The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06447
Date: 7 December 1854
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Baltimore
Recipient: JW
Place: [Washington[2]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W442
Document Type: ALS

[embossed monogram:] A M W


Dec 7th 1854

My own dear James[3]

If you feel your separation from me half as much as I do from you, it must seem long since an exchange of "how - dye - do" I have been at a loss for your new address[4] or should sooner have sent your linen, which you must want. Cousin Donald[5] defers his trips to Washington, so I have enquired of George[6] how by Express to forward it, & hope you will soon inform me of its safe arrival. I have added another pr [i.e. pair] of cuffs & collar, shall get linen to make you more. tho have less time for sewing than ever, I altered the drawers as well as possible, if they answer you can bring any others at Xtmas to be altered, if they do not feel comfortable get your tailor to cut you a pattern & bring it me to make you a new set. Much as I prefer attending to your washing & mending at home dear Jemie, I believe George & Cousin D judge it best for you to hire it per month, the latter when he visits you, will help you to bargain with one he has employed & liked, he says it will not be more than two dollars a month.

[p. 2] Jacks & Willie[7] have had to come from the shop early these two afternoons, nearly frozen. poor fellows it is an iron discipline & they have been tenderly cared for till now, I feel more even than they do much as they complain - their hardships. Ah Jemie! this world looks to me & to you, so different! would that I could persuade you to build your structure upon the only sure foundation! you will have to pull down[8] if you do not. Aunt Kate[9] writes of you so affectionately in a very long & interesting epistle, began without date probably a month ago - & closed 3rd Dec. she writes dear Jemie would write her of his batchelor [sic] hall, with embellishments! says how you would have been in your element at Amos wedding[10]! finds his Amelia quite a charm at the Corner House[11]. Then tells me of three members of our church having been taken away by death since I was there! the good old Lexton[12] most missed! Alas on the list was one not of Stonington but Pomfret friendship, my dear Mrs Park at Racine[13]. It is hard to realize one so active, so useful so precious in her sphere in the church, now remembered with the dead. Gone home it seems to me. I yearn to be ready to follow, [p. 3] & think now that my attachments are settling above[14], yet I may have to suffer, ere I am purified.

Mary Brennan[15] tells me she must go back to her connections in N York. this has unhinged me, for I feel unequal to parting from all my old links of home & having only to do with new. I wish you would write to her. Willies habit is rather unconciliating towards our affectionate Mary. I shall not love her less if she deserts me & shall never avoid an opp[ortunity] for proving my faithful attachment.

How suddenly the cold weather has come! Are you comfortable? have you had your coat altered, do get thick boots. It makes me so sad to hear of your having been ill in bed! & I not near to attend you. promise me dear Jemie to send for me if ever you have any of your old symptoms. You ought to live upon what is nutritious & wholesome. I hope your chum may adopt a different mess table. Let me know what I shall send you by Cousin D, all unite their love to you with that of yourMother

Thursday I send your parcel by 3 oclock Express today directed to U S. C Survey office. Write soon to Mother

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

2.  Washington
JW was working at the drawing division of the US and Geodetic Survey, Washington DC; see AMW to JW, November 1854, #06445.

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

4.  new address
JW moved to Washington in November 1854, and evidently did not inform his mother of his new address. See Gordon H. Fleming, The Young Whistler 1834-66, London, 1978, p. 112.

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

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

7.  Jacks & Willie
Patrick T. Jackson ('Jacks') McNeill (1835-1898), accountant, JW's cousin [more], and William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more].

8.  sure foundation! you will have to pull down
Probably a reference to a passage by Matthew in which Jesus gives the parable of the wise man and foolish man and the contrasting foundations upon which they built their homes: 'Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.' Matt. 7.24-27.

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

10.  Amos wedding
Amos Palmer, Jr (1827-1861), JW's step-cousin [more], married Amelia ('Millie') Palmer, née Dyer, on 24 October 1854.

11.  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.

12.  Lexton
Lexton (d. 1854), of Stonington, CT.

13.  Mrs Park at Racine
Mary Park (1815-1854), née Brewster Baldwin, wife of Rev. R. Park [more]. In 1852, Rev. Park founded and became the first President of Racine College, at Racine, Wisconsin. Prior to this he was the rector of Christ Church at Pomfret, CT, 1843-52, and conducted the Christ Church Hall school, 1845-52, which both JW and William McNeill Whistler attended for some time.

14.  attachments are settling above
Probably a reference to the role of material attachments as an obstacle to gaining spiritual freedom and a place in the Kingdom of God; 'If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.' Luke 14.26.

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