The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 07639
Date: 24 December 1852
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: London
Recipient: [Margaret Getfield Hill[2]]
Place: [Scarsdale[3]]
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 34/43-44
Document Type: ALS[4]

62 Sloane St[5]

Christmas Eve

My own dear friend

I have been writing your name in two small vols which you will value for their contents & as coming from two bereaved spirits[6], absentees for a brief space, yet bound to the Scarsdale circle by no common ties. I have an opportunity for sending my wee packages to Lieut Scriven[7] who hopes from his New Years voyage to see my cottage[8] neighbours, he forwarded your welcome letter immediately, Oh what a favor I felt it - and wrote me so kindly as soon as he could to offer his services returning to you & regretted he had not time to avail of Mr Pophams[9] introduction & invitation, tho he trusts they may lead to his frequently resorting to our happy valley.

Christmas night I have slipped away from a circle of invited dinner guests, now prolonging their enjoyment around the drawing room fire - that I may enjoy myself in my own way with you dear Margaret. It is hard to realize Xmas in April weather, tho the holly & other ever green in the church & the appropriate hymns & the exalting subject of God manifest in the flesh as the Saviour in the manger, brought conviction of this being indeed the blessed anniversary. I did not remain to the Communion because Debo[10] felt it better for her to go tomorrow, & the early hour for a stranger like me when few most devout assemble is most congenial. The church we go to is nearest & Wm Burgess[11] rector's since "Blunt[12]" whose beautiful writings you have read no doubt, I like better to worship in than any I know in London

[p. 2] You cannot doubt dear Margaret my sympathy with my lonely & invalid brother[13] leading me to his retreat from church today, the walk & quiet meditation too was good for me, & after listening to him an hour "think aloud" as he says to me he does & that it is a benefit & relief to him[,] I walked back the two miles & felt no fatigue, see how strong I am! he told me he had been writing dear Grand Mama C[14] & cheerfully, it would be wrong in me to express the anxiety I cannot help feeling about his affairs, but when they become disentangled his native air will do more to restore him than the tonies & airing his Doctor advises. he is waiting to hear from Mr Walker[15] who he cheered thro a long illness last winter & who has left him awkwardly pledged about the settlement of their affairs, & yet he defers the fulfillment of his promises.

The suspense of course is injurious to health, but speculating upon the future is vain & since my brothers revived confidence & affection in me I see another providence in my visiting London, besides Debos & my own personal intercourse. It would make your kind heart ache as the friend of Maria[16] to see her "Will" so bleached & attenuated, We can only pray & wait in faith, that worldly disappointments & separation from his family may lead him to the friend who is closer than a brother - the one for adversity! In my lonely walk to my brothers lodging I lift up my heart to Him, in his behalf. How my brother doats [sic] on Eliza[17]! & Jacks[18], oh how thankful I shall be if he may go to them at the New Year as he hopes to! he has some kind friends for instance he is made to feel at home in [p. 3] the house of brothers of the name of Lancaster[19], whom Jacks thanked by calling at their office in the city & said he never could shew his gratitude for their disinterested kindness to his father - unless they would visit N York! I hope your god son has been to spend a sabbath with you, I thought him so improved by his travels, it was next to having my own Willie[20] in Liverpool with me!

That dear lad was still home-sick at St James when I last had his report, but Doctor Kerfoots[21] to Mr Pophams is encouraging to me, my own conviction is that such discipline mental is necessary for youth, it is good to bear the yoke easily, tho naturally a mothers tenderness makes the duty on my part to be most painful, but I know that the Almighty will direct & sustain the widow who commits her wishes to His over ruling Providence, so I cheer my Willie on, encouraging improvement of present advantages, keeping the Summer holiday at Scarsdale in view. Why plan for another year when we know not what a day may bring forth? George[22] intended that Willie should spent Xmas with him in Balt[imore], & it will be to me a joy to hear of it approved by Doct K. I am hoping to have a letter from West Point[23] for my New Years gift.

There is in the dining room here such a speaking portrait of what Jemie[24] was four winters ago! it is a mingled likeness now of both my dear boys, the little ones here[25] say "We always think of Uncle Jim for Grand mama["] Whistler looks up at his picture all the time! there is one by the same Artist opposite it, of Debo, but she is difficult to take, the hands are perfect, the face lovely, Debo is very delicate, she in vain resorts [p. 4] to tonics, appetite lacks & strength in consequence, you might suppose she has copied her rules of duty from the "Little Things[26]" I send you, so well divided are her attentions in the domestic routine, but I persuade her to rest in the morning & take breakfast in bed while I assemble the household & little ones to family prayers & head the table. And now let me assure you of my thankfulness in the escape of dear Gertrude & Spencer[27] while I could have wept as your faithful Irishman did, over the end of the pony! It was like you all to give prominence to the mercy in the family Calamity.

I am cheered by your report of Topsy[28], tho I never despair of her, thank her kind employers with my love & say to her I expect to find her very much improved in every way, I have not heard from Mary B[29] yet, tho I have written her twice. I contrast the rainy season in England with the clear frosty winters of New England & wonder if you have had sleighing yet to test how comfortable is the Siberian lamb skin as a cover all. Kate Prince[30] writes me to let dear Mrs Popham[31] know that the Campanella flourishes & that she cherishes hopes of the farm at Scdle [i.e. Scarsdale]. when she has the privilige [sic] of a [life?] to argue the advantages of selling out in N Hampshire to purchase among us. I suppose now the Palmers[32] are happy in their new house! & I like to fancy the progress in the building which is to secure my dear Blanche[33] within hail! If I were worthy to aid in the erection of the Parsonage[34] my contribution should [be] equal to the worthiness of the object, but there are faithful stewards in our church & I trust to hear of all obstacles being removed to the building the Scarsdale Parsonage, how my advantages will[35] be increased at the cottage by the acquisition of two neighbours! Col Colt[36] sent me a Xmas gift a box of Hickory nuts.

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

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

3.  Scarsdale
Margaret G. Hill lived at Scarsdale, NY.

4.  ALS
Incomplete letter.

5.  62 Sloane St
The London residence of Deborah ('Debo' or 'Sis') Delano Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, JW's half-sister [more].

6.   Lieut Scriven
Lieutenant John Barclay Scriven (fl. 1803-1853), naval officer and missionary.

7.  two bereaved spirits
AMW refers to the most recent bereavements in her family: Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, mother of AMW [more], and Maria Matilda McNeill (d. January 1852), née Camman, wife of AMW's brother, W. G. McNeill [more].

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

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

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

11.  Wm Burgess
Probably William Burges (1827-1881), architect [more].

12.  Blunt
Probably John James Blunt (1794-1855), theologian [more]. His writings were extensive and included sermons, lectures, discources, as well as The History of the Christian Church during the First Three Centuries, London, 1856. He also gave 'A Sermon in Memory of the Late Duke of Wellington,' preached before the University of Cambridge on 21 November 1852. It is possible that AMW had read about it, while in London during the Duke's funeral. See AMW to George William Whistler and William McNeill Whistler, 18 and 19 November 1852, #06422. See DNB, vol. 5, pp. 274-75.

13.  brother
William Gibbs McNeill (1800-1853), railway engineer, AMW's brother [more]; failing health made William to return to the USA where he died on 16 February 1853.

14.  Grand Mama C
Maria Margaretta Cammann ('Grandma C') (1774-1862), mother-in-law of William Gibbs McNeill [more].

15.  Mr Walker
Walker, unidentified. He is apparently in debt to William Gibbs McNeill.

16.  Maria
Maria Matilda McNeill (d. January 1852), née Camman, wife of AMW's brother, W. G. McNeill [more].

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

18.  Jacks
Patrick T. Jackson ('Jacks') McNeill (1835-1898), accountant, JW's cousin [more].

19.  Lancaster
Lancaster brothers; unidentified.

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

21.  Doctor Kerfoots
Dr Kerfoot, physician.

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

23.  West Point
United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, opened in 1802; see AMW to JW, 10 June 1851, #06396.

24.  portrait of what Jemie
Probably a portrait of JW by William Boxall (1800-1879), portrait painter, Director of the National Gallery [more]. Boxall painted a portrait of JW in 1848, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1849; see Denker, Eric, In Pursuit of the Butterfly, Seattle, 1995, p. 24. See AMW to Joseph Harrison, 25 June 1849, #07633.

25.  little ones here
Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece [more], and Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918), children of D. D. and F. S. Haden.

26.  Little Things
Little Things, Boston, 1845, attributed to Julia A. (Fletcher) Carney (1823-1908). It was a short poem read by millions of children. Little Things became part of the 'McGuffey Reader,' an influential schoolbook, found in many of the early school classrooms of America.

27.  Gertrude & Spencer
Probably Margaret Gertrude Campbell (1830-1892), née Popham, wife of A. S. Campbell [more]. Spencer; probably a labourer.

28.  Topsy
'Topsy' was an orphan slave girl in Mrs H. E. Beecher Stowe's famous anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, published in the National Era in 1851-52 and in book form in 1852. Topsy mentioned here was black Eliza (d. 1856), a servant of Kate Livermore [more]; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 28 September and 1 October 1853, #06428; AMW to JW, 16 November 1853, #06430, 27 April 1854, #06441, 12-15 October 1855, #06468; AMW to James H. Gamble, 23 September 1856, #06476.

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

30.  Kate Prince
Kate ('Cousin Kate') Livermore (1820-1907), née Prince, wife of A. Livermore [more].

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

32.  Palmers
Probably the family of Richard Palmer (b. 1786), farmer, of Scarsdale, NY.

33.  Blanche
Probably Alethea Blanchard Hill (1838-1908), daughter of J. and W. S. Hill [more].

34.  Parsonage
The church of St James the Less at Scarsdale was partly organized and financially funded by William S. Popham who was the church warden in the early 1850s. The church was consecrated on 28 June 1851, but it was not untill 1853 that the Rev. William W. Olssen was formally installed as its Rector. It is obvious from this letter that they were still raising funds for the building of the parsonage. See Helen Lorraine Hultz, Scarsdale Story, A Heritage History, New Jersey, 1987; JW did a drawing of the church A Country Church (M.100).

35.  Col Colt
Samuel Colt (1814-1862), inventor and manufacturer [more]; see #06422.

36.  will
'will ... nuts' continues in the left margin of p. 1.