The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06430
Date: 16 November 1853
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Scarsdale
Recipient: JW
Place: West Point[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W425
Document Type: ALS


Wednes - eveningNov 16th 53

My own dearest Jemie[3]

I was thinking of you today - no uncommon thing - that last year when the ocean rolled between us[4] we heard more frequently from each other, & I resolved to try to excite your pen by a letter for tomorrows mail. Now I have yours to respond to how much more grateful the duty. dated the 7th & only recd this eve where has it been staying? You complained of fits of the blues & naturally I became infected, yet Jemie dear it is better thus than that you should be indifferent to home influences. I pray that you may listen to conscience "on guard" when none other may speak to you. Ah how your Mothers heart aches to think if you prosper at West point you must belong to the USA instead of sharing my home & cheering it! the words of the Yeoman of Portishead[5] as Willie[6] wept at your first separation from us - "belike when lads part they'll never bide together again[7]" came echoing back from sad memories, admonishing a widowed Mother that God had severed her family band on earth to draw her heart to the heavenly home, & there only are my hopes centered to meet & abide with my family band.

But now to explain my long silence to my Cadet. The cottage was for six weeks so unquiet I did not even answer your Sisters letters, my guests relatives from St Louis[8] took their departure last wednesday, I accompanied them to N Y [p. 2] & who do you think in tow? no less a personage than our Topsy[9]! really to me she is very interesting! Cousin Kate[10] at Bath - N H - and I, had been in communication relative to her change of service some weeks, then Mr Livermore[11] wound up the correspondence by writing he would go as far as Stonington to take her. I served many an hour after all had retired, to complete her plentiful wardrobe, the city Express relieved me of her carpet bag & box to the commodore, & I crossed to lunch at Grandmas[12], then concluded to pass two nights on the Sound that I might deliver Eliza to Mr L & spend a day at the corner house. Uncle P[13] wished to see me & prescribe for me too, I dare say when I can rest more my alarming symptoms may subside, but Cousin Matties nervous excitement has painfully told upon my nerves. You know Jemie "the willing horse has all the strain[14]" it is no wonder the last four years, should wear me out, but oh these six weeks have been most trying. The change to quiet I am most grateful for Mary[15] does all the duty & I recline on the old sofa & read, or sew, or write while our student is gone for the day. I told him this evening as he enjoyed his dinner of beef-steak, hot coffee & muffin, you would envy him. And now he has walked up to Mr Pophams[16] to ask them what I shall write Mrs Commodore Rogers[17] about her wish to rent a cottage in Scarsdale, I recd a letter from her today, demanding an immediate reply. she does not wish to rusticate till next Spring or she might rent the Cottage, I am looking for board in N York for us for the winter & tho I [p. 3] have not obtained it yet, I must arrange household goods next week to leave securely from Dec to April. Willie loses time by 50 miles R R [Rail Road] motion per diem, he looks well as you will see with your own eyes I hope Thanks giving - he & I have been calculating upon this holiday for your mutual enjoyment for weeks back.

Ah how I yearn to see you my dear Jemie & hear your cheering words & affection! I feared from your not having written me your approval of "the crowd of things by Willie" you were quite indifferent to my cares, but thanks be to God my soldier laddie keeps home influences in his heart, I may expect answers to my poor scrawls now, & not fear you find them wearisome to read. You knew I had gone to Balt with George[18] for he took you the boots I had ordered for you - I had an attack of influenza, which unfitted me for enjoyment, I had the Winans[19] equipage to visit old friends & was much with Eliza Flagg[20], she has quite recovered in her native air, Jacks[21] is already advanced in the Machine shop, his diligence merits it, Eliza has charmed off his home sickness, he has accepted a very kind invitation to room at Mr Rodewaldes[22], their son enters the Works with him so you see it is like taking Joseph out of prison[23] to Jacks. Certainly the ordeal was severe to such a home boy the first few months. Mrs Winans[24] went with me to Bartram Hall! I spent a day & half with the Eastwicks[25], then Mr Harrison[26] brought me home he urged me to look for a house in N York & remove immediately! arguing very properly the loss of time to Willie, that he could not read, as he ought at home. The next day I had three ill, & Willie's attack of bilious fever tho soon subdued, was alarming to me Cousin Mattie's of jaundice almost broke me down. I felt it a relief to decide on boarding for the winter, as I should find the bustle of packing & moving beyond my [p. 4] present stock of energy. rents in town are enormous.

I bargained with Aunt Kate to have you a bun made by her nice Rose for Thanksgiving, offering her a box of raisins which are not the worse for being in my parlor pantry all Summer, Aunt Kate[27] would have been delighted to have sent you a cake, but raisins are so risen in price - as every commodity - my box will help her Thanks giving, she & Uncle P are spending this week in the city, little Annie & Julia[28] too to go to the Crystal Palace[29]. If my cough allows me I must go to the city before they leave for a day. I shall make you some collars like the pattern with pleasure to send by Willie. Mary will no doubt add her offering of cake she loves your both, & pities you from her warm heart of Erin. You do not mention my friends but do me the favor to call at Prof Bartletts[30] with my remembrance, mention that Willie may be expected thursday 24th. Sis[31] sends love in each her letters to you, I saw George last friday on way back from Stonington, he was to go to Balt today. Jemie[32] dear I thanked Mr Tho Winans for his attention & friendship towards my boys, he could not have felt the force of his remark as I did painfully, that Jemie would always have to be taken care of! Oh if you would use your talents you need not be obliged to any but natural links for support. I wish for health[s] sake you'd try to accustom your feet to woollen socks!

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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.  ocean rolled between us
AMW was in England between November 1852 and May 1853; see AMW to George William Whistler, William McNeill Whistler, and JW, 18 and 19 November 1852, #06422 and AMW to JW, 11 and 13 April 1853, #06427.

5.  Yeoman of Portishead
Unidentified. JW went to school at Portishead, England; see #06359, and #06360 - #06374.

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

7.  belike when lads part they'll never bide together again
Quotation not identified.

8.  relatives from St Louis
Martha ('Matty') Fairfax (b. ca 1820), JW's cousin, wife of Isaiah Davenport, and their children Joseph Davenport, businessman, Potter Davenport, book keeper, and Ellen Davenport; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 28 September 1853, #06428, and AMW to JW, 29 September 1853, #06429.

9.  Topsy
Eliza (d. 1856), a servant of Kate Livermore [more]; see AMW to JW 27 August 1851, #06399, and AMW to JW, 16 September 1851, #06400.

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

11.  Mr Livermore
Arthur Livermore (b. 1811), lawyer [more].

12.  Grandmas
Maria Margaretta Cammann ('Grandma C') (1774-1862), mother-in-law of William Gibbs McNeill [more].

13.  Uncle P
Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), physician, AMW's brother-in-law [more].

14.  the willing horse has all the strain
Probably a derivation from 'Folk call on the horse that will carry alway,' in modern phrase 'The willing horse is always most ridden,' John Heywood, ca 1546, from The Proverbs, Epigrams, and Miscellanies of John Heywood, pt. 1, ch. 11, ed. by John S. Farmer, Guildford, 1966, p. 42.

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

16.  Mr Pophams
William Sherbrooke Popham (1793-1885), merchant [more].

17.  Mrs Commodore Rogers
Mrs Commodore Rogers.

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

19.  Winans
The family of Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more].

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

21.  Jacks
Patrick T. Jackson ('Jacks') McNeill (1835-1898), accountant, JW's cousin [more]; he was working at the Winans Locomotive Works in Baltimore.

22.  Mr Rodewaldes
Johann Frederick Rodewald (1808-1886), banker, husband of Mary Isabella McNeill [more].

23.  Joseph out of prison
'And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.' Gen. 39.19-22.

24.  Mrs Winans
Celeste Winans (1823-1861), née Revillon, wife of Thomas De Kay Winans [more].

25.  Bartram Hall! I spent a day & half with the Eastwicks
Bartram Hall was the residence of Andrew McCalla Eastwick (1810-1879), partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more]; see AMW to JW, 15 and 16 January 1852, #06409.

26.  Mr Harrison
Joseph Harrison (1810-1874), jr, partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more].

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

28.  Annie & Julia
Anna Whistler Palmer (b. 1848), AMW's niece, later wife of G. Stanton, and her sister Julia McNeill Palmer (1851-1902), JW's cousin, later wife of W. S. Boardman [more].

29.  Crystal Palace
See AMW to JW, 6 August 1851, #06398.

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

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

32.  Jemie
'Jemie ... support' continues in the left and upper margins of p. 1; 'I ... socks' continues in the right margin.