The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06403
Date: 6 October 1851
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Pomfret
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W399
Document Type: ALS


Oct 6th 1851Monday evening

My own precious Jemie[3]

Your very comforting note which you intended for last tuesdays mail did not reach me till by todays delivery. dont let it discourage you in weekly favors to me, that I remind you of the supply of stamps I send you for the avoiding double postage. I know you would rather oblige a room mate if in want of a stamp, than send it back to me, but we have no right to tax our friends to whose care we sometimes direct letters. Mr Jones[4] enclosed yours in a very polite note & stamped envelope. you know that I have to take care of the pence now dear Jemie, so in future as you have your desk you can deposit my stamps for my benefit.

Willie[5] & I occupy the dining room, he is studying Virgil[6], he asked me upon reading your note "what does Jim mean by "go up[7]"?

And now will you report to us if your marks of last Saturday were as encouraging as the Sat before? you have the power to cheer us thus & I believe you are in earnest now to win yourself a reputation as brother George[8] has [p. 2] done by diligence in the discharge of duty.

My trip to West Point last week Jemie was worth all it cost, it will be a bright reflection for the dreary separation of a winter from you, unless Genl Tottens[9] warnings cast shadows over the bright sketches of a Mothers hopes. Oh Jemie will you try to earn a holiday to return some of my visits? think of your welcome home! & of your going with us to visit Geneva[10] next midsummer! how we shall all delight to honor our Cadet, if by obedience to orders, & by industry he win indulgence from the "big boys" of the Military Academy, but dont be like the milk maid[11] & dash all to the ground by self confidence. "steady boys steady[12]" be the echo to your honest resolve & may God bless you. I hope you may avail of your weekly privilege sometimes at least to take tea at the house of my friends. Say to them that we escaped the rain on friday, we had to wait ½ an hour for the train at Garisons[13], but the wind was in our favor so we did not suffer from dust, we reached 80 Jerolamon St[14] in time for the 2nd course at Grandma C - s & had a fine appetite for dressed lobster & lettuce with bread & butter.

[p. 3] Wily Wyatt & Jacks[15] escorted us to the Commodore[16] where parson Willey[17] took us under his care & for the first time since my return to our native land I was prevailed upon to go to the supper table, I wished for my boys to enjoy oysters & indian pone[18] for me. Aunt Kate[19] wished to land as soon as we reached Stonington, so we did not take a State room. I could not sleep for the storm, rain, thunder &c eternity is always in my vision, probably none watched but myself among the hundreds of passengers! the rain had ceased when at one oclock Mr Willey piloted me thro the dark streets to the corner house[20], Aunt Kate close in our wake, & "nigger Jim[21]" carrying my basket & her bag, to our relief he was in waiting.

Again on Saturday a friend in need was provided, Ned Denison[22] divided his attention between his wife & children & Grandmother. Donie[23] & myself, we were favored with clear weather & no detention. Willie was at the Pomfret depot so pleased to drive us home! for he had felt desolate, tho he studied every evening & performed the office of chaplain regularly! he ought to write you of the fun at Doctor Williams[24] on wednesday evening when Sam H, Lloyd[25], & himself by invitation, met the three young ladies, & they were regaled with music & snatch bags[26].

Willie did not stay to see the end of the frolic, two hours satisfied him. Lloyd has come out this term quite a gallant! he sings in our choir. Mrs Bowers [27] says there is no one she should more enjoy a visit from than yourself! but she supposes [p. 4] you will not come before I move away! she is so glad to hear that you are "weller", & doubt not you will feel like studying in consequence.

Dear Grandmother[28] has been suffering from Cholera morbus[29] since our journey hither, but is recovering. Donie gives me no trouble, tho his demands for peaches, crackers & milk are hourly. I intend to fatten him! Mary B[30] has so much to ask about you! she is flattered by your relishing her cake & wishes she could send you one every week, but not by your mother! she is thankful that I am not intending to leave Pomfret till we move.

I recd a note from Mrs Boote[31] declining my invite for Aunt Mitt[32] & herself just now as Miss Haden[33] was six weeks in crossing the Atlantic & had hurt her back by a fall on board the "Hendric Hudson[34]" she enclosed me a letter from dear "Sis[35]" who wrote by[36] the last steamer in a quiver of delight in the anticipation of Uncle Swifts[37] arrival - I hope he may be with her this evening, as she meant to insist on his making 62 Sloane St his home in London, Seymour[38] & Sis were to go to "White Well[39]" for his health & a bit of fishing the last fortnight of Septr, they would spend a night at Preston en passant. Uncle McNeill[40] was well, but so full of business in London, Seymours efforts to be attentive to him were ineffectual. NB, Willy Wyatt told me he should go to N Orleans this month to devote himself to mercantile persuits. - he wishes, but [p. 5] knows he cannot - go to see you for farewell. Cousin Jose Richards[41] surprised me by informing me her father Genl Swift expects to be absent seven months & to extend his tour of observation with his son MacRea[42] to Egypt! this will be an interesting fact for Prof Bartlett[43]. Do dear Jemie go there next Sat afternoon to take my thanks for their attention to me, Aunt Kate was charmed with their family circle & has taken it as a pattern to reform hers by! she thinks too Jemie dear you are improved in every respect, that you look in better health than ever she saw you. Take care of that blessing if it be restored! How much I thought of you yesterday! if you will read your bible & the Xtian Witness[44], I shall not doubt your "going up" in your class. It is the blessing of God alone which ensures success - try my dearest Jemie & oh I beseech you[45] not to neglect your prayers, every day & night. Write soon to Willie, he feels your neglect.

Willies[46] love for you with Mothers God bless you ever


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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.  Mr Jones
Alonzo V. Jones, husband of Eliza Ducatel.

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

6.  Virgil
Virgil (70-19 BC), né Publius Vergilius Maro, Roman poet.

7.  go up
JW's letter does not survive. AMW probably refers to him getting higher marks at West Point; see AMW to JW, 23 and 24 September 1851, #06401.

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

9.  Genl Tottens
General Joseph Gilbert Totten (1788-1864), military engineer [more].

10.  visit Geneva
The house of General Joseph Gardner Swift (1783-1865), chief engineer of the US Army, brother-in-law of JW's father [more], was in Geneva, NY.

11.  milk maid
Probably a reference to a folk tale The Maid and the Milk Pail, the moral of which was 'do not count too much on things happening the way you want, because you may be disappointed.' Also Lat.: ante victoriam canere triumphum, don't sing your song of triumph before you have won the victory.

12.  steady boys steady
A popular song by David Garrick, Heart of Oak, London, 1759.

13.  Garisons
Garrison station, West Point, NY.

14.  80 Jerolamon St
According to Brooklyn City Directory, 1861, p. 59, 148 Joralemon Street, was the home address of Maria Margaretta Cammann ('Grandma C') (1774-1862), mother-in-law of William Gibbs McNeill [more]. It is possible that AMW was mistaken or that the address numbers were altered at a later date.

15.  Willy Wyatt & Jacks
William Wyatt McNeill (1833-1853), and Patrick T. Jackson McNeill (1835-1898), accountant, JW's cousins.

16.  Commodore
'Commodore,' popular title for Steamer Cornelius Vanderbilt (1847-1896), Stonington Line (1,041 tons.); see AMW to Joseph Harrison, 13 August 1849, #07637.

17.  parson Willey
J. M. Willey (b. 1820), clergyman.

18.  oysters & indian pone
Oysters seem to have been AMW's favorite food, which she herself cooked or pickled. See Margaret MacDonald, Whistler's Mother's Cook Book, London, 1979, pp. 62, 139-140. Indian pone cakes, bread made of maize.

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

20.  the corner house
The house owned by Dr George E. Palmer (d. ca. 1867/1868), husband of Kate Palmer, built in 1787, situated in the corner of Main and Wall Streets.

21.  nigger Jim
Jim, Kate Palmer's servant.

22.  Ned Denison
Ned Denison, of Stonington, CT.

23.  Donie
Donald McNeill Palmer (b. 1845), JW's cousin [more].

24.  Doctor Williams
Lewis Williams (b. 1815), physician, of Pomfret, CT [more].

25.  Sam H, Lloyd
Sam Holbrook, son of James Holbrook, and brother of J. B. Holbrook, and Lloyd Henry Bowers (1836-1886), son of Captain P. Bowers, Sr [more].

26.  snatch bags
Probably 'Knucklebones,' an ancient game played with five little pebbles or knucklebones. They were thrown into the air and caught on the back of the hand. The pieces on the floor were then picked up with the fingers while balancing the rest on the back of the hand. Later, a pottery ball, slightly smaller than a golf ball, was added, which made the game a little easier to play, as the bounce of the ball allowed more time to snatch the pieces up from the floor. By the 19th century, the game was highly developed, with many steps. See Victoria's Network, @

27.  Mrs Bowers
Betsey Bowers (1796-1896), wife of Captain P. Bowers, Sr [more].

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

29.  Cholera morbus
Acute gastroenteritis occurring in summer and autumn and marked by severe cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. The term is no longer in medical use (Lat.: morbus, disease).

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

31.  Mrs Boote
Mrs Boott, mother of Mary Love Haden, née Boott.

32.  Aunt Mitt
Aunt Mitt, unidentified.

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

34.  Hendric Hudson
Steamer Hendrik Hudson (built in 1845), People's Line (1,170 tons.). She was the first Hudson River steamboat to exceed one thousand tons and her interior appointments and accommodations had up till then never been equalled. During the seasons of 1846 and 1847 she was a night boat; in the latter year her team mate was the Isaac Newton, these two steamboats being the finest on the river. See William M. Lytle and Forrest R. Holdcamper, revised and edited by C. Bradford Mitchell, with the assistance of Kenneth R. Hall, Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States, 1790-1868, Baltimore, 1975, pp. 137-39.

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

36.  by
'by ... steamer' continues in the right margin.

37.  Uncle Swifts
Captain William Henry Swift (1800-1879), brother-in-law of JW's father [more].

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

39.  White Well
Probably 'Whitwell,' a village located in the north-east corner of Derbyshire, on the borders with South Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.

40.  Uncle McNeill
William Gibbs McNeill (1800-1853), railway engineer, AMW's brother [more].

41.  Cousin Jose Richards
Louisa Josephine ('cousin Josee') Richards (1821-1859), née Swift, wife of P. Richards.

42.  MacRea
McRae Swift (b. 1819), son of General J. G. Swift.

43.  Prof Bartlett
Professor William Holmes Chambers Bartlett (1804-1893), mathematician [more].

44.  Xtian Witness
The Christian Witness, first published in 1834 by James L. Harris (1793-1877).

45.  you
'you ... night' continues in the right margin; 'Write ... neglect' continues in the right margin.

46.  Willies
'Willies ... A M W' continues in the left upper margin of p. 1.