UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06398
Date: 6 August 1851
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Pomfret
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W394
Document Type: ALS


Pomfret

Aug 6th 1851Wednesday morning

Your letters my own precious Jemie[3]

are like Angels visits not only sweet & far between, but they comfort & cheer us in the home where your absence is so much felt. I do not mean to let you off from your promise however to write weekly reports of yourself when you enter upon barrack regulations, quality does not always make up for quantity, tho I appreciate a good letter, you do not fancy long ones I am aware, so will reserve all news till this day next week when I hope we may be téte à tète [sic].

Willie[4] took his first start for N Haven at 6 ½ with Bruin[5], his valise in hand & a basket of currant jelly &c for Sister Mary[6] at his feet, but Richmond[7] has usually his own movements to interfere with Willies promptness, what with rigging up at Butlers[8] & stopping at the mill with a bag of grain, they reached the station in time only to see the train moving off! Bruin was frightened & unmanageable, so Richmond put the disgrace on the mastiff, & pocketed the half dollar bringing Willie back to spend the hours intervening till the mail carrier took him down for the 2 oclock train. I fancied the welcome at N Haven too late for Mary to exhibit her first born [9] to Uncle, so Bruin would be the pet of the parlour for the hour.

We have all become fond of the good dog who is so affectionate & obedient & miss him with his Master, who looks forward to returning home by Satur [i.e. Saturday] night & hopes Mary will have brought the gift of her brother to take Bruins place. "Man proposes God disposes[10]" by the Almightys blessing upon my endeavors GMother[11] & myself will be on our route to you next Tuesday. [p. 2] As Aunt Kate[12] came to the Fair[13] last Wednesday & took her little girls home on friday, we shall not go to Stonington till after we have seen you, I propose taking the Western road "free ticket"[14] to Albany, there to embrace your Cousins[15], but not to linger, for I am so eager to see my Cadet, tho you are one conditionally only. I hope your obedience & application may win you the place so many feel interested for you to keep. Mrs Gillibrand[16] wrote me last month of her rejoicing to hear from "Cis[17]" that you had passed & that she should write you as soon as she had read the book you gave her. she has been on the go so incessantly as not to have eked out time for "Frank Fairleigh[18][.]" both she & Mr G[19] sent lots of love to you. but you shall listen to her letter when I can get within ear shot of you & one also from Emma Maingay[20] recd [i.e. received] yesterday dated Sloane St[21] your sister had so many to write by Amos[22], who is now on his voyage home. she slipped in a wee note to me containing love for dear Jemie & such a tone of wounded affection at his silence I beg you to begin at once to write her, for which purpose I'll enclose you a sheet like this to fill before we meet as you left your desk behind - I shall try to forget nothing you want dear Jemie, but shall be sadly chagrined if you defer writing "Cis" think how gentle is her nature, how she clings to you with peculiar attachment & Seymour[23] too will be hurt & disappointed in you if you neglect Debo. "delays are dangerous[24]" rouse your energies young soldier, & prove the benefit of good discipline for the honor of your country & your name. I am almost afraid to tell you how gratified I was last friday by Willies passing the school examination with such eclat. because if you inadvertantly [sic] boast of your brother to Jim H or F V[25], he may hear of his mother's vanity & [p. 3] modesty is the charm of all his acquirements. I wish him to have no more confidence than he gains by his own efforts, he is very well & most impatient to be with you, As this is the height of the season for travelers, I fear encountering a crowd of fashionable (my abhorrence) at Cozens hotel[26], will you get permission to call upon Mr C, who must retain an interest in the sons & widow of one he knew & seemed so highly to respect, that I judge he will try to make me comfortable, say to Mr C with my compliments, I seek a retired room for my short visit to the Point. Willie can sleep anywhere because he can make the finish to his toilette in my chamber, as I am such an early riser as to complete my morning duties before he gets up. I need no private sitting room, tho I should prefer not going to the public table, yet if necessary I shall do so, protected by Willie. now Jemie dear do not let false pride interfere with your frank delivery of my message to Mr C who will respect us all the more for frankness & honesty. I shall wait to hear from you ere I venture to land at the Point & shall let you know (after hearing) the result of your application for a chamber for me what boat you may expect us by. I should prefer arriving at sun set than sun rise. learn about the boat trips what hours they leave Albany & when they land passengers at the Point & communicate by letter to me your advice[.] Remember I shall not set out till I have your reply & yet we wish not to lose a day we might spend with you. let me know if you think of any thing else I can get you. I sent you a Semi weekly[27] yesterday with some slips from others I thought would amuse or interest you. Aunt Kate wants me to copy the Rhymes, from Punch on the Crystal Fountain[28]. Sister reports that sixty thousand a day yet visit the Crystal palace[29] [p. 4] ! & yet no confusion attends, so perfect is the police system. But it is time for me to prepare for GMothers noon repast, I have become an adept in Marys[30] holiday, I expect her "se chass[31]" with her cousin. The silver moon[32] I hope will ere the equinox shine again on the borders of the St Johns, E. Florida[33]. Tout le monde of this village are glad of news from Jemie W, Doct & Mrs P[34] seem most truly interested in you, my fairing to you is a slice of Mrs Parks cake. The Grandmother of Cadet Vinton[35] longs to hear from him, we see her often at our house & at church, she was at the Fair. I suppose you have heard it was very successful indeed, tho the prospect had not been bright. God bless you dearest Jemie. Think how greatly I depend on you & Willie for comfort & disappoint not my hopes of you.

Ever your devoted & widowed Mother

A M Whistler

Wednesday afternoon

Mary came in time for our dinner & is quite well, she was alarmed by hearing at Mrs Barnes[36] that your near sightdness [sic] would oblige you to leave the Military Academy! but you do not thus represent it in your letters & I will hope the best for you. she has neither brought the spaniel nor her cousin, but I hope the latter may come to spend the fortnight of my absence with Mary. How many things bring you to my minds eye, from the warm corner of a Mothers heart, one day poor little James Stoddard[37] came to see while his hand was useless, you know 3 of his fingers were cut off, to amuse him I shewed him Old England[38] & read your piece about the Abbot to him[39], en passant - When we sang "Stay thou insulted Spirit stay[40]" in church on Sunday I thought of my Jemie's prayers! & His appeal in them!

Mary[41] says Mrs Grey[42] helped Willie from the Springfield train, to the N Haven, he had barely time.

Answer this immediately


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Notes:

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

2.  West Point
United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, opened in 1802; see AMW to JW, 10 June 1851, #06396.

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

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

5.  Bruin
A dog.

6.  Sister Mary
Mary Ann Whistler (ca 1826 - d.1852), née Ducatel, JW's sister-in-law [more].

7.  Richmond
Nathan Richmond (b. 1799), farmer at Pomfret, CT.

8.  Butlers
Samuel Butler (b. 1804), blacksmith at Pomfret, CT [more].

9.  first born
George ('Georgie') Worthen Whistler (b. 1851), JW's nephew [more].

10.  Man proposes God disposes
'Nam homo proponit, sed Deus disponit,' For man proposes, but God disposes, Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471), De Imitatione Christi, bk. 1, ch. 19, sect. 2.

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

12.  Aunt Kate
Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer (ca 1812 - d.1877), née McNeill, AMW's sister [more].

13.  Fair
The annual fair at Christ's Church, Pomfret on 30 July. See AMW to JW, 10 and 11 July 1851, #06397.

14.  Western road free ticket
The estate of George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more], left 6 per cent stock of the Albany City Western Railroad to AMW worth $700. Probably AMW received a token or ticket of some kind from her shares. See Estate of Whistler George W., St Petersburg, Russia, 1850, no. 4350, Connecticut State Library (formerly of Pomfret), G. 16.

15.  Cousins
The Van Vechtens, maternal cousins of AMW, lived at Albany, NY. See AMW to JW, 17 August and 16 September 1857, #06487.

16.  Mrs Gillibrand
Mary Tyler Gellibrand (b. 1812), née Ropes, wife of W. C. Gellibrand [more], lived at Albyns, England.

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

18.  Frank Fairleigh
Frank Smedley, Frank Fairleigh or Scenes from the Life of a Private Pupil, London, 1850. JW illustrated two scenes from the novel, Mr Frampton Uses his Umbrella (M.68), and Mr Frampton as Noah's Grandfather (M.69).

19.  Mr G
William Clark Gellibrand (b. ca 1791), merchant [more].

20.  Emma Maingay
Eliza Ann Maingay (1821-1899).

21.  Sloane St
62 Sloane Street, London was the home address of Deborah Delano Haden.

22.  Amos
Amos Palmer, Jr (1827-1861), JW's step-cousin [more].

23.  delays are dangerous
'All delays are dangerous in war,' John Dryden, Tyrannic Love, 1669, act 1, sc. 1.

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

25.  Jim H or F V
James Baker Holbrook, a class-mate of JW at USMA, West Point, and Francis Laurens Vinton (1835-1879), room-mate of JW at USMA, West-Point, later Professor of Mining and Engineering [more].

26.  Cozens hotel
Cozzens hotel at West Point, NY, owned by W. B. Cozzen who supplied the academy with food, and did his best to keep it cheap, unappetizing, and unnourishing it as possible. His menu was short and to the point: boiled potatoes, boiled meat, boiled pudding, bread, and coffee. In the sober words of a congressional commission that made an unannounced visit to the mess hall, the food was neither nutritious not wholesome, neither sufficient nor nicely dressed. Through the years the diners became accustomed to sour molasses, rancid butter, bugs in the sugar, and cockroaches in the soup. See Stephen E. Ambrose, Duty, Honor, Country: A History of West Point, Baltimore, 1966, p. 154; William Thompson Bonner, New York, The World's Metropolis 1624-1924, New York, 1924, p. 856.

27.  Semi weekly
In 1851 there were various publications of journals from different locations throughout USA entitled Semi Weekly, such as Semi-weekly Tribune, New York, begun in June 1850.

28.  Rhymes, from Punch on the Crystal Fountain
The Crystal Fountain was designed by F. and C. Osler, and was formed out of four tons of pure crystal glass. It stood 27 feet high situated in the transept of the glass and iron exhibition hall in Hyde Park, London, in 1851. The 1851 edition of the Punch was largely pre-occupied with the exhibition at the Crystal Palace. There were no specific rhymes on its theme, although many satirical articles appeared (including illustrations), such as 'At the Fountain in the Crystal Palace,' Punch, London, 1851, January - June edition, p. 256.

29.  sixty thousand a day yet visit the Crystal palace
Giant glass and iron exhibition hall in Hyde Park, London, that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851. The structure was taken down and rebuilt (1852-1854) at Sydenham Hill, at which site it survived until 1936. The Times reported that on 28 July 1851, the number of visitors was 67,170; see The Times, 29 July 1851, no. 29,866, p. 8.

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

31.  se chass
Fr.: chasse, spirit or liquer taken after coffee (chasse-cafe). AMW probably means that she was expecting Mary and her cousin to arrive 'after coffee.'

32.  silver moon
Eliza (d. 1856), a servant of Kate Livermore [more]; see AMW to JW 27 August 1851, #06399, and AMW to JW, 16 September 1851, #06400.

33.  St Johns, E. Florida
The estate of Charles Johnson McNeill (1802-1869), brother of AMW [more] was at St John's, East Florida; see AMW to JW, 23 March 1858, #06495.

34.  Doct & Mrs P
Rev. Roswell Park (1807-1869), minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Principal of Christ Church School [more]. His wife was Mary Roswell Park, née Brewster, died before 1855.

35.  Grandmother of Cadet Vinton
Mary Vinton (1773-1854), née Atwell, mother of Alexander Hamilton, Francis and John Rogers Vinton.

36.  Mrs Barnes
Charlotte A. Barnes (b. 1811), née Sanford, wife of James Barnes [more].

37.  James Stoddard
James Stoddard, of Pomfret, CT.

38.  Old England
Probably Edwin Paxton Hood, Old England: Historic Pictures of Life in Old Castles, Forests, Abbeys, and Cities, etc., London, 1852, 2nd edition; a book with religious overtones.

39.  piece about the Abbot to him
JW seems to have been preoccupied with clerical subjects at this time. He drew the Priest (M.38), 'Sackcloth without and a good Sack within' (M.58), and St Augustine (M.59). It is possible that he wrote about the Abbot.

40.  Stay thou insulted Spirit stay
'Stay, thou insulted Spirit, stay,' penitential hymn written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), clergyman, poet, and hymn writer. Wesley believed his hymns could help people recognize their sin, respond to God's invitation of grace, and commit their lives to God.

41.  Mary
'Mary ... immediately' continues in the left margin of p. 1.

42.  Mrs Grey
Mrs Grey; unidentified.