UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06379
Date: [25 December 1848[1]]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: St Petersburg
Recipient: JW
Place: [London[3]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W375
Document Type: ALS


St Petersburg.

Monday evening Dec. 13th

English Christmas day[4]

My own darling Jemie[5]

You have spent a Merry Christmas day I will not doubt, but whether you have ate plum pudding at 62 Sloane St or at 47 Brompton Crescent[6] you no doubt have enjoyed it equally, & you will give us a slice of it in the letter you may perhaps begin tomorrow. Father[7] is still hoping his Christmas gift may come, a letter from Jemie! for yours received last friday thro Mr Fairbanks[8] was dated the 7th it was of course detained till he could send American news, Saturday I was surprised at getting one from Seymour[9] for I had supposed I should get Sisters[10] regular envelope on Monday, overjoyed as I was, I too abruptly imparted it to dear sensitive Willie[11], who seemed almost as much inclined to shed tears as to smile when I called him "Uncle". why Willie I thought you wished to be one? "yes so I did, but now the house will have to be so still, Jemie will not be allowed a merry Christmas" - I left Uncle Willie to his reflections in the drawing room alone, for Father had gone to take a short drive in Mr Ingersolls[12] sledge & shut myself in my own room to read all the interesting particulars of Seymours letter, feeling as my sainted friend Mrs Nichols[13] had felt when the first rose was brought her from the tree sacred from association with the departed, as she had held it up & said let its first fragrance be offered to my Saviour, so I sank on my knees [p. 2] that my grateful emotions might be poured out in praise to Him, for the beautiful blossom[14] He has given my dear Debo to cherish & delight in, and train for a heavenly mansion. Your father surprised me still on my knees, but he understood my feelings when I simply said I had just heard from Seymour, and after I had read the letter to him, he embraced me & we wept together. That day father proposed the health of his little grand-daughter, & that night thro, we talked of dear Sister. And now dear Jemie what scheme do you think I indulged in for making "a Merry Christmas" today for myself? why - to write to my dear children but oh there have been so many impediments that I should have complained of cruelty, only many came to ask after dear Sister & to congratulate us, & none knew how I yearned to be left quietly seated at my desk. I hope darling Willie is enjoying being with his companions at Mr Harrisons[15], neither he or Annie H[16] would bear romping, so it was all to be very moderate & none but the four Eastwicks[17], himself & Mons La Martine[18] invited. Mr Ingersoll & Wm Winans[19] dined with father & I, we had a Baltimore ham to relish, turkey, & peanuts for dessert, but mince pies or plum pudding I have not ventured to propose since the cholera season[20], perhaps they may come on for old style Christmas. You know perhaps that brother George[21] had a box of Yankee [p. 3] notions shipped for us last summer, the vessel was lost, but the cargo landed at some Russian port, & last week our boxes came at last up our stair. Stuarts Candy had nearly all been tasted away at the Custom House; but the cases of oysters hermetically sealed out - witted the Tekelivecks[22] they managed to stick a knife thro the tin to detect Valenciennes[23] (if smuggled in boxes even) but the oysters are in perfect condition, and so I am well pleased to find jars of sweet-meats, for it is a pleasure to me to distribute among my friends the fine fruits of our native land. Our Indian meal was wet & consequently spoilt, but no matter Father could not have ate it & the hominy[24] satisfies Willie, they only devoured one keg of biscuits & the other is enough for our diminished family. the tea & sugar I am very glad of. All these came directed to the Embassy[25] or we could not have imported them. Young Ingersoll seems very glad to serve us in any way, our fire side is the only one he feels at home at, tho he is much liked thro out the American Circle, the better I know him the more I find in him to admire & esteem. he is here every day, generally dines with us. father says he seems to look upon me as a mother; he expressed the hope often that I shall be neighbour in New Haven to his parents[26]. but of next year we none of us know what changes it may bring, Mr Eastwick has decided I believe to take Charlie & Phil to Hamburg soon to leave them with Ned & Hass[27], and next spring to remove all his family to that vicinity, till his [p. 4] work here is finished, if he should go to England he will see you I'm sure for he always asks about you as if interested, all your friends & companions here receive & respond to your love with evident satisfaction. Mr Harrison especially begs me to assure you of his, & Mrs Ropes[28] eyes sparkle when she talks of "that bright boy" as she fancies our Jemie - but here is Kuril[29] bringing in tea, I must make it for Father & Wm Winans - who has a lady[30] - love to pay his devoirs to and he can go to his home at Alexandroffsky[31], & she lives now at Katrinoff[32]! Whether he intends to take her to America with him & his sister Julia[33], this winter, he sayeth not - but I guess yes.

- 9 o'clock - I told dear father when he said, just after tea, he had some papers to finish in his Chancellery[34] but would soon be back, he must be uneasy about leaving me alone as I should be writing to you dear Jemie, so he encloses his love & blessing with mine & wishes you a happy New Year, for he may not have time to write as he intended by tomorrows mail to you, he has to attend a Commission at the Department[35] in the morning the first since his illness. he is quite well now, only very careful of his health. And how is yours dear Jemie? father is more interested about it than I can express, & about your studies, next in importance. We are puzzled what to do about Willie's education, Doct Rogers[36] advises us to send him to join you, for in this climate there certainly is more risk than I could have supposed (protected by furs) to a healthy boy in going from heated rooms to extreme frosty atmosphere, before & after day light.

Tell[37] Mary[38] she must have a line stretched across one of the garret rooms & tie the Tongues in pairs to hang over the cord. how many pairs were there sent? I intended a doz pair of each kind, Reindeer & Neats[39]. I have paid Mr Merriellees[40] bill for them.


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Notes:

1.  25 December 1848
Dated with reference to AMW's stay in Russia in the winter of 1848; see AMW to JW, 13 December 1848, #06377.

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

3.  London
JW spent the Christmas of 1848 in London (see below).

4.  English Christmas day
The Orthodox Russian Christmas according to the Old Calendarist Style would have been on Saturday 6 January 1849. See N. Dershowitz and E. M. Reingold, Calendrical Calculations, Cambridge, 1997.

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

6.  47 Brompton Crescent
The 1848 PO London Directory, p. 152, lists 47 Brompton Crescent as the address of a Captain Robert Allan. The 1851 PO London Directory, p. 148, lists 45 Brompton Crescent as the address of Edward Seymour, probably a relation of Francis Seymour Haden (see below).

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

8.  Mr Fairbanks
Fairbanks, a merchant.

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

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

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

12.  Mr Ingersolls
Colin Macrae Ingersoll (1819-1903), secretary of the American Legation at St Petersburg [more].

13.  Mrs Nichols
Mrs Nichols, a friend of AMW at St Petersburg.

14.  beautiful blossom
Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece [more].

15.  Mr Harrisons
Joseph Harrison (1810-1874), jr, partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more].

16.  Annie H
Annie Harrison (1839-1915), daughter of S. and J. Harrison [more].

17.  four Eastwicks
Edward Peers Eastwick (1833-1926), Joseph Harrison ('Hass') Eastwick (1834-1917), Charles James Eastwick (1836-1908), and Philip Garrett Eastwick (1838-1905), children of A. M. and L. A. Eastwick.

18.  Mons La Martine
La Martine, teacher of the French language at St Petersburg.

19.  Wm Winans
William Louis Winans (1823-before 1907), locomotive manufacturer and civil engineer [more].

20.  cholera season
See AMW to JW, 26 September 1848, #06365.

21.  brother George
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more].

22.  Tekelivecks
Probably Custom House officers.

23.  Valenciennes
Valenciennes lace, one of the most famous laces, first made in the French city of Valenciennes, Nord département, and later in Belgium (around Ypres and Ghent) and on the French-Belgian frontier at Bailleul. There would have been a big duty to be paid on lace.

24.  hominy
A popular American cereal, coarsely ground maize was prepared as a food by boiling in milk or water. It was used frequently by AMW; see AMW to George Washington Whistler, 8 and 21 June 1848, #06358, and AMW to JW, 9 April 1850, #06394.

25.  Embassy
American Embassy, St Petersburg.

26.  his parents
Ralph Isaacs Ingersoll (1789-1872), lawyer and U. S. Minister to Russia from 1846-1848 [more], and Margaret Ingersoll, née Van den Heuvel, wife of Ralph Isaacs Ingersoll.

27.  Ned & Hass
They were at school in Altona, district of Hamburg, Germany; see AMW to JW, 20 October 1848, #06369.

28.  Mrs Ropes
Ellen Harriet Ropes, née Hall, wife of William H. Ropes.

29.  Kuril
Kuril, AMW's servant at St Petersburg.

30.  a lady
Probably Maria Ann De La Rue, wife of William Louis Winans.

31.  Alexandroffsky
See AMW to JW, 15, 16 and 18 September 1848, #06363.

32.  Katrinoff
Probably Katerinovka, located in Ternopolskaya (Ternopil), Ukraine. Katerinovka was also called Katerburg (German) and Katrynburg (Hungarian).

33.  Julia
Julia de Kay Whistler (1825-1875), née Winans, JW's sister-in-law [more].

34.  Chancellery
Probably a section of the Imperial Chancellery where the Railway Department was based; see AMW to JW, 12 December 1848, #06376.

35.  Commission at the Department
See AMW to JW, 1 and 2 November 1848, #06370.

36.  Doct Rogers
Dr Rogers, AMW's family doctor at St Petersburg.

37.  
'Tell ... them' continues in the left margin, and cross-written in the upper margin of p. 1.

38.  Mary
Mary Brennan (b. 1825), AMW's servant [more].

39.  Reindeer & Neats
Reindeer, and neats (bovine animal or cattle) tongues were usually salted or smoked.

40.  Mr Merriellees
Archibald Mirrielees (1797-1877), merchant [more].