your teeth, I should have supposed the dentist would have known that the nerve ought to be destroyed if exposed, before filling with gold. Doct Maynard[29] used a drug for that purpose. I hope he may practice still when you & I can go to Washington together for I think Mr Thomson[30] will never succeed with my too tender mouth. Poor Willie is cutting his second eye tooth inside as if from the roof of his mouth, I wonder if it will push itself a place where it ought to be. I argue dear Jemie that you will wish to finish the year at Mr Phillotts, & feel very much interested myself as to what your doctor, & Sis will advise, if it is such a famous study for latin our little Parson[31] elect ought to be there, I wonder if Mr P would fit "plum pudding Jack" for College - I think he would be astonished to find what a student the fat boy is. Your love regards &c have been distributed freely dear Jemie. Mr & Mrs Gellibrand[32] seemed so pleased at your mentioning their names, & Mrs Morgan[33] sends her love, as so all on the list of your favorites. The Woods[34] always ask what news from Jemie? Willie W[35] is at school in Cheshire you know. We have no means of ascertaining whether Doct Crawford[36] was at school at Tiverton[37] but ah the name of that place revived associations of my childhood, it seems to me my sister Mary Easterbrook had a pretty cottage there, it is just out of Bristol is it not? And now I've only room to say how precious you are to Mother.

God[38] bless you! good night "happy dreams, sleep well"


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Notes:

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

5.  Neva
Neva River in Leningrad oblast (province), northwestern Russia. The river issues from Lake Ladoga at Shlisselburg and flows 46 miles (74 km) west to the Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea.

6.  Winter Palace
Winter Palace, St Petersburg (1754-62), designed by C. B. Rastrelli (1700-1776) under the reign of Elizabeth empress of Russia from 1741 to 1761. This period is often referred to as Elizabethan Baroque. See An Introduction to Russian Art and Architecture, ed. R. Auty, and D. Obolensky, Cambridge, 1980; for a fuller survey see G. H. Hamilton, The Art and Architecture of Russia, The Pelican History of Art, London, 1975, pp. 178-202.

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

8.  Grandmother
Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, mother of AMW [more].

9.  Kirkie
Kirk Boott Whistler (1838-1841), JW's brother [more].

10.  Charlie
Charles Donald Whistler (1841-1843), JW's brother [more].

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

12.  English Perspective
Probably the English Quay, an area that grew up on the left bank of the river Neva where some of the finest houses in St Petersburg were built and occupied initially by the British merchant residents of the city.

13.  Gt Square
Winter Palace Square, designed by K. I. Rossi (1775-1849), and comissioned by the emperor Alexander I of Russia (1801-1825). It is dominated in the centre by the huge Alexander Column, the tallest one-piece column in the world. See G. H. Hamilton, The Art and Architecture of Russia, The Pelican History of Art, London, 1975, pp. 228-231.

14.  Mrs Gwyer
Mary Gwyer, née Grant, of St Petersburg.

15.  Paul
Paul Robert Gwyer (b. 1846), son of M. Gwyer [more].

16.  Keate
William Keate Gwyer (b. 1843), son of M. Gwyer.

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

18.  Miss Grant
Miss Grant, daughter of Mrs Grant of St Petersburg.

19.  Johnies
John Bouttatz Whistler (1845-1846), JW's brother [more].

20.  Gostinandva
Gostinyi dvor, Russ., market halls in St Petersburg designed by a French architect, J. B. Vallin de la Mothe, in c. 1761. See An introduction to Russian Art and Architecture, ed. R. Auty, and D. Obolensky, Cambridge, 1980, pp. 88-9.

21.  shube
'Schaube,' 'Schoube,' 'Schube,' a long fur cloak. See AMW to JW, 15 and 16 January 1852, #06409, and 22 December 1848, and 1 and 4 January 1849, #06378.

22.  Sloane St
The London home of Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more] was at 62 Sloane Street.

23.  Eldon Villa
JW's boarding school at Portishead.

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

25.  Westminster school
Westminster School, London. Its origins can be traced to 1179, when the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of St Peter in Westminster were required by Pope Alexander III to provide a small charity school. In 1540 Henry VIII personally ensured the School's survival by statute, and his daughter, Elizabeth I, confirmed royal patronage in 1560 and is celebrated as its Foundress.

26.  James Moran
James Moran, a fellow pupil of JW at Portishead.

27.  your doctor
Unidentified.

28.  Mr Fairbanks
Fairbanks, a merchant.

29.  Doct Maynard
Dr Edward Maynard (1813-1891), dentist and inventor [more]; see AMW to JW, 5 November 1848, #06371.

30.  Mr Thomson
Thomson, JW's dentist at Portishead.

31.  Parson
Parson, a boyhood friend of JW; see AMW to JW, 30 September and 12 October 1848, #06368.

32.  Mr & Mrs Gellibrand
William Clark Gellibrand (b. ca 1791), merchant [more], and his wife Mary Tyler Gellibrand (b. 1812), née Ropes.

33.  Mrs Morgan
Elizabeth Morgan, wife of Steven Morgan.

34.  The Woods
Charles Wood, of St Petersburg, and his wife Lydia Wood.

35.  Doct Crawford
Probably Steward Crawford, physician who lived at 2 Circus, Bath, Somerset; see Pigot's Bath, Somersetshire Directory, 1842-1844, p. 17.

36.  Tiverton
Tiverton is 80 miles away from Bristol, Devon. No records have been located in the local genealogical sources about a Joseph and Mary Easterbrook, née McNeill, AMW's sister. It is possible that AMW mispelled the name of the place. In this case it could be Twerton just outside Bath, 12 miles to the east of Bristol.

37.  Willie W
William Wood, son of C. and L. Wood of St Petersburg.

38.  God
'God ... well' continues in the left margin of p. 1.