The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06419
Date: 12 September 1852
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Scarsdale
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W414
Document Type: ALS


Scarsdale Sunday nightSept 12th 1852

My own loved Jemie[3]

Whenever the Holy Spirit is the subject of contemplation I have brought to my recollection your invocation overheard by your anxious mother in Pomfret vigils when you were wont to keep me so late from rest "Stay thou insulted spirit stay[4]!" Oh dearest Jemie have you grieved that heavenly guide to leave you? or are your infirmities helped by Him?

On the occasion of a confirmation for the first time in the beautiful church[5] near the cottage we have had many clergy filling its chancel, and most inspiring discourse from one in the morning upon the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, & this afternoon Bishop Chase[6] preached from "by their fruits ye shall know them[7]" such a stirring dissertation upon our relative duties & our high dignity as Christians. As I gazed thro tears at the pressing forward of youth of both sexes, to review their baptismal vows, those who will be on intimate terms with you next summer if you are permitted to visit this favored place - Oh how my heart yearned for you to be among them on this occasion of their devoting their comparative innocence to Christ. I trust that dear Willie[8] has renewed his vows to renounce the world, to mortify the devices of the flesh, & manfully to resist the adversary - Matrons caps contrasted by glossy ringlets bowed for the blessing of the man of God.

[p. 2] Clem Popham [9] & Shep Campbell[10] just on the verge of manhood the former in a mercantile house in the city the latter spending college vacation here, went forward to choose the better service than that of this world, with the aged & poor man, Even the aisle was filled so that two dozen chairs were brought in to accommodate visitors. I saw in leaving the church Annie Davis[11] with a swollen face from weeping - yet she is generally the merriest of the happy throng here, at 13 she has sought a blessing on her future years! & may the Holy Spirit help all these youth & may they help each other!

Annie & her sweet lady like sister Emma [12]who is two years her senior spent yesterday at the cottage, they were storm staid & did not return to their quarters at the river side till after breakfast, they go back to the city for the winter this week! Ellen Bowers[13] has stopped two Sundays with us, she had visited Stonington for a week, but is most charmed by Scarsdale, how much your cronie Childes[14] will be pleased with our church & circle! for my hope is to welcome him with my cadet after the next June Examination, How are you opening your new term dear Jemie? Cast off childish fancies & apply your talents to win honors for your family if not for yourself, Sis[15] has present you with another nephew[16]. "A magnificent boy" Seymour[17] reports, I have many fond messages from Preston[18] for you, Aunt A[19] says you are always in her heart & thoughts. I have not written them yet, that I intend if God helps me across the ocean[20] to devote [p. 3] the Winter for Sis, as I cannot have any home ties here, dear Willie can only spend two more Sundays at Scarsdale this year, but we hear so much in favor of St James[21] I am sure he will be better situated there & he is reconciled now to going. Mr Alexander[22] of Balt writes us he has just passed a fortnight there & the result is he enters three sons in Octr & invites Willie to join them & start from his house, he was once the guest at our Passaic cottage[23] & I am sure will be a friend to Will, I enclose you a note from Eliza Flagg[24] to see the terms of a correspondence with your dearest & nearest cousin W W McN[25]. The best report I have of Jacks[26] is that he felt home - sick in Paris! I have not seen brother George [27] lately, he is too busy even to go to Balt to see his idol baby[28] & it is so delicate he must feel this a great privation.

I wish he could go to West Point with Will as of course he must soon go to exchange adieus with you - Shall I have your drawers made larger than Willie's? you have not sent me the pattern you promised tho I hope you may this week, that you will next leisure put together the articles you are to send me, Willie's stay may be brief, so have all ready ere he arrives. I have pkds[29] & hosiery for you, write me what else you need, Do not put off writing, time slips away so imperceptibly & I wish to put all in order in case I am encouraged to embark by the middle of Octr. of course I shall go to West Point first. How sad the last two reports [p. 4] of the Reindeer[30]! Uncle Genl Swift[31] writes me he has business in N York city the end of this month & will come to see me at the cottage. George promises soon to come for a night. My health is not materially better, the last report of Julie Palmers[32] was encouraging, Kate Prince[33] still there, but I shall not be surprised if she came here this week, Ellen B closes her visit on Wednesday[,] Willie I suppose must that day go to a dentist in town to have three teeth extracted & to supply himself with shoes & pants. I have to exercise the most rigid self denial to balance his expenses, but we avoid debt & so I trust you ever will. Remember me affectionately to the Bartletts[34] & prove your love to your widowed mother


Ellen talks of Jemie & no doubt would enjoy to him to tell of Pomfret Mary B[35] is never tired of speaking of Master James

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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.  Stay thou insulted spirit stay
'Stay, thou insulted Spirit, stay,' penitential Hymn written by Charles Wesley; see AMW to JW, 6 August 1851, #06398.

5.  beautiful church
St James the Less, church at Scarsdale, consecrated in June 1851. JW did a drawing of the church; see A Country Church (M.100).

6.  Bishop Chase
Bishop Philander Chase (1775-1852), clergyman and bishop in the U. S. Protestant Episcopal Church [more].

7.  by their fruits ye shall know them
'Ye shall know them by their fruits,' Matt. 7.15-17

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

9.  Clem Popham
Robert Clement Popham (1830-1911), son of E. C. and W. S. Popham [more].

10.  Shep Campbell
Allan Sheppard ('Shep') Campbell (1834-1876), a friend of JW from Stonington, CT [more].

11.  Annie Davis
Annie Davis (b. 1839), of Scarsdale, NY.

12.  sister Emma
Emma Davis (b. 1837), of Scarsdale, NY.

13.  Ellen Bowers
Ellen Augusta Bowers (1834-1890), daughter of Captain P. Bowers, Sr [more].

14.  Childes
Frederick Lynn Childs (ca 1831 - d.1894), room-mate of JW at USMA, West Point [more].

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

16.  another nephew
Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, JW's nephew [more].

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

18.  Preston
Eliza Isabella Winstanley (1788-1857), née McNeill, JW's aunt, AMW's half-sister [more], lived at Preston, Lancashire.

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

20.  St James
The St James College was located near Williamsport, Maryland, on the upper reaches of the Potomac River (near the Pennsylvania border). The term 'college' was rather loosely used in the 19th century. It may have been a private finishing school rather than a college in the modern sense.

21.  across the ocean
AMW spent the winter of 1853 at the residence of her step-daughter Deborah Delano Haden, at 62 Sloane Street, London; see AMW to George William Whistler, William McNeill Whistler, and JW, 18 and 19 November, #06422.

22.  Mr Alexander
Alexander, a friend of AMW, of Baltimore.

23.  Passaic cottage
AMW and her husband lived at the Passaic, NJ, for a short period in the early 1830s.

24.  Eliza Flagg
Eliza Flagg (1830-1855), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of Rev. E. O. Flagg [more].

25.  W W McN
William Wyatt McNeill (1833-1853), JW's cousin [more].

26.  Jacks
Patrick T. Jackson ('Jacks') McNeill (1835-1898), accountant, JW's cousin [more].

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

28.  idol baby
George ('Georgie') Worthen Whistler (b. 1851), JW's nephew [more].

29.  pkds
Pocket handkerchiefs, probably made of cambric, cotton or linen fabric; see AMW to JW, 3 September 1852, #06418.

30.  the Reindeer
Steamer Reindeer (1850), New Brunswick Steamboat Company (850 tons.). It was burned in September 1852. The number of deaths kept increasing on a daily basis over a period of ten days. The Boston Atlas, 7 September 1852, vol. 21, reported that the number of deaths had reached 32. "Several of the scalded remain in a very hopeless state, but more have died since 5 o'clock this morning ..." On 10 September 1852, vol. 21, the same paper reported that the bodies of the "Richmond sufferers did not reach Richmond until today. A general suspension of business was observed during the progress of the funeral ceremonies ..." See Richmond Enquirer, 10 September 1852, vol. 49; see AMW to JW, 27 August 1851, #06399.

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

32.  Julie Palmers
Julia McNeill Palmer (1851-1902), JW's cousin, later wife of W. S. Boardman [more].

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

34.  Bartletts
The family of Professor William Holmes Chambers Bartlett (1804-1893), mathematician [more].

35.  Mary B
'Mary B ... James' continues in the left margin.