UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 06480
Date: 29 January 1857
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Scarsdale
Recipient: JW
Place: [Paris]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W475
Document Type: ALS


Scarsdale Cottage,

Thursday Jan 29

For Jemie

Willie[2] enclosed me your Paris date of New Years day [3] my precious Jemie & his report of health with you made my heart rejoice & I did not forget to bend my knee in thanksgiving, with blessed tears testifying a grateful softening. Ah my darling boy it is worth your sacrifice of an hour, thus to revive the spirit of a widowed mother! it is hard dear Jemie for the wounded spirit to dictate cheerfully & affectionately, as I wish my tone towards you ever to be! You promise to write oftener to me, it is a good opening to this year. It was yesterday Willies daily welcome letter reached me, an overture from dear Sis[4] to him is mentioned, I rejoice at this, & tho I am not going South this winter, I hope their correspondence may be maintained, it will bring Willie out, for he is as sensitive & affectionate, you ask how he gets on, really the dear fellow is redeeming time, & shaking off his indifference, he is realizing how nearly he is of age & puts off childish whims & assumes responsibility, not self conceit tho, he has none of that in fine, he has improved as much as you can imagine, & his visits to me yield mutual confidence & comfort, he writes very pleasantly tho he has scarcely any time except for study, this being his most difficult term, he expects to graduate in July when he will be 21. he would prefer studying medicine in London but fears he is too poor to pay adequately. I mentioned to Sis what relief to my anxieties it would be if Seymour[5] were willing to take Will as one of the blessed family circle in his home, his advice, example & companionship would be invaluable. N Y is such a vortex of dissipation, Willie could only in a home there be safe. the interruption to R R travel thro the winter puts Scarsdale out of the question & my means too limited to admit of our boarding for the winter as we did one season. The frost has been this year certainly extra 28 deg below zero[6] last Saturday in Hartford! Willie says he has ached & could not get warm all last week! if my health were not so restored (by Sharon where I hope to go again to get rid of lurking disorders of the liver) I should have been forlorn when every thing around me was freezing one of the coldest nights, last friday & the north wind blew a gale, it was of no use to try to keep my fire in, it was blown back in smoke! then how thankful I was for my old friend the Russian Shube[7] on my bed! & without it I could not attend church. I am provided too with Wisconsin Buffalo gaiters fur within & a pr of carpet mockasins Gdmother[8] made for me at Pomfret - as overshoes to keep me from slipping down our icy slopes. the house gloves of her knitting Mary[9] has renovated for me as the frost gashed my flesh, hand & feet, so you see I am forced to take care of myself, I wear a wadded sack over my usual morning wrapper, when the frost is very intense. have had no cold to settle on my lungs, neither to blow my nose incessantly! as you complain. Miss Margarets[10] forethought induced me to send for my air tight stove which I had sent Hill Side cottage when I went to Balt to live & I had not deprived Mrs Hill[11], but she is spending this winter in Phila her home vacated. "Your room is cold Greenlands icy mountains[12] Annie dear! do not dispense with a fire for healths sake" does it not seem like my friend M G H? she & Miss Sarah[13] would have managed if I had left them to keep house upon the most economical & snug scale, so I adopt the same, we have shut up the parlor, as the snow drifts barracade [sic] our furnaces & none visit us who may not be invited to their room or mine.

[p. 2] Marys always neat kitchen is as convenient to breakfast & dine in because of the china closet connecting it with our Salle à manger. she gives us the best of buckwheat hot & hot from the griddle[,] ah if you could only join us in praising them & the excellent W Chester butter[14], of which I had a firkin put down in one of the nicest quaker dairies. but I establish the rule moderation in all things, our system is very thrifty, tho all we had is good in quality. And thanks be to religion we are all of one mind in the cottage! we have Willie Hill[15] as a pet to Aunt Sarah while his home is deserted. his mother a poorer widow than I am is so grateful & he is one of the right gentlemanly sort of boys. his Aunts said to me aside, they could not agree to my gratifying them at an additional expense to me, I slipped out of the proffer of compensation by saying they might settle the point with his mother! then I expected to go south, & such kind entreaties from my cousins in Charleston[16] came! it tries me to resist, but tho they write me "come & we will settle all" the widow of one who was so nice in his ideas of propriety cannot disgrace his name! It is not pride in me dearest Jemie, & they are too refined to let me feel pecuniary obligations, I am really happier since suspense is over, to look forward to spending next winter in my southern homes. to be within Willies reach while he at Hartford, & to have him with me in the Easter holidays, perhaps we may meet at the Barnes[17] in Springfield! in the prospect of going south I have put my wardrobe in uncommonly neat array, old things remoddled [sic] but their St P[18] dates will not affect their keeping to wear on occasions. I did not go to Mr Pophams[19] from the church the day of the flocking in of their relatives & friends to wish Miss Gertrude [20] as the bride of Campbell[21]! joy it was the 13th of this month. I preferred writing Willie the surprise! tho the engagement was expected, it would not have so suddenly been a wedding, had not his old Grandma Fish[22] who is not likely ever to leave her sick room, urged him to bring a wife to her home, in Albion Place 4th St[.] the musical sympathy is ominous of harmony, especially as it is sacred music. Campbell is very handsome & they both looked delighted! they went a little tour thro snows into Penn & now are settled in N Y. I shall send Willie the slice of wedding cake in a parcel Mary expects to hand him at the Hartford depot on her way to Springfield next week, she begs me to remember her to Mr James! & laughingly added tell him to bring me the silk gown he engaged to! I read her your letter my third perusal of it yesterday! for I could not resist letting my sister friends enter into my joy at the N years souvenir! they appreciate you so truly. Marys remarks were pleasant, so natural! "yes, indeed he might surely smoke his paper cigar on the Piazza, you'd be too glad ma'am to let me light it!["] & about the old invalid Soldier - "Ah isn't it just as Mr James always was, interesting himself for the poor & forlorn[.]" I wrote a note to Lou[23] last eve & if he does not answer it in time for this I shall be too glad to write you as soon as I can send the [due?], to the Dervety housekeeper[24]. I wonder Ch Cammann[25] with Henry Whitehouse[26] should have passed Paris by en route to Italy; but on their return you'll see them. Edwd Eastwick[27] has not reported himself. I am glad poor Mr Flagg[28] found you. he went without letting me know, his health & spirits so shattered by little McNeills[29] death! Debo will I am sure be kind to him for Elizas[30] sake. I dont know whether Jacks has returned to Ross Winans[31], who does not compensate him! I shall write him your love & direct to Brooklyn. Aunt Kate & the Doct[32] will be so glad of your remembrance. Were you not exercising upon the copies for Capt W[33], I should have rather you had had no dealings with such an upstart, he was so ungentlemanly in speaking of your mothers first & only request for a favor; meeting Aunt Kate in the St he remarked he had sent me a pass over the Sto road[34] tho not usual to grant unless to mendicants! I forgive him, tho you know I warned you that I thought intimacy in his house not likely to improve youth. You do not mention your course of instruction at the Academies[35]. I hope you do more than copy[36]. Are you to be a competitor among the 500 for preferment in the A. Fine Arts[37]? Always write of your fellow students dear Jemie to me. they interest me. And so you are sometimes mal au lit[38] your mothers prayers must come there to your heart. May you retain the faith of a little child! I fear to make this too weighty, shall divide the sheet between you & Sis. at her discretion how much to direct to you. I envy my scrawl.

Ever confide in the faithfulness of your true friend & fond Mother

A M W

I'll write your love to Balt tho I have not had a line from the villa[39]. It is Xtian to circulate kindness. I do not hear from George[40] but shall write him my wish for his happiness. thankful for his protecting Jemmie from cold!


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Notes:

1.  Anna Matilda Whistler
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more]. She had written to JW on 15 December 1856, #06477.

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

3.  Paris date of New Years day
Not located. It presumably reached AMW shortly before 29 January, and this reply would have reached Paris at the beginning of March. No reply from JW has survived. AMW's next surviving letter, dating from 27 April 1857, implies she wrote again in March (#06483).

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

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

6.  28 deg below zero
Connecticut inhabitants could not recall the equal of the cold weather of January 1857. At Watertown the temperature went down to seventy two degrees below the freezing point. The bad weather affected the transportation of mail, which was subsequently delayed, and harbour navigation was at times completely shut up. See 'Mercury Frozen - 40 Degrees Below Zero,' Hartford Weekly Times, CT, 24 January 1857, vol. 41, no. 2092.

7.  Russian Shube
A fur coat; see AMW to JW, 11 December 1848, #06375.

8.  Gdmothers
Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, mother of AMW [more].

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

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

11.  Mrs Hill
Jane Hill (1802-1872), née Clarkson, wife of W. S. Hill [more].

12.  Greenlands icy mountains
Reginald Heber (1783-1826), Bishop of Calcutta from 1823 [more] wrote the well-known hymn From Greenlands Icy Mountains, 1821.

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

14.  W Chester butter
Butter from the Quaker community in West Chester, west of Philadelphia, PA (passages quoted in Margaret F. MacDonald, Whistler's Mother's Cook Book, London, 1979, pp. 24-25).

15.  Willie Hill
Probably William Hill (1842-1869), son of J. and W. S. Hill.

16.  cousins in Charleston
Probably Mary Corbett (b. 1804), cousin of AMW [more]; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 13 January 1857, #06379.

17.  Barnes
The family of Charlotte A. Barnes (b. 1811), née Sanford, and her husband James Barnes (1806-1869), soldier and civil engineer.

18.  St P
St Petersburg, Russia, where she had lived from September 1843 until her husband's death in April 1849.

19.  Mr Pophams
William Sherbrooke Popham (1793-1885), merchant [more].

20.  Miss Gertrude
Margaret Gertrude Campbell (1830-1892), née Popham, wife of A. S. Campbell [more].

21.  Campbell
Allan Sheppard ('Shep') Campbell (1834-1876), a friend of JW from Stonington, CT [more].

22.  Grandma Fish
Mrs Fish, grandmother of A. S. Campbell.

23.  Lou
Probably a relation of Charles Cammann (see below).

24.  Dervety housekeeper
Probably the housekeeper of the Cammann family in New York.

25.  Ch Cammann
Probably Charles ('Charlie') Cammann, JW's uncle.

26.  Henry Whitehouse
James Henry Whitehouse (1833-1924), banker [more]. Whitehouse had recently been married to Mary Schenck, daughter of E. and J. Schenck; see AMW to JW, 15 December 1856, #06477.

27.  Edwd Eastwick
Edward Peers Eastwick (1833-1926), son of L. A. and A. M. Eastwick [more].

28.  Mr Flagg
Rev. Edward Octavius Flagg (1824-1911), husband of JW's cousin Eliza McNeill [more].

29.  McNeills
Rev. Flagg lost both his son William McNeill Flagg (b. 1852), and his wife Eliza (see below), within a short space of time.

30.  Elizas
Eliza Flagg (1830-1855), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of Rev. E. O. Flagg [more].

31.  Jacks has returned to Ross Winans
Patrick T. Jackson ('Jacks') McNeill (1835-1898), accountant, JW's cousin [more]. Both Patrick T. Jackson McNeill and William McNeill Whistler worked in the locomotive engineering shop in Baltimore owned by Ross Winans (1796-1877), locomotive manufacturer, father of JW's sister-in-law [more]; see AMW to JW, 16 November 1853, #06430; AMW to James H. Gamble, 3 April 1854, #06438.

32.  Aunt Kate & the Doct
Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer (ca 1812 - d.1877), née McNeill, AMW's sister [more], and her husband Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), physician.

33.  Capt W
Probably Charles P. Williams, an early patron of JW; see AMW to JW, 23 September 1856, #06476.

34.  Sto road
Providence to Stonington Rail Road. In 1837 George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more], was put in charge of its construction; see AMW to JW, 2-5 November 1855, #06469.

35.  Academies
JW had joined Gleyre's academy, and was probably still attending life classes at the Ecole Impériale et Spéciale de Dessin in Paris; see École Impériale et Spéciale de Dessin to JW, 5 November 1855, #01012, and 20 November 1855, #01013; and Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980, p. lviii.

36.  copy
After 17 June 1856, when he got permission to study in the Musées Impériaux, JW started copying paintings in the Louvre; see Alfred Emilioen O'Hara, Comte de Nieuwerkerke to JW, 17 June 1856, #04523.

37.  A. Fine Arts
Académie des Beaux-Arts.

38.  mal au lit
Fr., sick in bed.

39.  villa
'Alexandroffsky', the luxurious Baltimore villa of Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more]; see AMW to JW, 15, 16 and 18 September 1848, #06363.

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