The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 07640
Date: 21 and 22 February 1853
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: London
Recipient: [Margaret Getfield Hill and Alethea Blanchard Hill][2]
Place: Scarsdale
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 34/45-50
Document Type: ALS

62 Sloane St

Feb 21st 1853 Monday afternoon

My own dear friend

Yours[3] of 25th Jan I recd the day after mine to dear Mr Popham[4] was despatched to Boston. My good friend Lt Scriven[5] has written to tell me he is ordered to sail in the Africa[6] next Saturday & will hand on my pacquet[7] to your girls, his repeating visit to Scarsdale proved that he appreciated the blessings at all seasons abounding around St James the Less[8]. he saw the portrait of my boys[9] & thanks God for sparing such promising branches to flourish at my sweet cottage. Oh Margaret were it not that by experience I am admonished not to form bright expectations for this uncertain life how naturally should I indulge in reveries of the welcome back to me & my boys from you all! the added blessing of so near & dear a neighbour as Mrs W Hill[10] & her family circle would render me the more eager. To be within sound of familiar voices at the Cottage[11]! never to be solitary there again! Do not dear Blanchy[12] when Aunt Margaret tells you her old friend feels truly that we have no continuing place of abode on earth, suppose she looks despondingly [sic] on the future, but rather believe she has such reliance on the love of our Lord as to cast the future upon His wise Providence. He has answered my petition for my brother[13] [p. 2] on his wintry passage in the Atlantic, the Baltic[14] which reached Liverpool Sat morning reports that steamer entering N York when it left. The Africa I hope may bring me a letter from him. What tempestuous weather is reported from sea! Such a sad shipwreck[15] & loss of life off Dublin lately! Ah we may indeed pray to be spared sudden death! tho to live prepared by faith in our Saviour disarms all fear.

Again dear Margaret have yourself & Sisters[16] been called to sympathise in the loss of a precious & tender parent [17]in one of your family circles, but death proved no terror to her whose vacant place will remind her children that Jesus is also bidding them to make ready & is saying "Come up hither[18]" she has gone home. I know how to pity the solitary one left, for his loss is irreparable, how thankful your brother must be that the lessons of the mother have been so early imparted to her eldest girl[19], that no other separation will be required, tho your dear unselfish Sarah would not have hesitated had it been appointed her. I thank our merciful Lord we are not to lose her from Scarsdale. Lent has an added solemnity by this fresh mourning in your family. I could wish myself & boys profiting by it in midst. Most distinctly do I recollect your [p. 3] Sister Caroline's call at the Cottage & how pleased she was at your success in the Church & all the improvements. she was bright on earth, & even in the mortal struggles you are permitted to think of her spirit as undimmed by any doubt of entering an eternal day. I sometimes go with a member of Dr Cummings[20] Church to hear him preach & should have been a delighted listener yesterday but for Influenza making it prudent that I keep the house till it is subdued, or the weather moderates. Rose Haden[21] who went in my place says she never heard such a sermon, his text was The finger of God[22]. We are having a course of Lental discourses at our regular place of worship in Sloane St on Wednesday & I hope not to lose any of them. I went for my first visit to the British Museum last week & spent four hours most satisfactorily. Rose H is so obliging, & has since prepared for me a rare treat which my cough prevents, an Oratorio at Exeter Hall, the Messiah I have always wished to hear. Debo[23] & I would have gone quietly together but tho it is the only place of recreation I would have attended, it must be to my security to resign it as I do without sensible loss, for I shall have a tête à tête with my own Debo, who craves me as her shadow, she has too long neglected calls in which I have no interest, so hearing me say I must begin to write by Lt S she has left me to you, & her love to be enclosed with mine to all the dear Scarsdale circle. she certainly is [p. 4] stronger than she was, her nursery being restored to health & babys[24] new nurse so capable of the care as well as nourishing him, Debo may leave home (a half days journey) with me to visit neices u[sic] of Mr Winstanley[25] who are delightfully situated at Leamington & who invite us to spend a week or more on my route to Preston next month. Little Seymour[26] talks of his birthday party of little cousins when he will be three years old next Monday, & my plan had been to set out the end of next week, but dear Debo pleads that to hear of me till May & not to see me will be so tantalizing that I agreed to linger this March here & at Leamington. I hope to describe Kenilworth[27] to the girls as engravened [sic] on memory as it & Warwick are within distance of drives of the pleasant residence we aim to visit.

I should make no excursions but for the pleasure of talking about when settled quietly down. I went to the B. Museum in association with dear Willie's visiting it when he was last here & one evening accompanied Debo & her husband[28] to an old bachelor friend who invited us for the extraordinary treat of Turners paintings, that I might enjoy the retrospect with my Cadet, Oh how I wished for him, he never can except at Mr Stokes[29] see such a collection, from the artists first effort at 16 years, to his meridian.

[p. 5] Had my dear brother given me notice of his leaving London for N Y, to allow me to collect my thoughts, I had then sent by him what may not be as welcome when Lt Scriven arrives at Scarsdale, to your faithful servitors, for I cannot wish the perishing frost to continue to April & they are so hardy a race they may laugh at the New Years gloves which I hoped would have been serviceable. Bell & Topsey[30] will value theirs for love to Mrs W, & Coachman Jim will not despise his in his early & late trips to & fro the Depot. The pruning knife for Mr Popham's gardener will I hope prove useful, & I'd run the risk of cutting love out of warm Irish hearts & send five instead of one sample if I could. It will be time ere I return to arrange about half of a gardener for the Cottage with Mr Carmer[31], but you dear Margaret will be my adviser in all that ought to be my part.

I fear I must not venture to risk health to undertake even the Labors I could not avoid last summer, the use of my right hand in any extra-effort acts injuriously upon the weak spot, tho it is disappearing & certainly the care bestowed on my recovery, promotes it, then again entre-nous, the expenses of my return & the unavoidables here, will demand all I can draw till April, but I trust my dear boys holidays will not interfere with our making both ends meet upon [p. 6] our united means a hundred dollars a month, you will as my own Sister would do advise with dear good Mr Popham about the cottage garden & the Cow, if you judge I ought not avail of such a share of their dairy as your dear sister accommodated me with last summer, I know your tact & that my delicacy will not be infringed, so dearest & best of earthly friends I trust to you, not to take advantage of the disinterestedly neighbourly feeling of Mr & Mrs P or to spare me beyond what I can meet, for the improvement of the cottage grounds or the comfort & independence which I ought to maintain in the home of my boys. I have the promise of some strawberry plants as germs & [I] shall collect what small variety I may in my visits to other cottage gardens in England, not forgetting the wall flower, mignionette[32] & pansie seeds dear Mrs P made a memorandum on my hearts tablets at parting for her parterre & mine. I walk thro Covent Garden Market 2 miles off, each time I go to hear Mr Cummings, my escort pointed to the Theatre & to the Chapel as the poison & the anti dote. I hear from my dear Sister weekly, Sister Alicia[33] calculates upon being all April & May till I embark in that month with one day & night. How much more all make of me than I merit! the day I was at the [p. 7] Museum, Debo was so wishful for me to hear little Seymour lamenting Grandma W's absence! little Annie[34] calls herself my sleeping fellow, these two darlings are with me usually from times of family devotion one on each side as I conduct it, till after babys nap. & now he is learning from me to play "tee roches[35]" & ["]pat a cake" & springs into my arms, I shall find it a trial to part!

Tuesday afternoon 22nd

Debo has gone in to Grandma Haden[36] with little A & S to spend a few hours, their first tea there since their convalescence, but two little cousins from France & their Mama are spending the day there. I enjoy being alone with you my beloved friend tho I would never banish other loved ones if you really were coming to the cottage to spend an afternoon, We have had as incessant snow this month as rain all the proceeding. I am thankful for reasonable weather, tho confined by Influenza in consequence. The novelty of the Serpentines being frozen caused many to venture too soon last week as skaters, but the victims by drowning did not deter sabbath breaking & several of both sexes punished on Sunday. I fancy the youth of our happy valley enjoying this month in sleighing & coasting & that even little darling Willie & Harry are delighted at Winter scenes, but in London where even snow is sooted as it falls no exhilarating feelings meet it, for our children dislike it, & the poor shudder at the cold, because not prepared to meet it as in our country. Have I reported to you how attentive is Col Colt[37] (of the [p. 8] revolver) in furnishing me with American News, apples &c? his neice [sic] has a full share of my sympathy, because she is a stranger & out of health, she is in her 18th year, & thro my friends I have procured her a governess, but Seymour Haden has been called in to prescribe for her & I am sure she will meet with more permanent benefit at his hands, than I can ever have in my power, tho I promise myself the pleasure of welcoming her to Scarsdale as my guest, that some of my obligation may be cancelled, she has a warm & grateful nature, is touched by the suffering of the poor in this vast multitude & joins us in relieving families from her own purse. I resolve every time I am met without pennies daily to prepare for the appeals as Sir F Head[38] did in his tour thro Ireland. Have you read it? so very recent & satisfactory. Debo & I generally read aloud two hours after ten over our work, she is at chochet[39] for Kate Prince[40] to send by me now. I fear that favourite of mine will not realize her farm at Scarsdale, it is well however that others as interested in the church are settling around you & I doubt not Mr P will be strengthened to carry out his beneficent schemes for public good. Think how encouraged Mr & Mrs Cole[41] must feel by the improved condition of Naashota[42]! & our Bee will be in full force next summer I hope to increase aid in pro - portion[43] to increased number of students at N. Thanks for the [E. G?] you sent me. [p. 9] I often wish for time to write our favourite Annie D.[44] & I owe Mrs Wilkinson & Dr Park[45], but my hours are all claimed. I am thought to rise early at seven, but I am thankful my chamber has an eastern aspect, & I never shut out the light of the firmament

Margaret dear I rejoice to feel my tastes & habits growing more & more like my mothers. How often my reveries are of Pomfret & of St Petersburg you may judge. as at this season I review my pilgrimage, my mother[46] at the sunset hour at prayer in the loneliness of her chamber leads me at that hour for meditation to mine, what a relief to pray for my boys! How joyous poor Annie[47] must have looked on Xmas day at the Commemoration of the love of Jesus. I can see her beaming expression. My love to her & tell her how glad I shall be to see her baby growing such a source of comfort to them all. Your report of the brother of dear Sarah's friend is very interesting, his sisters I am sure can resign his happiness to such a loving Lord. Say to all who ask after my return that by the divine blessing I yearn for your welcome to the cottage early in June. In my plans I reserved the first week after my arrival to Kate at the Corner house[48] & that I hope may be by the 24th of May. And yet friends around Lancashire are writing me for a fortnight at so many places I know not how to manage to satisfy them & Debo. I wrote George[49] by last Sat Steamer. No letter yet from my dear Kate, I must get you again to [p. 10] send her my remembrance. Is there anything I can do for any of you in England? Do not let any one suppose I forget because names are not mentioned. I trust this will find you all in health & that a bright spring may attend Mr Cornells[50] buildings & the gardens & farm, I rejoice to think that the improvement in Steam navigation will increase the demand for Anthricite. Remember me to our pastor & his worthy help meet. Love to all your girls, kisses to the little ones & cordial greetings to the blessed family at the cottage from

It[51] is a cause of thankfulness that dear old Mrs Jarvis is so resigned. Seymour has a patient who sends for him every night because so afraid of death.

your attached

Anna W.


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

2.  Margaret Getfield Hill & Alethea Blanchard Hill
The recipients are evidently Margaret Getfield Hill (1802-1881), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY [more]; she lived at Scarsdale, NY, and her niece Alethea Blanchard Hill (see below).

3.  Yours
Letter not extant.

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

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

6.  pacquet
AMW probably mispelled the French word paquet, packet.

7.  Africa
Steamer Africa (1850-1868), Cunard Line (2,226 tons.); see AMW to JW, 13 November 1851, #06406.

8.  St James the Less
St James the Less, church at Scarsdale, consecrated in June 1851; see AMW to Margaret G. Hill, 24 December 1852, #07639.

9.  portrait of my boys
Émile-François Dessain (1808-1882), painter and printmaker [more] did a pastel drawing of JW and his brother, Portrait of William McNeill Whistler and James McNeill Whistler (z.221).

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

11.  Cottage
The cottage at Scarsdale, NY, owned by Margaret G. Hill, in which AMW lived intermittently between 1852 and 1857.

12.  Blanchy
Alethea Blanchard Hill (1838-1908), daughter of J. and W. S. Hill [more], Margaret G. Hill's niece.

13.  brother
William Gibbs McNeill (1800-1853), railway engineer, AMW's brother [more].

14.  Atlantic, the Baltic
Sister Steamers Atlantic, and Baltic (1849), Collins Line (2,860 tons.); see The Times, London, 19 February 1853, no. 21,356, p. 5, and 21 January 1853, no. 21,331, p. 1.

15.  sad shipwreck
The shipwreck of the steamer Queen Victoria, which occurred on 15 February 1853 near Howth, due to bad weather conditions. Out of 120 people aboard few managed to escape by getting upon the rocks at Howth; see The Times, London, 17 February 1853, no. 21,354, p. 5.

16.  Sisters
Jane O'Neill Hill (1793-1882), married William S. Popham, and Sarah Stewart Hill (1800-1864), sisters of Margaret Getfield Hill of Scarsdale.

17.  loss of a precious & tender parent
Caroline Gertrude Hill (1814-1852), née Hammeken, wife of C. M. Hill.

18.  Come up hither
'Come up hither and I will show thee,' Rev. 4.1.

19.  eldest girl
Eliza Adelaide Hill (1835-1886), daughter of C. G. and C. M. Hill, later wife of J. T. Carpenter.

20.  Dr Cummings
Dr Henry Irwin Cummings, clergyman. His church was St Alban's Rectory, Wood Street, Cheapside, London EC; see Crockford's Clerical Directory, London, 1860, p. 147.

21.  Rose Haden
Rosamund ('Rose') Horsley (b. ca 1821), née Haden, sister of F. S. Haden [more].

22.  The finger of God
'And the Lord said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt. And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast. Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.' Exod. 8.16-19.

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

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

25.  Mr Winstanley
John Winstanley (1776-1859), solicitor, JW's uncle [more].

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

27.  Kenilworth
AMW visited Kenilworth and Warwick Castle, some time in late March, early April 1852; see AMW to JW, 7 April 1853, #06426. Warwick Castle, residence of the earls of Warwick, in Warwick town, county of Warwickshire, England. Warwick grew up at a crossing place on the River Avon and was fortified in about 915. The ruins of Kenilworth refer to the Kenilworth Castle, in Warwickshire, England, which was established by Geoffrey de Clinton, Chamberlain to Henry I, c. 1122-25. Guys Cliff is a hamlet at Warwick, England, a famous historic location. Guys Tower is one of its many attractions, named after the legendary Guy of Warwick, dominating the Warwick castle and the surrounding countryside.

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

29.  Mr Stokes
Charles Stokes (1785-1853), stockbroker and art collector. Stokes collected watercolours and Old Master prints, but Turner formed the core of his collection; see Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann, eds., The Oxford companion to J. M. W. Turner, Oxford, 2001, pp. 309-310.

30.  Bell & Topsey
Probably Billo Johnson (b. 1815), W. S. Popham's servant, and Eliza (d. 1856), a servant of Kate Livermore [more]; see AMW to Margaret G. Hill, 24 December 1852, #07639.

31.  Mr Carmer
Probably Charles Whitehead Carmer (1811-1883), merchant [more].

32.  mignionette
Mignonette, sweet-scented plant, native to North Africa, with yellowish-green flowers and abundant foliage; it is widely cultivated.

33.  Alicia
Alicia Margaret Caroline McNeill (1786-1863), JW's aunt [more].

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

35.  tee roches
Presumably a children's game; see AMW to William McNeill Whistler, 27 February 1853, #06425.

36.  Grandma Haden
Emma Haden, née Harrison, mother of JW's brother-in-law, F. S. Haden.

37.  Col Colt
Samuel Colt (1814-1862), inventor and manufacturer [more].

38.  Sir F Head
Sir Francis Head (1793-1875), colonial governor and writer. In August 1852 Head made a short trip to Ireland to observe and write on Irish life and people; this resulted in A Fortnight in Ireland, London, 1852. Despite AMW's praise of the book, Head's work received unfavorable reviews. The Irish were unhappy with him because he used his popular name in the production of 'twaddle facts,' and the Irish Quarterly Review commented that everything Head had written was quite to be expected. 'There was no Englishman who had not some theory of his own regarding Ireland and its misery.' See Sydney Jackman, Galloping Head, the life of the Right Honourable Sir Francis Bond Head, London, 1958, pp. 141-142.

39.  chochet
A knitting technique.

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

41.  Mr & Mrs Cole
Mr and Mrs Cole of Scarsdale, NY.

42.  Naashota
Nashotah House, WI, Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, founded in 1842, and incorporated in 1847 as a 'College of learning and piety.' Its mission was the preparation of men and women for ministries in the Catholic Tradition. See Nashotah House, @

43.  portion
'portion ... me' continues in the left margin of p. 5.

44.  Annie D.
Probably Annie Davis (b. 1839), of Scarsdale, NY.

45.  Mrs Wilkinson & Dr Park
Mrs Wilkinson, neighbour of AMW at Pomfret, CT, and Rev. Roswell Park (1807-1869), minister of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Principal of Christ Church School [more].

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

47.  Annie
Annie; unidentified

48.  Kate at the Corner house
Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer (ca 1812 - d.1877), née McNeill, AMW's sister [more]; she lived with her husband Dr George E. Palmer at the Old Corner House, built in 1787, situated in the corner of Main and Wall Streets at Stonington, CT.

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

50.  Mr Cornells
William Haviland Cornell (b. 1777), farmer at Scarsdale, NY [more].

51.  It
'It ... your' written in the left and upper margin of p. 1; 'attached ... W' continues in the right margin.