UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06386
Date: 15 February [1849][1]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: [St Petersburg]
Recipient: JW
Place: [London[3]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W382
Document Type: ALS


Thursday 3/15 Feb.

My own precious Jemie[4]

When letters were handed father[5] just now by H W & E[6] - s Artelzich[7], I hoped one might be from you to Mother, they proved to be from brother George[8] & Mr Prince[9] therefore as welcome! the latter expects to leave NYork or Boston in one of the March steamers & hopes to see Jemie in passing thro England. Brother George longs for fathers work[10] to be finished & our home once more established in our native land! but he cannot yearn for it as much as I do! Jemie dear I hope it is not for California dust[11] you would return! I would not go there to live for all its mines, but to spend the evening of my days in Stonington, & find my grave[12] there in the hallowed spot we all love because of the sacred & precious dust within that railing, I should consider mine a favored lot! It [p. 2] is a blessing if God gives us riches, when He gives us also the heart to distribute them, but Oh I should tremble if either you or Willie[13] should grow up worldly minded enough to consider it not too great a sacrifice of comfort to leave home & a moderate competency that you might dig California gold! never mind dear Jemie who gets it, let us not be anxious about what in most instances proves a snare. A letter from Mr Fairbanks[14] has just come to me with slips of Am[erica]n news to father, nothing from my own Jemie to Mother! but you have begun to apply yourself to study I hope, so I wait very cheerfully. Will you thank Mr F in my name for his favor to me & remember me in his family circle. I hope you sometimes manage to go to see them. And now Jemie for your future [p. 3] calling! it is quite natural you should think of all others, you should prefer the profession of an Artist[15], your father did so before you, I have often congratulated myself his talents were more usefully applied & I judge that you will experience how much greater your advantage, if fancy sketches, studies &c. are meant for your hours of leisure. I have hoped you would be guided by your dear father & become either an architect or engineer - but do not be uneasy my dear boy & suppose your tender Mother who so desires your happiness means to quench your hopes. Try to enlarge your views by improving your mind first, be governed by the daily direction of dear Sis & Seymour[16] till you can be with father again. this is a very hasty scrap - burn it after putting all the love which I pour out of my heart at this moment into yours - soon you shall have a more legible epistle from both your fond parents. Tell[17] Mary[18] that poor Breckert[19] is dead! Sis will remember the poor woman who came from Livonia to seek her husband & with her five children, two died - three are orphans! All friends send love & Mrs Ropes[20] will prize a letter from you.

[p. 4] Briuloff [21] sets out soon for health to America! Karitsky[22] came for fathers advice as to the route &c. the other day & left love to be enclosed to you, he is always so busy, but still talks of writing Jemie.


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Notes:

1.  15 February 1849
Dated from the almanac.

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

3.  London
JW is evidently in London, staying with the Hadens (see below).

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

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

6.  H W & E
Harrison, Winans and Eastwicks, manufacturers of steam engines and rolling stock made for the first commercial railroad in Russia between St Petersburg and Moscow.

7.  Artelzich
Artel'shtshik, Russ., a house courier kept usually by large merchant houses to carry out letters and money; he was generally a long-bearded Russian, and he was often employed to carry hundreds of thousands, without any uneasiness being felt for their safety. See J. G. Kohl, Panorama of St Petersburg, London, 1852, p. 98.

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

9.  Mr Prince
Ben Prince, a friend of AMW, of St Petersburg.

10.  fathers work
The completion of the construction of the St Petersburg-Moscow Railway did not materialize until 1851. See AMW to JW, 22 December 1848, 1 and 4 January 1849, #06378.

11.  California dust
Californian gold; JW was fascinated by stories of the Gold Rush. See AMW to JW, 20 October 1848, #06369.

12.  find my grave
AMW is buried in Hastings, England, where she spent the last years of her life.

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

14.  Mr Fairbanks
Fairbanks, a merchant.

15.  Artist
JW had expressed his desire to become a painter in a letter to his father, on 26-7 January 1849, #06667.

16.  Sis & Seymour
Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more], and Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

17.  Tell
'Tell ... poor' continues in the right margin; 'woman ... orphans' cross-written in the left margin of p. 3; 'all ... you' continues in the right margin of p. 3.

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

19.  Breckert
Breckert (d. 1849), possibly a servant.

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

21.  Briuloff
Pavlovich Karl Briullov or Bryullov (1799-1852), artist [more]. In 1849, Briullov went to Italy, and spent one year in Madeira, and his last two years in Rome. His health deteriorated, and he suffered from rheumatism and overwork, due to hard work on the paintings of St. Isaac's Cathedral in St Petersburg, which he was unable to finish (see AMW to JW, 1 and 2 November 1848, #06370), as well as depression about the Academy of Fine Arts and the regime of Nicolas I Romanov (1796-1855), Tsar of Russia from 1825-1855 [more]. See Richard Hare, The Art and Artists of Russia, London, 1965, p. 182.

22.  Karitsky
Aleksander Osipovich Koritzkii, Professor at St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts and court painter [more].