The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Transcription/Database Record

the on-line edition

System Number: 06406
Date: 13 November 1851
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Pomfret
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W402
Document Type: ALS[3]


thursday p - m Nov 13th 51

Well darling Jemie [4]

you will begin to complain of our neglect of your letters if I do not answer the one Willie[5] welcomed so gladly last week, for he says the scraps of holidays, he ought to spend in out - of - door exercise, & I agree with him, he wastes his share of powder & shot! in his attempts at shooting birds, Lloyd[6] took him under his patronage one half holiday, & then we had some fat robbins for breakfast! Lloyd has refined astonishingly, he has quite taken your place as beau to Anna[7], I learn that she has a letter from James Holbrook[8] by this days mail, so hope we shall have some West Point news, his last report of you was very encouraging, We have gone thro the third of a month since we ought to have had your list of demerits, brother George[9] is no doubt so devoted to Mary[10] after his days labours, he has not time to write me. I am very anxious about her health, as I hear she must spend the winter in Baltimore.

I wrote George to buy warm drawers for you dear Jemie, I only blame myself for not supplying you with home-made, instead of sending to England for them, neither the Harrisons[11] or your uncle McNeill[12] are to return to their native land this year. Aunt Alicia[13] writes of the benefit my brother is deriving in change of climate, she sends more love to you dear Jemie than I need express, for you know how her warm heart has always kept you in a snug corner, she tells me how delighted Uncle & Aunt Winstanley[14] are with Genl Swift[15], & I was sure he would charm every where. I hope soon to receive Debos[16] account of her welcome to her Uncle & Cousin[17] it is so unusually long since since her last letter to me, I conclude she has been devoting herself to them to make their stay in Sloane St alluring. You will read in the news paper I send you, with this, of the escape of the Africa[18] commanded by our Capt Ryrie[19] (in our voyage in 43[20] when we ran down a brig you'll recollect) Aunt Alicia had put some trifles for us under Mrs Macbeths[21] care, but of course we must wait to hear of the arrival of the Africa in N York!

[p. 2] You must let me know if you like the extracts I make from the Semi weekly[22]. the letters from Russia you will read with goût & circulate perhaps among your cronies, What think you of Kossuth[23]? Is the prospect of a Worlds Fair in N York[24] a powerfully strong inducement, to win you a brief holiday for a visit to its vicinity? Are you studying hard & keeping in order for your next Examination? Oh Jemie how much we shall try (if you do come home in consequence of your present efforts to please your Commanders) to make your holiday charming!

Do you suffer from cold dearest? have you to stand on guard these cold nights[25]? & is your overcoat a sufficient protection? I hope you have put on your long sleeved under-shirts, if not, do so without delay I beg you & write me that you are taking every precaution in your power against cold. Winter has already set in here, the school boys were skating this morning. I hope the spring may be as early, for my prospect is for our removal in March. I do not expect we[,] any of us, shall travel over this road except Mary[26] may spend Christmas at Springfield, until we go for good. As yet I have not heard of the house[27] being found at Scarsdale, but all in season my way will be made clear by the Lord of the widow, who has thus far so wisely appointed my place of sojourn. Jemie do you ever think of your walks with your mother? I should not now take you in the direction of "Elm Cottage" for poor old Mrs Profit[28] was buried this week. I have comfort in looking back to my scripture readings beside her sick bed, she became entirely submissive to the termination of her long illness in death, the funeral of "Aunt Debby[29]" which we all attended some few weeks since was very impressive the hymns & sad voluntary of our choice to solemn & Mr Parks[30] address so appropriate. You will hear that your Miss Davis' brother George[31] is dying of consumption, but that Mr Fitz son[32] who was in delirium thro out his violent attack of fever is recovering, mercifully spared to respect & live to Christ! dear James I pray earnestly for you that you may be under the banner [p. 3] of the Cross, & not be ashamed to confess the Captain of your salvation as honoring & obeying His commandments. For religious ways are pleasant, & the security of the divine favor & protection is so encouraging. You make time I trust to pray night & morning! I was musing of you the other day in connection with my last winter at Dom Ritter[33], & the tears blinded me as I remembered your having asked me to write a prayer for you to offer, in your separation from us! Oh Jemie what a great trial I have been supported thro by religion since then. think of your tender father[34] sometimes my dear boy, bring back the tones of his gentle earnest voice, to urge you on to duty & improvement.

What pleasure it will yeild [sic] Mary to do her part in rendering your visit to us next Summer gratifying! you cannot be as disappointed as I am that the Cling stone peaches[35]. I sent to Mrs Bartlette[36] [sic] decayed, I made such nice preserves from the ½ bushel I had, besides all we ate for tea cut up fresh & sugared. I have since succeeded in making such excellent quince jelly & marmalade[37]. your share shall be in store for your visit to us. Every delicacy we have makes me wish for Jemie! & when I tuck Willie in & kiss him for good night I sigh "poor Jemie" think of his hard bed & rough face! Willie sleeps in the room next mine. Mrs Searles[38] went to the farm to welcome an infant Grand daughter a month ago, & is staying there yet, but hopes to be released in time to get ready for Thanksgiving. We live very frugally, but I must treat Willie to a turkey & mince pies in case he wishes to invite Perry[39] to dine, he has found the walk to the depot short with this new school mate, so I conclude they like each other. Kate Prince[40] repeats the invitation for Willie to spend Christmas with them, but we must be very careful of health & expenditure, & he has concluded to take his holidays in the Spring. What will you say dear Jemie when I tell you of my having had four teeth at a sitting taken out & that I was unconscious! I was persuaded by Mrs Williams[41] to take Ether[42] & was under its influence only five minutes & felt no more its effects.

Grandmother[43] is making a Carolina journey cake[44] for Willies tea, if you know Alston[45] (as I wish you to for he is a Cousin & a fine clever fellow I hear) he can tell you how good it is, & oh how I wish you could enjoy it with Willie.

Burn this scrawl after you have extracted our united love & remembrance. Grandmother is very well & sends her love with mine to Mrs Bartlette [sic], you can report Genl Swift delighting & delighted in England! It gratifies me that you go there often.

I[46] mean to Proff Bartlettes[47], [sic] you can only visit England in imagination! but how creditably you may re visit it if you pass the West Point! but if your demerits cut short your course alas for honors any where! God bless you & watch between you & I while we are separated from each other, write soon to your fond Mother


[p.4][48] Friday

All well. Willie waits to take the Semi weekly & this for you to the School mail bag - I have not seen any from next door to ask the West Point news - Write soon dearest Jemie to your ever anxious Mother

I laughed as I never supposed I should in reading a scrap from "the carpet bag[49]" while I fancied how it would amuse you. Willie will write soon. Uncle McNeill sends his love from England to you, he loves you both as his own boys - I suppose Willie Wyatt[50] is in N Orleans soon you ought to write him.

[Address panel:] Cadet James WhistlerMilitary Academy
West Point
New York State

This document is protected by copyright.


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.  ALS
'JOHN GIBSTONS PATENT' embossed paper mark on top left corner of p. 1.

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

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

6.  Lloyd
Lloyd Henry Bowers (1836-1886), son of Captain P. Bowers, Sr [more].

7.  Anna
Anna Holbrook, daughter of M. B. and J. Holbrook.

8.  James Holbrook
James Baker Holbrook, a class-mate of JW at USMA, West Point.

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

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

11.  the Harrisons
The family of Joseph Harrison (1810-1874), jr, partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more].

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

13.  Aunt Alicia
Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill (1786-1863), JW's aunt [more].

14.  Uncle & Aunt Winstanley
John Winstanley (1776-1859), solicitor, JW's uncle [more], and his wife Eliza Isabella Winstanley (1788-1859), née McNeill, AMW's half-sister.

15.  Genl Swift
General Joseph Gardner Swift (1783-1865), chief engineer of the US Army, brother-in-law of JW's father [more].

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

17.  Cousin
McRae Swift (b. 1819), son of General J. G. Swift; see AMW to JW, 27 August 1851, #06399.

18.  escape of the Africa
Steamer Africa (1850-1868), Cunard Line ( 2,226 tons.). The Africa made its maiden voyage on 26 October 1850 from Liverpool to New York. On 25 October 1851 it was stranded off Belfast due to dense fog, but later managed to return to Liverpool. The media praised its captain (see below), and the passenders of the Africa held a meeting, expressing their confidence in him and their sympathy with his misfortune. See New York Daily Times, 10 November 1851, vol. 1, no. 46, p. 1.

19.  Capt Ryrie
Alexander Ryrie, sea captain.

20.  our voyage in 43
Probably AMW's trip from USA to Britain, in 1843.

21.  Mrs Macbeths
Mrs Macbeth, apparently a friend of Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill.

22.  Semi weekly
It is not clear as to which Semi Weekly AMW refers. 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.

23.  Kossuth
Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894), political reformer [more] who inspired and led Hungary's struggle for independence from Austria. His brief period of power in the revolutionary years of 1848 and 1849 (on 14 April 1849 he was elected "governor" of Hungary), was ended by the arrival of the Russian armies. On 11 August he resigned this post to Artúr Görgey (1818-1916) and took refuge in Turkey. On 6 December 1851 following a US Senate resolution, the frigate USS Mississippi, flying the Hungarian tricolor, picked up Kossuth from his exile in Turkey and from the port of Smyrna (Izmir) took him to Marseilles. From there he travelled to Southampton, England, and London, and eventually arrived in the USA. From the time he landed on Staten Island, New York (5 December 1851) until his departure via New York City (July 1852), he delivered some 150 speeches. In these, he expressed admiration for the American Revolution and the establishment of a democratic government. He stayed out of the main controversy of the period - slavery - but constantly expounded human rights. Kossuth had hopes of reviving the Hungarian revolution, banking on developing European conflicts as catalysts. His visit aroused extensive publicity. Kossuth's and his companions' embarkation was reported in the New York Times, 6 October 1851, vol. 1. no. 16.

24.  prospect of a Worlds Fair in N York
The World Fair took place in 1853 in Manhattan, as a "Crystal Palace Exhibition," modeled on the 1851 London fair (a giant glass and iron exhibition hall in Hyde Park).

25.  guard these cold nights
JW did several drawings describing the life at West Point. One of them shows guards on duty and is called Three Cadets (M.120).

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

27.  house
AMW is to move at Scarsdale Cottage in June 1852.

28.  Mrs Profit
Mrs Profit (d. 1851), of Pomfret, CT. It is probably Mary Profit, aged 65, who was born in Connecticut, and lived with Nancy Profit (probably her sister); see 7th Census of the USA, 1850, Windham County, Pomfret, CT, vol. 11, p. 378.

29.  Aunt Debby
Aunt Debby (d. 1851), of Pomfret, CT; see AMW to JW, 23 and 24 September 1851, #06401.

30.  Mr Parks
Rev. Roswell Park (1807-1869), minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Principal of Christ Church School [more].

31.  Miss Davis' brother George
Eliza Davis (b. 1834), and her brother George Davis (1832-1851) of Pomfret, CT.

32.  Mr Fitz son
AMW mentions "Mr Fitz's son in his 21st year dying of typhus fever", on 23 and 24 September 1851(AMW to JW, #06401). Mr Fitz is probably Daniel Fitz (b. 1778), farmer, of Pomfret, CT, found in the 7th Census of the USA, Windham County, Pomfret, CT, p. 388. His son has not been identified.

33.  Dom Ritter
AMW's residence in St Petersburg, situated across the river from the Academy of Fine Arts.

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

35.  Cling stone peaches
Clingstone variety of peaches on which the flesh clings to the pit. The first to arrive on the market are clingstone. Later in the season, cling-free varieties are available.

36.  Mrs Bartlette
Harriet Bartlett, née Whitehorne, wife of Prof. W. H. C. Bartlett.

37.  quince jelly & marmalade
For the recipes of quince jelly & marmalade see Margaret F. MacDonald, Whistler's Mother's Cook Book, London, 1979, pp. 19, 129-130.

38.  Mrs Searles
Mrs Searles, AMW's neighbour at Pomfret, CT.

39.  Perry
Perry, a fellow-student of W. McN. Whistler at Pomfret, CT.

40.  Kate Prince
Kate ('Cousin Kate') Livermore (1820-1907), née Prince, wife of A. Livermore [more].

41.  Mrs Williams
Mrs C. Williams (b. 1820), wife of Dr Williams, of Pomfret, CT.

42.  Ether
Any of a class of organic compounds characterized by an oxygen atom attached to two carbon atoms that are part of a hydrocarbon. In particular 'ether' ethyl oxide, was used from 1846 as a general anaesthetic.

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

44.  Carolina journey cake
Johnny Cake, originally called journey cake; 1800's wagon train recipe, based on corn bread with rye flour.

45.  Alston
Benjamin Allston (1833-1900), clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church [more].

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

47.  Proff Bartlettes
Professor William Holmes Chambers Bartlett (1804-1893), mathematician [more].

48.  p.4
There are the remains of a black wax seal with AMW's initial 'A'.

49.  the carpet bag
The Carpet-Bag, Boston weekly humorous paper.

50.  Willie Wyatt
William Wyatt McNeill (1833-1853), JW's cousin [more].