The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06466
Date: 10 October 1855[1]
Author: JW
Place: London
Recipient: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: [Stonington[3]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W461-462
Document Type: ALS

62 Sloane St[4]

Wednesday. Oct.
10 1855

Well dearest Mother

it certainly is time you should hear from your truant son, who has been away now for more than a month! I was just a little too late for the last Saturday's mail, but Sis[5] is going to enclose this herself, so there will be no danger again! - Now Mama, shall I tell about my long long voyage? - or in the first place perhaps it were better to do away with any little anxiety that you may have dear Mother for your Prodigal by giving you a bulletin of my health, and assuring you that the Sea air did me a good deal of good, and tanned me exceedingly. Hammy[6], dear fellow, [p. 2] in spite of all the desires and command, even of his father and not withstanding they numerous remonstrances, (and the clear manner in which I laid down the wishes of his familly [sic] was unexceptionable) not withstanding all this, and in the very teeth of the earnest recommendations of his Physicans obstinately refused to listen to reason and be very sick! - He neglected every chance he had of making himself thoroughly wretched, and appeared on deck daily with a hardened smile, and then eat [sic] his dinner in the most unscrupulous and barefaced manner! He is a nice boy, and I am quite fond of him, and should be delighted if we only manage to continue our journeying together, and go as roommates to Paris - We got along capitally on our passage; enjoying ourselves and every body else, with a determination to be pleased; - which was not very difficult either, for the Captain is an agreeable gentlemanly fellow, and was extreme[p. 3]ly kind to us, while his wife is a charming lady, who took us both into her especial favour and good graces - In fact we were all of us like an amiable family, over which Captain Horey[7] presides as a kind of goodnatured Patriarch for we all knew each other by our Christian names and you would hear continually "Hammy" and "Jemmie" called from all parts of the Ship. If either of us were in the least poorly or unwell (Hammy poor boy suffered from pain in his side now and then, while I had no peace for two or three days, from torturing tooth ache) we were nursed with the utmost tenderness & solicitude, and Mrs Horey couldn't have been more really kind to sons of her own! - All in all things could not have been better, and I would have made a great mistake had I gone to Havre! - As usual dear Mother you were right! - to be sure though, the trip was a very [p. 4] long one, and towards the last we became heartily tired of it; the weather was delightful, and the vessel went smoothly across the Atlantic - when I say across I don't mean in a straight line for we wandered about and sideled [sic] along in the most extraordinary manner, finding ourselves in all sorts of latitudes and remaining in different parts of the Ocean for days, without any particular knowledge as to where we would go next! - Calm upon calm followed us, or rather kept up with us until we were nearly worn out with impatience; so you can fancy with what joy we saw the land! Hammy and I together with some 7 or 8 more left the Amazon[8] at Dartmouth in a Pilot boat, and came by railway to London - Of course the news of the fall [of] Sebastopol[9] was the first thing we heard, and, by the way, we've heard it ever since! What do they say about [it] in America[?] I wrote at Sis' suggestion to Aunt Alicia[10] on my arrival and received an answer the other day - Aunt Eliza[11] has not been very well, and it appears better that I should not visit Preston - Sis is not looking very strong, but is better they tell me, than what she has been - children are all capital - Annie[12] is becoming more and more of a little beauty to my eyes every day - she is so intensely graceful and has such a beautiful figure! - Little Arthur[13] is a very pretty boy and says the most extraordinary things - Seymour[14] is fine looking fellow and very clever indeed they all are that, and in short I like them immensely - They all I believe remember Grandmama Whistler, and asked me all sorts of questions about you. - Now I'm going to leave you dear Mother, as I must find Hammy and bring him here to dine - Give my love to Willie[15] and George[16] (I shall write to him by the next steamer), love to all in Stonington and remember [me] to all in Scarsdale -

Give my love to Mary[17] and believe me my own dear Mother

Your affect. Son,

Jemie -

This document is protected by copyright.


'This[18] letter was written by Whistler to his mother dated Oct 10th 1855, telling of his journey to England in a sailing vessel. J McN.W. never returned to the USA. after this date his residences being divided between London & Paris R. B P.'


1.  10 October 1855
JW never returned to the USA after this date, dividing the remainder of his life largely between London and Paris.

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

3.  Stonington
AMW wrote to JW from Stonington on 12-15 October 1855 (#06468). Her letter would have crossed with JW's. However, JW mentions Scarsdale, NY, where AMW had been living at the time of her letter of 20 September 1855 (#06465).

4.  62 Sloane St
The London house of Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

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

6.  Hammy
John Hamilton ('Hami' or 'Hammy') Jaffray (1837-1900), son of A. S. and R. W. Jaffray [more].

7.  Captain Horey
Captain Horey, master of the Amazon , and his wife.

8.  Amazon
JW travelled from New York to London on the Amazon, which sailed on 3 September 1855, as advertised in the New York Daily Times, 3 September 1855, vol. 4, no. 1235, p. 8.

9.  Sebastopol
The Crimean War between Russia and Turkey, supported by Great Britain and France, culminated in the siege of Sebastopol. The city fell to the British in September 1855, and the Treaty of Paris was signed on 30 March 1856; see The Times, 8 September 1855, no. 22, 154, p. 7.

10.  Aunt Alicia
Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill (1786-1863), JW's aunt [more], lived in Scotland. 'Aunt ... such' continues cross-written on p. 1; 'a ... you' continues on p. 2, cross-written; 'Now ... Jemie' continues on p. 3, cross-written.

11.  Eliza
Eliza Isabella Winstanley (1788-1857), née McNeill, JW's aunt, AMW's half-sister [more], lived in Preston, Lancashire

12.  Annie
Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece [more].

13.  Arthur
Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, JW's nephew [more].

14.  Seymour
Francis Seymour Haden, Jr (1850-1918), JW's nephew [more].

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

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

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

18.  This
'This ... R. B. P' written by Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958), JW's sister-in-law [more].