UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06444
Date: 30 October [1854[1]]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: [Unknown]
Recipient: JW
Place: Alexandroffsky Villa[3]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W439
Document Type: ALS


Monday morning 3 oclockOct 30th

I cannot sleep, again & again prayer has soothed my spirit thro this restless night & tears have relieved my full heart. And now if you my own dear James[4] will read this, it may be time well spent for us all. I judge you not, there is One who will judge you by your obedience to His law, which may not be broken without suffering. I fear you never allow yourself time now for examining your ways, alas I have reason to fear you allot no hour to prayer or reading His word by which your course of conduct is to be compared. Oh that you would remember God spared you to my prayers for time to prepare to die! when he suddenly took the companion of your happy childhood[5] to eternity! each brother who has "gone before[6]" you to the grave gave proof of preparation. "The little ones" "of such is the kingdom of heaven[7]" dear Joes[8] heart (it was testified by all who knew him) had never swerved from obedience to Gods commands, he was thought pure by all who were familiar with him, yet he had resolved to consecrate his youth to our Saviour voluntarily. & had told at Aunt Marias[9] his wish for Confirmation, the desire was acceptable in the council of the Almighty, & he was taken to Paradise at 15. dear Henry[10] his bosom companion & best loved cousin [p. 2] was the next called that year of 1840. you never knew such a boy of twelve years old. You would have admired him for he was so really a gentleman, & had advanced so far up the ladder of learning. After Joe had departed, only a Christmas holiday confined to a sick bed at dawn on New Years day his last words "Mother I am dying." & then an angelic expression was the halo of peace on that beautiful face! the morning star shone bright as I rose from my prayer beside the corpse - can you wonder I rise to see the dawn? But I was about to tell you that Joes death gave new impulse to virtue to Henry. & was succeeded by another sudden sorrow. the pet of the house, a most beautiful & gifted little Sister of eight years Louisa MacNeill[11] sickened on tuesday & on Wednesday Ash Wednesday - she was taken from suffering here to Jesus whom she loved, she used to beg her dear father to go to church all day on the Lords day. And now Jemie I check my inclination to extend the chain of precious memories of others, tho I must tell you of Henrys unceasing attention to his bereaved parents & sisters & his tender care of his little brothers. he seemed bent upon supplying the vacancies death had made in both our homes, from that time he sought in his companionship with Cousin Donald[12] to learn more of serving the Lord, asked him the full meaning of Faith & spoke of his resolve to be a Christian that was his own remark. he became very devoted to improvement, & tho so suddenly taken, left every thing in perfect order! he had marked the hymn "Let worldly [p. 3] minds the world pursue, it hath no charms for me, once I admired its pleasures too, but grace has set me free.[13]" Dear Willy MacNeill certainly had attained to the same freedom. As Mary & Frederick[14] testified to me the year before he was so suddenly to exchange temporal for eternal enjoyments! And now Jemie in the Providence of God the precious brother he has left, is to share our home influences. how are these to be exerted? Will you sustain Cousin Donald & me by your exertions to promote the welfare of Willie[15] & Jacks[16]? Your example will have the greatest weight with your brother, you see how he is unsettled, he tries dissipation & it aggravates his discontent, a crisis is pending in this poor boys life, he must be checked in his folly, or he will get quite beyond a widowed mothers influences. Now you must do your part by example dear Jemie, it is pitiable when we compare Willies verging manhood of weakness mental & physical, with his career under his fathers[17] firm yet affectionate control, or his dutiful consideration for his widowed mother until his 16th year, But if now he could be strengthened to breast the waves (for life is a river, deepening in its course - the struggle would soon be over, & steadily he might steer & be able to look back with gratitude & to grow. But if you are the sport of the winds yourself, how can you offer advice to Willie? Oh think of what he was! & what he is! think of him in your pillow for one night instead of reading fiction, & ask your conscience what is required of you to help your Willie. Will you both combine to break my heart? is Mary Brennan[18] to be my only sympathiser? she loves you both so truly it is cruel to disappoint her of the reward she hoped for her self sacrifice in coming to Baltimore!

[p. 4] Our faithful Mary, who seeks no earthly reward, but rejoices over every symptom of tenderness of conscience in the young gentlemen, she has seen so carefully trained, she wept bitterly last evening in the next room, when my heart was too heavy with sorrow for blessed tears to flow, as they have thro the night & do now as I write, I thank God for this relief, as I do for every other. And now Jemie it occurs to me, the reflection will be better to you in the retrospect of your career, that you prefer luxury to your home. pleasure certainly has crippled you & indolence has ensnared you. On Wednesday I shall expect you with your valises to share the boys room. Today & tomorrow I prefer your remaining quiet at Alexandroffsky Villa. We are certainly under great obligations to its hospitable hosts. I hope you rise to their breakfast, or the effort nearer the sun rising will be an unpleasant contrast to you. I do not despair of you dear Jemie for I believe you love your devoted Mother. It is 5 1/2 now I shall lie down tho not to sleep


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Notes:

1.  1854
This letter must date from October 1854, as in October 1853 JW would have been at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, and in October 1855 would have been in Europe. Also dated with reference to Perpetual Calendar Whitaker's Almanac.

2.  Anna Matilda Whistler
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more].

3.  Alexandroffsky Villa
JW is evidently at Alexandroffsky Villa in Baltimore owned by Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more]; see AMW to JW, 15, 16 and 18 September 1848, #06363.

4.  James
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more].

5.  companion of your happy childhood
William Wyatt McNeill (1833-1853), JW's cousin [more].

6.  gone before
'Not lost but gone before,' Mathew Henry (1662-1714), Commentaries, Matthew ii, Literally from Seneca, Epistola lxiii. 16; also a poem by Caroline Elizabeth Sarah (Sheridan) Norton (1808-1877).

7.  of such is the kingdom of heave
'But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.' Matt. 19.14.

8.  Joes
Joseph Swift Whistler (1824-1840), JW's half-brother [more].

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

10.  Henry
Henry McNeill (1828-1840), JW's cousin.

11.  Louisa MacNeill
Louisa McNeill (1832-1840), JW's cousin.

12.  Cousin Donald
Donald McNeill Fairfax (1821-1894), naval officer, JW's cousin [more].

13.  Let worldly minds the world pursue, it hath no charms for me, once I admired its pleasures too, but grace has set me free.
'Let worldly minds the world pursue, It has no charms for me; Once I admired its trifles too, But grace has set me free.' Passage of a hymn called Old Things Are Passed Away, Hymn 59, written by John Newton (1725-1807). Newton and William Cowper (1731-1800), wrote the Olney Hymns, in which Newton's hymn 59 was included.

14.  Mary & Frederick
Mary Isabella Rodewald (1823-1867), née McNeill, JW's cousin, and her husband Johann Frederick Rodewald (b. 1808).

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

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

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

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