The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06471
Date: 4 February 1856
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Scarsdale
Recipient: James H. Gamble[2]
Place: [Staten Island[3]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W466
Document Type: ALS


Feb 4th 1856

My dear Mr Gamble

My new year greeting is quite a month later than I had hoped to have offered it. But you know how much my pr of hands have to accomplish, daily tho my thoughts are excursive among dear absentees.

My children[4] scattered must each be written to separately & I am much interested to have ready for dear Willies Easter holidays a new stock of shirts for him, since his return to Trinity College last month he has had a check put upon his ardor to study more earnestly, a cold & fever for a week confined him to bed, but I supposing him too occupied to write often, heard it first thro his own report of convalescence. I doubt not the Lord ordered it for his more permanent benefit. How many lessons has a widow mother to "Be still & know it is the Lord[5]" that faith may be exercised. What can I do now for my Jemie but pray, believing![6] The Lord may draw him nearer to Himself in his absence from me! [p. 2] he benefitted by spending six weeks at his Sisters[7] in London for her winning counsels so affectionately impressed him, & her husband[8] as an Amateur Artist was the most capable adviser, the Sister of the latter[9] resides in Paris & I hear of her sisterly interest being evinced to my Son, for which I can only pray the Lord to bless & over-rule. Jemie finds his stipend[10] enough for his living in Paris so cheaply. he goes to his drawing class[11] just after breakfast until two oclock. directly after tea to a modelling school[12], after which he discusses with Etudiants[13] you can imagine how much he is in his element. But he had also been confined to his bed by a cold! The Lord I trust made it salutary to him, he has written his brother George[14] in Baltimore of his restoration to his usual health. I ought to be satisfied with whatever keeps me depedent on God.

But now dear Mr Gamble I will not indulge in a retrospect of the happy days you were the companion of my precious boys, on the Bronx. or with your arms so fondly thrown around them on the Cottage[15] sofa, tho my heart treasures it, my pen must attempt to give you an idea of the pleasure I experienced in two calls I made at [p. 3] 88 East 18th St[16]. I felt immediately drawn confidingly to Mrs Maxwell[17] by her talking of Miss Clunie[18] as her friend & my eldest Sister familiarly. It was during a week in Oct I was staying with a friend in West 22nd St. who loving all who love the Lord, went with me the second call. we were equally interested in Mrs Aspinwall[19] with whom we sat an hour, her revered mother had walked to read the scriptures in the Colored Home[20] to poor old women! I was charged by Mrs A to impress upon your mind how much your going to Nyach[21] gratified & that they must claim you each time you are in N Y. I left town soon after but my friend Mrs Holbrook[22] writes me she is cultivating the friendship of Mrs Maxwell & Mrs Aspinwall. We of the Happy Valley[23] depend upon your visiting us but by the Lords blessing whenever business brings you North. "Have you heard from Gamble?["] is often asked me, Miss Sarah[24] says her love of you is maternal (for that is in exercise thro 2 generations here always her tone.[)] Miss Margaret[25] & myself feel as elder sisters & Sarah agrees that a Sisters love is very great! I must reserve till you come the recital of the panorama of real life in Scarsdale since you were here.

[p. 4] New Years day we had coffee & cake after church all day for the Sleigh cargoes. headed by the worthy Squire his little Grandsons in train. Lews infant daughter[26] was christened before christmas in our church. And now the shade sombre to my sketch must be an alarm we all had one afternoon two months ago that poor old Uncle Nattie[27] had been hurt in the woods where timber was being felled! suffice it Mrs Popham[28] send her Phaeton for the poor old man (you'll recollect his hurt by the depot - he is spending the winter as the honored guest at "the house" Mr P[29] has been his tender nurse of an evening, he has rubbed out the bruise, & now enjoys the companionship of this one of Natures Noblemen, as Miss M calls the old Mr Levinas. Bell[30] the old colored cook scalded her foot, & has been another interesting invalid, Mr & Mrs P gave up their own room for her for the winter! When a remark was made that in the future advancement of our church prosperity a hospital should be built, the echo was, the church has one at Mr Pophams! There has been one wedding[31] in the family circle & another one sur le tapis[32]. the bride & groom came from Pottsville on their wedding tour to visit her Aunt Mrs P. At Thanksgiving the family tree numbered 40 at Mrs P's dinner. We went to tea, tho invited[33] to dinner. At Christmas Willie & I were tete a tete [sic]. Mrs P had sent us a Turkey!

[p. 5] Twilight must excuse my letter growing more illegible, I must finish ere my sister occupants return from the sewing circle. We have for two months the Lady teacher of our Parish school, she is really a very interesting acquisition to our evening fire side for our reading aloud at our sewing by turn. This is the Parish arrangement for relief of expense of board. After Easter the young lady will spend two months with the next neighbour[.] My Mary[34] is faithful & successful as ever. her Buckwheats[35] & home made bread vie with the Pone[36] you liked so well. But our daily prayers at 8 oclock commencing Ash Wednesday will of course make us indifferent to indulgence over the table. To judge from the enjoyment of the youth of both sexes in all exercises the snow yeilds, winter here has not been felt severely, & thro the energy of Mr P & his men in breaking snow drifts with oxen, we have not lost getting to church one Sunday, frosted feet have crippled Miss Sarah & myself as walkers, but Miss Margaret is never hindered upon her feet. Mrs P— has just returned [p. 6] from a duty visit to loving Cousins in 5th Av thinking no place like Scarsdale, she was providentially preserved when their sleigh was upset by an Omnibus in 5th Av! her health has been rather feeble all winter but now she seems stronger, she would if aware of my writing you add her affectionate regards & best wishes for a happy New Year to those of her Sisters, To your honored Mother & to Mr & Mrs Wann[37] offer mine & write soon of all that engages you to

your faithful & always interested friend

A. M. Whistler

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

2.  James H. Gamble
James H. Gamble (b. 1820), clerk [more].

3.  Staten Island
James H. Gamble shared a house with his mother and sister on Staten Island, NY; see AMW to JW, 15 December 1856, #06477.

4.  My children
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more], and his brother William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician. JW was in Paris taking drawing lessons at this time (see below), and William was attending Trinity College, Hartford, CT; see AMW to JW, 13 February 1855, #06452; 15 March 1855, #06454; and 18 July 1855, #06461.

5.  Be still & know it is the Lord
Psalm 46.10 - 'Be still, and know that I am God'.

6.  pray, believing!
Matthew 21.22 - 'And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.'

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

8.  her husband
Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more].

9.  sister of the latter
Emma Bergeron (d. 1858), née Haden, sister of JW's brother-in-law, F. S. Haden [more].

10.  stipend
When JW reached the age of 21 on 11 July 1855, he started receiving money on his own account. Prior to this date George William Whistler was his guardian. JW gave him power of attorney on 30 July (see #06670, #07062). In addition JW received a few loans in 1855 and 1856 from his first major patron Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more]; see JW to Thomas Winans, 1 August 1855, #07078, and George William Whistler to JW, 8 August 1856, #06672.

11.  drawing class
JW enrolled for day classes at the École Impériale et Spéciale de Dessin, de Mathématiques, d'Architecture et de Sculpture d'Ornements pour les Beaux-Arts dans l'Industrie, on 5 November 1855 and for evening classes on 11 November (#01012, #01213). George Du Maurier, who was a fellow-student of JW in Paris, was later to call JW the 'Idle Apprentice' (see George Du Maurier, 'Trilby,' Harper's New Monthly Magazine, serialised, begun 1 January 1894; reprinted (expunged) as Trilby: A Novel, New York, 1895; regular ed., London and New York, 1895). However, JW certainly gave his relatives the impression he was studying hard. Although no life-studies have survived, this was not entirely his fault, since both his mother, in April 1856, and later, his mistress, Fumette, destroyed drawings (see AMW to JW, 30 April and 4 May [1857], #06472, and Drawing (M.210), The Masque (M.217), r.: Fumette; v.: Dancing clowns (M.289)).

12.  modelling school
This is the only record of JW studying sculpture at this time. The students would have worked from models or casts. It is possible that his mother had misunderstood and that JW was attending life-drawing classes.

13.  Etudiants
Fr., students.

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

15.  Cottage
AMW lived intermittently at Scarsdale, NY, between September 1851 and November 1857 in a cottage owned by her friends Margaret G. and Sarah Hill.

16.  88 East 18th St
88 East 18th Street was the address of James Scott Aspinwall (1807-1874), merchant, son-in-law of Ann Maxwell; see Doggett's New York City Directory, 1849-50, New York, p. 31.

17.  Mrs Maxwell
Ann Maxwell (1784-1867), née Young, wife of Robert Maxwell [more].

18.  Miss Clunie
Anne Clunie (b. 1793), a Scottish cousin of AMW [more].

19.  Mrs Aspinwall
Margaret Aspinwall (d. 1881), née Maxwell, wife of J. S. Aspinwall [more].

20.  Colored Home
Probably a reference to an asylum for impoverished and sick black people.

21.  Nyach
James S. Aspinwall had a house at Nyack, NY; see #06536.

22.  Mrs Holbrook
Mary Baker Holbrook, née Tyler, wife of J. Holbrook.

23.  Happy Valley
AMW's familiar way of referring to the Popham vineyard at Scarsdale owned by William Sherbrooke Popham (1793-1885), merchant [more]; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 20 September 1855, #06465.

24.  Miss Sarah
Sarah Stewart Hill (1800-1864), sister of M. G. Hill [more].

25.  Miss Margaret
Margaret Getfield Hill (1802-1881), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY [more].

26.  Lews infant daughter
Lewis ('Lew') Charles Popham (1833-1899), son of E. C. and W. S. Popham, and his daughter Emma Popham (b. 1855).

27.  Uncle Nattie
Nathan ('Uncle Nattie') Levinas (b. 1789).

28.  Mrs Popham
Jane O'Neill Hill (1793-1882), sister of M. G. Hill, second wife of W. S. Popham [more].

29.  Mr P
William Sherbrooke Popham.

30.  Bell
Probably Billo Johnson (b. 1815), W. S. Popham's servant.

31.  wedding
Eliza Howard married Count Eduard Stoeckl, Russian Ambassador to the USA; see AMW to Deborah Delano Haden, 10 December 1855, #06470.

32.  sur le tapis
Fr., on the carpet, a phrase used by AMW to indicate a marriage ceremony in the bride's home; see AMW to JW, 12-15 October 1855, #06468.

33.  invited
'invited ... Turkey' continues in the left margin of p. 1; see AMW to Deborah Delano Haden, 10 December 1855, #06470.

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

35.  Buckwheats
Flour obtained from the edible seeds of any of several polygonaceous plants of the genus Fagopyrum; it was used to make bread.

36.  Pone
See AMW to JW, 6 October 1851, #06403.

37.  Mother & to Mr & Mrs Mann
Jane Gamble (1790-1864), mother of J. H. Gamble [more], and her daughter and son-in-law, Jane Wann (1822-1875), née Gamble, and Samuel Wann (b. 1820), merchant.