The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06427
Date: 11 and 13 April 1853
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Preston
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W422
Document Type: ALS[3]

Preston - dining room

Monday morning April 11th 1853

Uncle W[4] reading the news. Aunt E[5] gone out.

My own dear Cadet

This is an extra indulgence to your fond & widowed mother to have a letter from West Point to answer, & I must not lose a mail in advising Willie[6], lest that young colt break loose from St James[7] ere I can get back to curb his pranks. When I wrote my three sons[8] on the anniversary of their having been left fatherless to my increased responsibility, I could not see clearly as now how soon I must embark to return to them, tho I doubted not the Lord would make plain the time, as well as the path of duty, George is anxious for my return, so now the visit to each friend in the vicinity is curtailed but the disappointment they express is reconcilable thro the interest all feel in the happiness of my Sons. & I shall be ready[9] for either the U.S. or the Bt steamer[10] the first week in May. It takes all the lessons of forty years experience, of the wisdom & power of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe without whose knowledge not even a sparrow falleth[11] - to attain to the calm the christian feels thro all the disturbances which the headlong folly of heedless youth involved my dear Jemie & Willie in. faith & hope in God are not heathen deities as your artistic fancy shapes them, they are the staff of your widowed Mother. When I was about your age dear Jemie with a cousin[12], & friend, younger in Florida, with our future attractive as the scenes upon which we gazed from an old Spanish fort[13] where we daily awakened echoes of song & laughter, as orange groves & unclouded skies, guitars & Spanish dances & graceful Spanish girls awakened romantic views of this world, my cousin Soph called herself Hope[14] & gave me the name of Faith, she has remained in her letters as we sympathise & are more truly Sister - Cousins than in our girlish years, how appropriate the appellation she had selected for me & in truth it is my daily petition that I may realize it more & more, thus you see in passing thro the deep [p. 2] waters[15], & thro the furnace of affliction I see the Saviour & fear not. I fear nothing but losing sight of Him. Ah Jemie if you would only decide to fulfil your high destiny, & remember your Creator & Redeemer now in the days of your youth you would be saved remorse, one cause of thankfulness I have cherished in all your heedlessness of consequences, that you are honest in owning your sins of omission, but you must not hope to retain value for truth if you neglect the source of it, Pilate[16] had curiosity when he asked what is truth? but his aim was not the Glory of God, he was governed by the breath of human applause! ah Jemie how earnestly I pray for you now while you are "boning for a furlough[17]" to welcome my return, it may be on a right system.

Do you not think dearest Jemie that consuming the midnight oil was the cause of a twinge of your old complaint? is not health one of the talents entrusted for you not to waste? I taught my little pets in Sloane St[18] a verse my little boys used to say at my knee "God looks down [19] from heaven on earth our actions to behold & He is pleased when ere we try to do as we are told". We are all only children of a larger growth & must have line upon line, first in gentle words, but as with the boys, the old man, & the apple tree[20], stroke after stroke heavy & heavier, till we become obedient & see that our own safety is the motive for restraining us. The military Academy of our native land is a noble institution isn't it Jemie? it will be a "feather in your cap[21]" to have passed thro it wherever you may travel, do you mean to lose this distinction thro indifference to the laws of our rulers? Your remorse will be without avail when you have lost your grade in the esteem of all high minded honorable men. do not tarnish your fathers name, let it not fall upon you to be a scourge to your mother, who cannot be satisfied with the gloss of virtue without its firm basis for building your reputation upon, do not mortify the many friends - won by your fathers rectitude for his sons - you seem not to prize them as I do, but how should you without [p. 3] you recognizing the hand of God in sparing them to you, your brother too! think of George yearning over your wasted time & advantages, feeling that he is in your fathers place to you & Willie, oh what a blessing to have an elder brother! We are few left in our pilgrimage now, little Annie said to me as I talked to her & little Seyr of Kirkie & Charlie[22] (examples to them for Remembering the Lords day to keep it holy! & for prayer night & morning) "it seems to me dear Grandmama[23] almost all yours have gone to the heavenly home, & you are left!" Do not put off dear Jemie start gathering yourself by practical piety, to be really a helper & comforter to your mother. I never judge from hear - say now, & your own conscience alone shall accuse you, if your late & irregular pursuits in barrack drove cadet Childs[24] from your room. perhaps those in your corps who condemn him for selfishness do so because he is unyeilding [sic] to what they claim as indulgencies [sic]. If you have read & circulated the sermon I approve of your keeping it, as I intended it for your room. I suppose the L. Ill. News[25] was too tempting to escape light readers appropriating it I [...] [sent] more than one to Willie & yourself each. I indulged myself on these for your Xmas & N Years gifts, all in my power which is not hurtful for either of you shall be contributed to your summer, & I will "hope on[26]" that my dear boys intend to yeild [sic] to my wishes & advice, tho I look well & am so in the English homes where Sister & friends save me any painful agitation, I am quite aware my disease is sensitive to distress, since writing you the pain from the neck thro the right side has made it a puzzle how to lie down to sleep. Mary B[27] writes me she is longing to resume her place at Scarsdale Cottage, her attachment is comforting & I doubt not you boys will prefer her to a strange servant. but it would hurt me less to work than to hear discontent or disagreement, so I pray each one may rule the passions, that we may have harmony & thankfulness. I am sure I shall feel that it is by divine favor if we all meet in that blessed circle among the Hills[28] & I trust we shall be considerate for each others happiness, little darling Georgie[29] will be a rival to my flowers, tho I doubt not if I may win him to my ways as I did my pets at 62[30], he will cling to me as they. We[31] shall have such charming neighbors at Grove[32] [ ... ] within speaking distance. bone on & merit it. I kept your letter till after morning service yesterday, it did not steal my thoughts from God, tho as some applicable prayer or portion of the bible touched my heart I may say you all three were united in it. I found there's no mid week mail so shall wind this up at Hope farm[33]. Adieu for Today

[p. 4] Hope Farm

Wednesday 13th

Aunt A[34] & I left Uncle & Aunt W at noon yesterday, they are to visit Kirby[35] during our visit here. I had recd a reply from the mail agent of my ship in time for our consultation in the old home, The Africa[36] having gone into dry dock Capt Harrison[37] will not be leaving until June, so it is probable I may decide to go in the America[38] to Boston, but I shall hear further from Liverpool ere I engage my berth. I am not feeling well enough to enjoy all the bounties which the nice larder of the kind friends would tempt you with, but dear Mrs Smith will let me have my Yankee diet of groats, & that with long rural walks will take away the pain in my side, I dare say. All here ask so fondly after Willie & Jemie! I shall be delighted to talk to my boys at our cottage[39] of this reviving visit, as I am now to describe the places of our native land you have been with me in, Aunt A send you her love & blessing with mine dearest James. she is writing beside me to Mrs Morgan[40] as we sympathise with her in her recent bereavement of a dutiful daughter, Miss Isabella[41] died in their Edinburgh house last friday! how anxious Miss Sophie M[42] will be for the navigation at St P to open that she may get to her widowed & lone mother.

The two nice young ladies here & my friend their Aunt beg room for their remembrances to my Cadet, they tell me that the Earl of Ellesmere[43] whose Castle is close by you'll recollect it - is to be the Royal Commissioner[44] of Queen Victoria for the New York World's Fair. Dont be like the "Milk Maid[45]" keep steady, plod on & break no rules in your resolve to bone for a furlogh to welcome back your Mother. Pray for me on my voyage, stand in awe of grieving away the holy one who watches over [...] & who can unite us. May the hearer of prayers answer mine for you!

This document is protected by copyright.


[address panel:]

Cadet James Whistler
Military Academy
West Point N. Y.


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
There are the remains of what seems to have been a red wax seal.

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

5.  Aunt E
Eliza Isabella Winstanley (1788-1857), née McNeill, JW's aunt, AMW's half-sister [more].

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

7.  St James
St James college, located near Williamsport, Maryland, on the upper reaches of the Potomac River; see AMW to JW, 12 September 1852, #06419.

8.  When I wrote my three sons
AMW's letter to JW, 7 April 1853, #06426, refers to the anniversary of the death of her husband George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer; he died on 7 April 1849, at St Petersburg, Russia from cholera. The third son mentioned here is George William Whistler (1822-1869), engineer, JW's half-brother [more].

9.  I shall be ready
AMW sailed on 7 May 1853, from Liverpool to New York, in the Africa (see below); 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.

10.  U.S. or the Bt steamer
Probably the American (Collins Line) or British (Cunard Line) steamer.

11.  sparrow falleth
'Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father,' Matt. 10.29.

12.  cousin
Probably Sophia Clinch, née Gibbs, widow of Brig. Gen. Duncan Lamont Clinch (1787-1849), congressman [more].

13.  old Spanish fort
Castillo de San Marcos, Florida. The Monument and its surrounding land make up 25 acres in downtown St Augustine, FL, the oldest continually occupied European settlement in what is now the continental United States. It was completed in 1695, and was used as an active military post until 1900. During its career, it has served the Spanish (from 1695 to 1763 and from 1784 to 1821), the British (from 1763 to 1784), the Confederate States of America (from 1861 to March of 1862), and the United States of America (from 1821 to 1861 and 1862 to 1900).

14.  Hope
'Hope' and 'Faith' were biblical characters; 'And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.' 1 Cor. 13.1.

15.  deep [p. 2] waters
Probably 'Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?' Isa. 51.10; 'Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction,' Isa. 48.10.

16.  Pilate
Probably a reference to Mark and Luke, 'And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto them, Thou sayest it,' Mark 15.2; 'And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it,' Luke 23.3.

17.  boning for a furlough
JW did a drawing, 'Boning and Not Boning' in Cadet Colquitt's Mathematics notebook (M.98), p. 4; see AMW to JW, 7 July 1852, #06417.

18.  my little pets in Sloane St
Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918), and Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, JW's niece and nephews.

19.  God looks down
Probably a reference to "God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Ps. 53.2-3.

20.  the old man, & the apple tree
Possibly a reference to John Chapman ('Johnny Appleseed'), Pennsylvania's great folk-hero. For forty-nine years he roamed the American wilderness, devotedly planting apple trees. The reason for John's mission is unknown, although it is said he dreamed of a land covered with blossoming apple trees; of a land where no one went hungry because apples were plentiful. John's gentleness and courage were legendary. He walked alone in the wilderness, without gun or knife, slept outdoors, and walked barefoot. He made his clothes from sacks and wore a tin pot for a hat (and to cook with). John made his drinking water in winter by melting snow with his feet. Even the people of his time were amazed at his endurance. See Reeve Lindbergh, Johnny Appleseed, A Poem, Boston, 1990.

21.  feather in your cap
Yankee Doodle, anonymous song, 'Yankee Doodle came to town, Riding on a pony; Stuck a feather in his cap, And called it Macaroni,' 1755 or earlier. See Nicholas Smith, Stories of Great National Songs, New York, 1899, pp. 22-32.

22.  Kirkie & Charlie
Kirk Boott Whistler (1838-1841) and Charles Donald Whistler (1841-1843), JW's brothers.

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

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

25.  L. Ill. News
Illustrated London News, monthly picture magazine of news and the arts, published in London. It was founded as a weekly in 1842. On 26 November AMW directed two copies of the periodical to her sons in the USA. See AMW to JW, 24 and 26 November 1852, #06423.

26.  hope on
Probably 'Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.' Ps. 131.3.

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

28.  Hills
The family of Margaret Getfield Hill (1802-1881), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY [more].

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

30.  62
62 Sloane Street, the London residence of Deborah Delano Haden.

31.  We
'We ... it' continues in the right margin of p. 3; 'I ... Today' continues in the left and upper margins of p. 1.

32.  Hope farm
Tom Smith, engineer and his wife Mary, lived at Hope Farm, Shropshire.

33.  Grove
Probably Locust Grove, Scarsdale, NY, mentioned in AMW's letter to JW, 27 [April] 1854, #06441.

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

35.  Kirby
Kirby Lonsdale, the birth place of Richard Stuart Picard, husband of Elizabeth Winstanley, AMW's sister-in-law; see AMW to JW, 7 April 1853, #06426.

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

37.  Capt Harrison
Captain William Harrison, sea captain; see AMW to JW, 7 April 1853, #06426.

38.  America
Steamer America (1848), Cunard Line (1,826 tons.); see AMW to Joseph Harrison, 7 July 1849, #07634.

39.  cottage
AMW's cottage at Scarsdale, NY.

40.  Mrs Morgan
Elizabeth Morgan, wife of Steven Morgan.

41.  Miss Isabella
Isabella Morgan (1817-1853), daughter of E. and S. Morgan.

42.  Miss Sophie M
Sophia Morgan (b. 1825), daughter of E. and S. Morgan [more].

43.  Earl of Ellesmere
George Granville Francis Egerton (1823-1862), 2nd Earl of Ellesmere [more]. Ellesmere Castle, Shropshire, built in the 11th century by Roger Montgomery. The castle exchanged hands several times up to 1240, then passed to the le Strange family.

44.  Royal Commissioner
G. G. F. Egerton was the commissioner of Victoria (1819-1901), Queen of Great Britain [more], to the 1853 World Fair (Crystal Palace Exhibition). The Fair was held in Manhattan.

45.  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; see AMW to JW, 6 October 1851, #06403.