The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06453
Date: 28 [March 1855][1]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: Baltimore
Recipient: JW
Place: [Washington[3]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W448
Document Type: ALS

176 Preston St[4]

Wednesday 28th.

My own dear James

Besides your being always on my heart, sharing my anxieties with dearest Willie, I write to advise you to avail of Doct Maynards[5] skill & friendship. Of teeth it may be said as of all perishable blessings "tomorrow they may be beyond preservation"[.] say frankly to the kind doctor that you hope to earn enough this year to pay all you owe, & ask him if he can trust you. do not delay this. artificials are not to be compared to teeth that are set by the creator. tho it would save some of yours to have spaces filled up. directly go to Maynard

The confirmation of tidings from the Winter Palace[6] how solemnising! I have been thinking of the Emperor[7] who knew & prized your father[8], all this morning! The Empress[9] has gone thro many bereavements & trials, this last incomparably the greatest. And now the soul of this hero & ruler has gone to where there is no change, no place for repentance. Oh that the false system in the Greek & Roman churches - purgatory [10] - may not have been depended upon by the Emperor, but faith in the alone merits of Jesus Christ our only righteousness! [p. 2] Delays are most lamentable in religion. Eternity of joy, on the reverse, how trifling all else in this transitory life is when not leading to a security of bliss. What have you been doing my dearest James, since you wrote me business called you from your letter[11]. We go on under this roof as usual, not as if expecting soon to be scattered. I certainly am thankful to leave my cares to the wise councils of our Lord. When Mary[12] alludes to approaching labors so opposed to her habits of domestic order, I seem awakened from a confused dream & beg her not to disturb my repose, for I know when the time comes, hands & hearts will be disposed to help us, & we must believe all that seems against us shall work together for our good. she wishes "Mr James" might come home to spend next week, if only to have his clothes put in order, for it may be the last week we may have a laundry here! but you must be governed by your business engagements. I wrote George[13] yesterday of my need to borrow from him, & of my being warned by prostration of strength to ask him to provide a capable man to take the weight of the packing &c off my shoulders. I told him of my having pd my current expenses up to this week & that those under my roof were [p. 3] not aware of my bankruptcy. neither would I receive from Donald[14] - if he offered - more than by our first plan, his renting the house & providing fuel. Naval officers tho so honorable & liberal had nothing to bestow & that his mother would depend on none but her sons. George answered my letter in person affectionately & dutifully. he said both Julia[15] & himself were in hopes that my breaking up in April would secure them a month of my staying in their home, or indeed as long as I find it for my comfort to do so it will be for theirs. then he asked me for the only ac/s I had alluded to as unsettled, McDowell[16] having offered when I bought carpets &c to wait till April $140. & the tailors for Willie[17] & yours, rather more than $100, he took these to settle for me, he then asked what I would require for current expenses, said he really had no money at hand, but that Mr. R Winans[18] would return from NY by the 1st. when he should be able to supply me. Now I wished to shew you Jemie dear, that tho George is husband to a rich mans daughter he is not independent, probably when the works revive he may as a partner, share the cash payments, but I presume the lawsuit[19] at the North is very ravenous. It is said if the old gentleman gain it, he will be a rich man! but when will it be decided? lawyers must be feed [sic] in the suspense. You know I crave not any mans silver or gold, the gain of honest industry is satisfying. I trust I shall not put George in an awkward position in my straits. I have no self reproach on the score of profusion. self denying by habit, I have been frugal as far as the claims of Donald & his wife[20] admit. [p. 4] George says "everybody is satisfied Mother you have done your duty here, as everywhere"[.] I shall be with only my Marys [sic] for a few days, Donald hopes to see you at your room on Friday, he takes his wife to a wedding at Walnut Grange[21] tomorrow, their visit will be till next Monday there & he means to come up to Washington to see the Sec[22] on friday. I think his Countenance shews how far from recovered he is. send or bring all your soiled clothes on Saturday next, & if you cannot come write me what may be acceptable for me to send you in the valise. When you do come I want the case[23] for the knife fork & spoon.

Write soon to your


Mr & Mrs T Winans[24], Julia & George take tea here tomorrow with me alone.

send[25] sheets pillow cases soild [sic]

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1.  28 March 1855
Dated with reference to the death of Tsar Nicolas the First (see below).

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

3.  Washington
JW was evidently in Washington, DC, having just resigned from his post int he drawing Division in the US Coast and Geodetical Survey; see AMW to JW, 15 January 1855, #06450.

4.  176 Preston Street
The house in Baltimore AMW shared with Donald McNeill Fairfax (1821-1894), naval officer, JW's cousin [more]; see AMW to JW, 26 and 27 November 1854, #06446.

5.  doctor
Dr Edward Maynard (1813-1891), dentist and inventor [more]; see AMW to Edward Maynard, 7 February 1846, #06356, 5 November 1848, #06371, 11 December 1848, #06375, and 15 March 1855, #06454.

6.  Winter Palace
See AMW to JW, 11 December 1848, #06375, and AMW to Thomas Henry Seymour, February 1855, #09560.

7.  Emperor
Nicolas I Romanov (1796-1855), Tsar of Russia from 1825-1855 [more]; he died on 2 March 1855.

8.  The Empress
Alexandra Feodorovna Romanov (1798-1860), née Hohenzollern, wife of Tsar Nicolas I [more].

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

10.  Greek & Roman churches - purgatory
Both the Greek Orthodox Church, the dominant church in Russia, and the Roman Catholic church, believed in purgatory. AMW belonged to the Protestant episcopal church, which rejected the concept of any intermediate destination, like Purgatory.

11.  letter
Not extant.

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

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

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

15.  Julia
Julia de Kay Whistler (1825-1875), née Winans, JW's sister-in-law [more].

16.  McDowell
Robert McDowell, merchant of Gamble, McDowell & Co., importers & dealers in carpets and oil cloths; see Wood's Baltimore Directory for 1858-59, Baltimore, p. 175.

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

18.  R. Winans
Ross Winans (1796-1877), locomotive manufacturer, father of JW's sister-in-law [more]. Winans lent money to the Whistlers on numerous occasions; see Gordon H. Fleming, The Young Whistler 1834-66, London, 1978, p. 118.

19.  lawsuit
Ross Winans was connected with the invention of the coned wheel, the chilled cast-iron wheel, the eight-wheel car, and the leading truck; he claimed that the designs of these devices were stolen and used by other companies without his consent. Between 1838 and the late 1850s he was involved in what came to be known as 'The Twenty Years War against the Railroads.' Between 1852 and 1853, Winans and his attorneys sued three New York railroads, as well as three railroad car builders, for the same terms: payment for each and every such eight wheeled car that ever was, or would be, used on their lines. The lawsuit mentioned here refers to the New York Central Railroad, who hired a 19th century 'dream team' to discredit Ross's case. The lawyers interviewed old-time machine shop engineers, and assistants, examined old plans, in short, conducted a thorough investigation into the development of railroad technology in early America in all its aspects. Thorough, indeed their report was 1,300 pages long. All of it focused on one major question: was the eight-wheeled car the creation of Ross Winans, and of Ross Winans only? The answer was that Winans's version was probably the best and the most widely used, but the general concept predated him, and was too widely developed for him to lay sole claim to it. His long legal travails ended in 1859. He lost suit after suit, and finally gave up. See William H. Brown, The History of the First Locomotives in America, New York, 1871, pp. 102-108; John H. White Jr., The American Passenger Railroad Car, Baltimore, 1978, pp. 18-20.

20.  wife
Virginia ('Ginnie') Carry Fairfax (d. 1878), née Ragland, wife of D. McN. Fairfax [more].

21.  Walnut Grange
Probably Walnut Grange plantation in Beltsville, MD.

22.  Sec
James Cochran Dobbin (1814-1857), congressman, and U. S. Secretary of the Navy from 1853-1857 [more].

23.  case
See AMW to JW, [20 January / February 1855], #06462.

24.  T Winans
Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more], and his wife Celeste Winans (1823-1861), née Revillon.

25.  send
'send ... soiled' continues in the left margin.