The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06426
Date: 7 April 1853
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Preston
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W421
Document Type: ALS

Preston in the dining room

Thursday Aprl 7th. 1853

My truant but dear boy

Jemie[3]. Your widowed Mother never measures your love of her by your letters, tho she laments her deprivation of an exchange of such welcome proofs of remembrance.

Before I indulge you with sketches of England I must lead you back to the memory of your father[4], oh that you would on the return of this sacred & solemn anniversary read his last thoughts of "Jemie my boy!" And resolve to fulfil his hopes, decision will make it easy, he is not dead to us, do you not hear his tender tones of earnest love encouraging your piety & truth? When no human voice may disturb the meditation "on guard[5]" oh be aroused dearest Jemie to redeem your time & improve your talents that you may look back upon a well spent life, & that you may reward the anxiety of your brother George & your fond Sis & Seymour[6] by being a good example to their children[7]. When I pray for you that you may listen to the admonitions from the grave, & from the friends of your father yet spared to remind you of his honorable & honest career, [p. 2] I most earnestly implore the influences invisible, the still small voice[8] upon the softened heart & the tender conscience, I often hear your sleeping supplication, to the Holy Spirit"Stay thou insulted Spirit, stay[9]!" Oh my son, the groanings of that waiting One knocking at your heart cannot be uttered! Grieve Him not to leave you alone! to your idols[10] self & vanity. Jemie dear it is my wish for the happiness you are building hopes of, that impels me to give you this fresh warning to begin upon the only sure foundation. Religion is not gloomy, it secures your enjoyment of every thing not hurtful to spiritual or bodily health.

I do not allow the last report I recd of you (thro Genl Swifts[11] letter to Sis which she sent me here to read - to Mar my comfort in this good old home, for I put you under the care of the Lord daily & seek His blessing for you, Grandmothers[12] last words were "I will fear no evil for Thou art with me[13]" this is the effect of believing in Christs love as exceeding that of a Mother. You had had a feverish attack so Mr Kirkwood[14] who had seen you in the hospital reported & when I read in one of your notes to your brother George which he sent [p. 3] me in lieu of any from you to myself - how mercifully you were shielded from "the brute[15]" whose kick might have sent you into eternity, the thrill which a mothers tenderness excited in fear, melted into thankfulness, thro trust in the hearer of prayer. Jemie dear while preparing for your June examination let it advance you in a serious consideration of your future course. I shall not tax your time to answer this unless it be to welcome my return to "the corner house[16]" I make no plans, but aunts E & A[17] will be less anxious about my voyage if I go in the April or the 7th of May, because Capt Harrison[18] has always been so attentive me, much as they dread the parting, I doubt not the Lord will order my way as He never fails to shew me He guides us with His eye, & disposes hearts & hands to help on. I have just heard from Lt Scriven[19] of the talks he had on his late voyage from N Y in the Africa[20] with "a nice gentlemanly graduate from W Point young Dwight[21]" I dare say you envied him his prospects of travel, but yours are bright for Scarsdale. I hope we shall not forget the indulgence of our Father in heaven if we are permitted to enjoy a holiday there. Lt Scriven always visits Mr P-s[22] family & writes me at the end of every voyage at Liverpool. you will be delighted with him I hope [p. 4] when he visits us at the Cottage[23] & he with you! I went to Kirby[24] last friday with little Johnie Picard[25] & Aunt & spent three days there pleasantly, thought of Willie[26] & Jemie at the river side when you fished Minnies[27] - all remember my lads fondly. Aunt A goes with me to visit the Smiths at Hope Farm[28] next week, & after that we are to have a pleasant time at Leyland Lodge for a few days, this home the rallying point! I must keep for one moonlight at Scarsdale a recital of the enjoyment Sis & I had, a fortnight at Leamington, three bright days availed of for going to Warwick Castle, the ruins of Kenilworth & Guys Cliff[29].

Perhaps my Cadet will like to listen to mother reading Scott's, Kenilworth[30] while Jemie uses the drawing materials Seyr intends me to take him I shall promote holiday recreations in the lives of my dear sons, & hope to win little Georgies[31] love too by entering into his childish pleasures if permitted to. The ocean which so many fear to trust themselves upon discourages not our hopes of embracing, The Lord will never forsake us. My only care is to prepare for either haven infinite Wisdom may appoint. Our heavenly Guide separates & scatters us to make us lean on Him who is able to unite us. Uncle W[32] is kinder then ever, he asked what news from Jemie when he welcomed me back after my winters absence, but I had to confess you have[33] no time to write your Mother. I have had several letters, monthly reports of St James[34] from Willie, & feel it time to expect another[.] your Aunts & Uncle & friends unite in love to you. My blessings & the blessings of God be ever with you dear Jemie. Remember me to our friends the Bartletts & Weirs[35] & to Childs[36].

Your fond Mother

My health is greatly improved, but it is not to be wished I should be ever without warning that we all do fade as the leaf! My life I trust is in Christ, Jesus imperishable, my brother[37] reached his home to see his children[38] & then go to Grandmother & Aunt Maria[39]. how thankful I am in thinking over our intercourse in London! he hoped to have seen you & Willie for he loved you as his own boys. If you try to be all he desired & would have urged you to become it will be as your father wished. love & be advised of the love of your widowed Mother


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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.  your father
George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more]; this was the 4th anniversay of his death.

5.  on guard
Probably AMW is thinking of JW when on guard duty at West Point. JW drew a related subject in The Three Cadets (M.120), and The Guard Tents (M.121).

6.  George & your fond Sis & Seymour
George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more], his sister Deborah Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler and her husband Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher.

7.  their children
Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918), his brother Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, and their sister Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne; JW's nephews and niece.

8.  still small voice
'And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.' 1 Kings 19.1.2

9.  Stay thou insulted Spirit, stay
'Stay, thou insulted Spirit, stay,' penitential Hymn written by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), clergyman, poet and hymn writer; see AMW to JW, 6 August 1851, #06398.

10.  not to leave you alone! to your idols
Probably it derives from 'Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me,' John 16.32, and 'Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God,' Lev. 19.4.

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

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

13.  I will fear no evil for Thou art with me
'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.' Ps. 23.4.

14.  Mr Kirkwood
Kirkwood; unidentified.

15.  the brute
Probably it derives from 'But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.' 2 Pet. 2.12. See also 'But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.' Jude 1.10. It is possible that AMW is reffering to an ilness.

16.  the corner house
The house owned by Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), physician, AMW's brother-in-law [more], built in 1787, situated in the corner of Main and Wall Streets at Stonington, CT.

17.  E & A
Eliza Isabella Winstanley (1788-1859), née McNeill, and Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill (1786-1863), AMW's half-sisters.

18.  Capt Harrison
Captain William Harrison, sea captain. AMW sailed on 7 May 1853, from Liverpool to New York, in the Africa; see AMW to Catherine Cammann, 27 and 28 April 1853, #07641. AMW's arrival in New York, was reported in the New York Herald, Friday, 20 May 1853, vol. 2, no. 522, p. 8.

19.  Lt Scriven
Lieutenant John Barclay Scriven (fl. 1803-1853), naval officer and missionary; see AMW to Margaret G. Hill, 21 and 22 February 1853, #07640.

20.  Africa
Steamer Africa (1850-1868), Cunard Line ( 2,226 tons.); see AMW to JW, 13 November 1851, #06406.

21.  Dwight
William Dwight, Jr (1831-1888), fellow-cadet of JW at USMA, West Point [more]. According to Cullum's Register of Graduates, Dwight did not graduate in 1853.

22.  Mr P-s
Probably William Sherbrooke Popham (1793-1885), merchant [more].

23.  Cottage
AMW's cottage at Scarsdale, NY.

24.  Kirby
Kirby Lonsdale, the birth place of Richard Stuart Picard, husband of Elizabeth Winstanley, AMW's sister-in-law; see AMW to JW, 3 October 1848, #06367, and 10 and 11 February 1852, #06410.

25.  Johnie Picard
Johnie Picard, son of E. and R. S. Picard.

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

27.  Smiths at Hope Farm
Thomas ('Tom') Smith, engineer and his wife Mary, lived at Hope Farm, Shropshire.

28.  Minnies
Probably Minnow, small fresh water fish; a small European fish of the carp family.

29.  Warwick Castle, the ruins of Kenilworth & Guys Cliff
See AMW to Margaret G. Hill, 21 and 22 February 1853, #07640.

30.  Scott's, Kenilworth
Walter Scott, Kenilworth, 1821.

31.  little Georgies
George ('Georgie') Worthen Whistler (b. 1851), JW's nephew [more].

32.  Uncle W
John Winstanley (1776-1859), solicitor, JW's uncle [more].

33.  you have
'you have ... you' continues in the left and upper margins of p. 1; 'my ... Jemie' continues in the right margin; 'Remember ... Mother' continues in the left margin of p. 2; 'my ... ever' continues in the right margin; 'without ... trust' continues in the left margin of p. 3; 'is ... to' continues in the right margin; 'see ... AMW' continues in the left margin of p. 4, cross- written.

34.  St James
St James College, located near Williamsport, Maryland, on the upper reaches of the Potomac River (near the Pennsylvania border); see AMW to JW, 12 September 1852, #06419.

35.  Bartletts & Weirs
The families of Professor William Holmes Chambers Bartlett (1804-1893), mathematician [more], and of Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889), artist and art teacher at USMA, West Point [more].

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

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

38.  his children
Louisa McNeill (d. 1840), William Wyatt McNeill (1833-1853), and Henry McNeill (d. 1840), William Gibbs McNeill's children.

39.  Aunt Maria
Maria Matilda McNeill (d. January 1852), née Camman, wife of AMW's brother, W. G. McNeill [more].