The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06440
Date: 24 July 1854
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Stonington
Recipient: JW
Place: [West Point[2]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W435
Document Type: ALS

[embossed monogram:] A M W


July 24th 54Monday evening

You cannot have an idea of the love of a mother, or your kind nature would not allow you to keep yours in suspense a month. your last date the 20th of June at W P [i.e. West Point] was so confiding & so expressive of anxiety to screen me from sorrow on your account, as if you had not forgotten our St P [i.e. Saint Petersburg] home & the one who had there lessened my griefs by sympathy, & increased my joys by promoting virtue in our children. Do you never hear your fathers[3] voice fondly coming back in memories of home? "Jemie[4] my boy" do all you can to comfort mother" as he used to write when for your health I was obliged to leave him & home!

And what are you doing to comfort your widowed mother? you know I can bear calmly all sorrows but those which result from my childrens neglect of the holy law by which you have been trained. You once wrote me last winter when you felt lonely & depressed that as the darkest hour of the 24 is that preceding daylight, you hoped a cheering letter the next mail. Perhaps tomorrow morning may bring me affectionate lines from you, but a cloud [p. 2] now obscures the sunshine of your heart towards mine. It is not unusual for me to be alone after I put the children to bed, but as my separation from my own home companions binds me the more truly to the Saviour I only lament the cause, of my depression. I cannot be indifferent to the estranged affection of my sons, I must grieve that you grieve the Holy Spirit! Mary[5] is my sympathiser in bodily form[6], in my Attic, we are "surrounded by interested witnesses[7]["] I know, invisible! The good Doct Uncle Palmer[8] often asks me when I expect Jemie & Willie[9] to visit me? I know nothing of the plans or prospects of either, tho I do not express to him the blight of my summers hopes! I came not here to cast a gloom, & I attain to uniform cheerfulness for the family circle by "spreading my [case?] before the Lord[10]" the promises of scripture I search out daily, they are a staff to me in passing under the rod! Debos[11] letters are a solace also, at least once a fortnight, she too sympathises with me. I recd in one from Cousin Kate[12] a note sealed & directed to you so I shall enclose it, tho I know not its importance to you, she has always loved my boys as a Sister, it may she remembers your birth days occur this month! I have felt each July anniversary a mockery of past home comforts. George's[13] birth day the 9th, yours 11th Willies 22nd Kirkies[14] 16th his death the 10th such is the course [p. 3] of this world! And "the judgements of God are a great deep[15]!" Oh my boys! does the day dream of the present obliterate, the truth, that death is the only certainty you may pity me without really feeling it! but I pity you in my heart & wish you would make to yourself the resources I do, by cheering the suffering. My usual walks are to a poor sick woman & as I impart soothing, I receive it, according to the divine promise[16]. But I went with Aunt Kate [17] to call this afternoon upon the pretty, & amiable wife of Edmund Stanton[18]. As he pointed out to us her portrait I said, "Jemie would be charmed with seeing this" and all seemed interested to hear of you, but I felt it awkward to explain of your movements. Edmund is particularly friendly, he is a very excellent fellow, how blessed is his Mother[19]. I heard with surprise from him his having met George in an Omnibus last Wednesday! I recd a note from him mailed at Cape May[20] last week, but I did not reply to it, supposing he'd write me at N Y. Little Marshall Willey[21] was released from suffering last tuesday! he "endured to the end[22]". what a blessed transition from corruption to immortal joy! he loved his Saviour & put himself under the tender Shepherds care as he felt he was entering the dark valley[23]! A violent thunderstorm awakened me last friday past midnight & memories kept me awake, it was the hour of Willies birth day! I thought I certainly should write him on Saturday, but claimants here, interfered. To[24] pray for you, I bid you good night. Oh that happy dreams might unite us! No letters this morning (Tuesday 25th) I shall not delay begging George to forward this to you now &

ever your devoted Mother


This document is protected by copyright.


[Address panel:]

Mr James A Whistler


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

4.  Jemie
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more]. 'Jemie my boy,' was a familiar phrase used by JW's father George W. Whistler to reconcile JW to self denial & obedience; see AMW to JW, 10 May 1849, #06392, 15 and 16 January 1852, #06409, and 7 April 1853, #06426.

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

6.  sympathiser in bodily form
The idea of a 'sympathiser in bodily form' sums up the role Jesus Christ plays in Christian theology as the person bridging the gap between humanity and God. 'It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us,' Rom. 8.34.

7.  surrounded by interested witnesses
The idea of being surrounded by witnesses probably comes from Heb. 12.1, where 'so great a cloud of witnesses' describes the list of great figures from biblical history given in Heb. 11.

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

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

10.  spreading my [case?] before the Lord
It probably derives from two biblical references: 'And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord,' 2 Kings 19.13-15; 'And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord,' Isa. 37.13-15.

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

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

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

14.  Kirkies
Kirk Boott Whistler (1838-1841), JW's brother [more].

15.  the judgements of God are a great deep
'Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.' Ps. 36.6.

16.  divine promise
'According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.' 2 Pet. 1.3-4.

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

18.  wife of Edmund Stanton
Louise Stanton, née Babcock, wife of Edmund Stanton.

19.  his Mother
Mrs Stanton, mother of Edmund Stanton.

20.  Cape May
Probably Cape May, NJ.

21.  Little Marshall Willey
Marshall Willey (d. 1854), a small boy; see AMW to JW, 3 April 1854, #06437.

22.  endured to the end
'But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.' Matt. 24.13.

23.  dark valley
'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.

24.  To
'To ... us' continues in the right margin; 'No ... AMW' continues in the left margin of p. 1.