UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06392
Date: 10 May 1849
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: St Petersburg
Recipient: JW
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W388
Document Type: ALS


Alexandroffsky[2]

May 10th 1849. Thursday

It is in vain for me to wish to be with you my own dear Jemie[3], or to think how strange that five weeks should have passed without my writing to you - tho you so constantly share my care with dear Willie[4], writing never was difficult to me before, & the bustle of packing has increased it, my head has been so weak & such efforts have been demanded of me in the winding up of affairs here.

The ice is yet passing down from the lake[5], & the harbor is not open, so the Vladimir[6] has advertised that instead of taking her passengers on the 12th (day after tomorrow) we may embark in her on the following Saturday the 19th.

Jemie dear do you remember what day that is the anniversary of? dearest sister[7] will not forget fathers birthday[8]! how many cherished associations we all have with it, the last she spent in the old home his gifts to us and you will this year love to recall our being together on the 19th of last May, when you & I went in a boat with that fond father to the Summer gardens[9], & brought Willie & Mary[10] home from the review. What a quiet sweet stroll we had dear Jemie with him between us, leading our tastes to higher, truer, pleasures than the parade which the crowd eagerly pursued on the other side of the hedge. Oh my darling boy often ponder over his lessons that with your coming years good impressions may deepen, & thus your father from the grave will still speak to you. Yes your fond memory will faithfully bring back to the listenings of your heart the familiar tones of "Jemie my boy[11]" and when you are in doubt how to act, only stop [p. 2] to ask what would my father have advised his boy Jemie to do? & tho lost to your sight he will thus still be your counsellor. Oh may his bright example ever shine to lead his sons on in the path he trod! But it is only the blessing of God which can sanctify any means of improvement & you know Jemie you must seek it in earnest prayer, I implore that the aid of the Holy Spirit may be imparted to you in your approaches to the throne of God, that you may deplore your unwillingness to use the privilege of prayer & the bible & that you may look unto Jesus with love & faith & may not only say "be thou the guide of my youth[12]" but be made willing to follow Him. God requires us to love Him supremely - He has cut our strongest link to earth, & by breaking up our home again is teaching us that we are but sojourners in a world of trial. How patient He is with us! not to summon us to judgement while we continue to love this present world & to prefer its unreal enjoyments, how gently he deals with us; mingling mercies with chastisements, yet faithful to His divine purpose of numbering us among His heritage, He from time to time opens visions of a heavenly home to us, as He permits us to see one by one of our loved family circle entering there thro the gates of death, Joe, Kirkie, Charlie[13] & now the one on whom we all leaned! the promoter of our domestic welfare & happiness. And this loving & loved parent was made willing to leave us all, to obey the summons of a heavenly Master, whom he reverenced thro his whole life here & in whose righteousness & love and power he trusted. Oh Jemie! never shall [p. 3] I forget the bright look which irradiated your dear fathers countenance in death! who were the angel messengers hovering above his uplifted gaze to beckon welcome to heaven thro a Redeemers love? were they your brothers? Have we not an irresistible motive now to live near to God my boy? Are we not privileged in holding communion with saints? My desire is to be a widow indeed according to the definition of one in Timothy[14]. and I hope my boys will be of one mind in our native land, to pursue in retirement the path of knowledge & usefulness. dear Grandmother[15] will I hope too be under our roof & that we shall vie with each other in cheering the evening of her life. Mr Harrison[16] has most generously taken all the expense & toil of boxing those articles of furniture valuable from fond associations of home here - which he will have shipped after I bid adieu to Russia - for the home we look to now. dear brother George[17] will divide these with us when he goes to house keeping - for we shall not need all for our small & sequestered dwelling. our library will be a rich resource - we must read diligently dear Jemie if you wish to possess the information your fathers cultivation of time & opportunity enriched his mind with.

Willie & I came from Mr Mirrielees[18] (where we were most kindly sheltered last week) with Mr H to his home last monday evening. I felt more than I had expected the first visit without him who use to render drives to Alexandroffsky desirable to me for his society - but I brought your letter & dear Sisters unread in my pocket & relieved my almost bursting heart by weeping over your sorrow, & your affection. I try [p. 4] to do promptly what must be done that I may have no self reproaches when far away for neglecting any one in whom my excellent husband was interested. I walked to see Mrs Winans[19] on tuesday, for she is not yet confined to the sofa, she has the noblest looking infant[20] I ever saw. tho he is only five weeks old, he looks more than three months. I'll describe him & his nurse when I am put in spirits by the caresses of little Annie[21]. Mrs Harrisons little Olga[22] did not make advances to me till today - I gave her time to get accustomed to my strange appearance[23], & shall not despair of the pet in Sloane St coming to Grandmother after a few days. for love begets love[24]. Ah there will be another trial to leave her almost as soon as she knows me! but we must not allow gloomy anticipations to cloud any present mercy. Tell my good Mary how gratifying it is to me to hear much proof of her attachment to me - she will cheerfully then lighten my toils - for we must all do our part upon a very small income - it shall be the labor which love makes pleasant - if our hearts are united in serving the Lord. You have often heard me say - and sincerely - that I never wish to be rich - and now in my heart, I am content with the smallest competency. They have paid me up to the 7th of April [25](24th O. S.) & I am disposing of some things at the house - this will suffice to take us across the Atlantic & doubt not I shall have enough with economy to maintain & educate my dear boys - you will be the better citizens for inheriting no fortune but an unsullied name.

The Emperor[26] sent a courier to me last week to express his high appreciation of our loss & his own loss in the death of your father & to offer to aid me in any way. This mark of respect is gratifying - the Count[27] too has expressed[28] his sympathy in the same way - But rich & poor, all ranks respected & loved Major Whistler.

God bless you precious boy & grant we may soon meet in health to comfort each other.

Say all that is kind to my good Mary for me & tell her she would have saved me much exertion had she been here! but God has raised up many helps to me. Love to dear Seymour[29], tell him Willie has depended upon his skill restoring him to health, but change of air is already benefiting him.

Love to Seymours kind Mama[30], & Rose[31] and Mr & Mrs Charles[32] from your affectionate but grateful Mother

All your friends send love to you Jemie. all ask so tenderly after your health & that of your dear Sister.

A M W.


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Notes:

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

2.  Alexandroffsky
Name of the firm and house owned by Harrison, Winans and Eastwick; see AMW to JW, 15, 16 and 18 September 1848, #06363.

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

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

5.  lake
Lake Ladoga, largest lake in Europe, located in northwestern Russia about 25 miles (40 km) east of St. Petersburg.

6.  Vladimir
Steamer Vladimir (1848).

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

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

9.  Summer gardens
Summer Garden, founded on the Basil Island, St Petersburg in 1704, by Peter the Great (Peter Alexeevich) 1672-1725, Czar 1682-1721, Emperor of All Russia 1721-1725. At the end of the 18th century it contained more than 250 statues and busts, mostly the work of Venetian masters. Peter had a small pavilion for his own use in the garden, while the palaces of the nobility stood along the embankment between the garden and the Admiralty. See G. H. Hamilton, The Art and Architecture of Russia, The Pelican History of Art, London, 1975, pp. 182-191.

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

11.  Jemie my boy
A familiar phrase used by JW's father to reconcile JW to self denial and obedience; see AMW to JW, 15 and 16 January 1852, #06409, and AMW to JW, 7 April 1853, #06426.

12.  be thou the guide of my youth
'Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father, thou art the guide of my youth?' Jer. 3.4.

13.  Joe, Kirkie, Charlie
John Bouttatz Whistler (1845-1846), born and died in St Petersburg, Kirk Boot Whistler (1838-1841), and Charles Donald Whistler (1841-1843), JW's brothers.

14.  of one in Timothy
'Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews. let them first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.' 1 Tim. 5.3-7; 'Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man,' 5.9; 'I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.' 5.14.

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

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

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

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

19.  Mrs Winans
Celeste Winans (1823-1861), née Revillon, wife of Thomas De Kay Winans [more].

20.  infant
George Winans (b. 1849), son of C. and T. De K. Winans.

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

22.  Mrs Harrisons little Olga
Sarah Harrison (1817-1906), née Poulterer, wife of Joseph Harrison [more], and their daughter Marie Olga Harrison (b. 1847).

23.  little Olga
Marie Olga Harrison (b. 1847), daughter of S. and J. Harrison.

24.  strange appearance
Probably a mourning dress.

25.  love begets love
'Love begets love, love knows no rules, this is the same for all,' Virgil (70-19 BC), Aeneid.

26.  7th of April
George W. Whistler died on 7 April 1849.

27.  The Emperor
Nicolas I Romanov (1796-1855), Tsar of Russia from 1825-1855 [more].

28.  the Count
Count Peter Andreyevich Kleinmikhel (1793-1869), Minister of Public Works [more].

29.  expressed
'expressed ... Whistler' continues in the left margin of p. 1; 'God ... other' in the right margin of p. 1; 'Say ... had' in the left margin of p. 2; 'she ... him' in the right margin of p. 2 and left margin of p. 3; 'Love ... Mother' in the right margin of p. 3 and 'All ... AMW' in the left margin of p. 4.

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

31.  Seymours kind Mama
Emma Haden, née Harrison, mother of JW's brother-in-law, F. S. Haden.

32.  Rose
Rosamund ('Rose') Horsley (b. ca 1821), née Haden, sister of F. S. Haden [more].

33.  Mr & Mrs Charles
Charles Sydenham Haden, merchant, brother of JW's brother-in-law F. S. Haden, and his wife Mary Love Haden, née Boott.