The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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System Number: 07641[1]
Date: 27 and 28 April 1853
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: Preston
Recipient: Catherine Julia Cammann [3]
Place: New York
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 34/53-54
Document Type: ALS


April 27th 1853 Wednesday twilight

My very dear Cath

My pen seems an offence in the homes of England because of the brief visits I can make probably too for the last time, so my writing you has been deferred until the steamer preceding my return voyage, but we have sympathised as Sisters in bereavement. truly, to me the uncertainties of life are so impressive that I do not indulge in any plans, but if permitted to meet the welcome of your dear Mama[4] & yourself dear Julia & Jacks[5] how much we shall have of mutual & sacred interest to impart, of the fond father & brother[6] whose love for us was so unselfish & unwavering. How tenderly has our Lord tempered our loss with gentle dealings towards him in granting his wish to return to his native land & the home for which he yearned with heart sickness. I trace the finger of God in all connected with the circumstances in which my beloved brother placed this his last term of trial & I bless the infinite wisdom & divine love exhibited. Oh Cath how much we shall have to unbosom when we may meet. When I review all I have passed thro since Octr time appears years! yet how swiftly each week has slipped away in reality. I hear from my dearest Debo[7] every other day, she says when I date from Liverpool she shall realize I am going from her. And that will be next week, indeed I shall only have four days to spend there, for my berth is taken in the Africa[8], to leave on the 7th of May. I dare say dear Jacks will be ready to hand me ashore, as my boys will not be within reach. It was a comfort to me on my voyage to England that the several congregations in which I had worshipped [p. 2] among loved members were uniting in prayer for my safety, & now I beg to be thus favored. My sister Alicia[9] is to be with me at Mr Boyds[10] in Liverpool, our kind friends Mrs Sandland & Eliza[11] are lamenting that I can only devote four days to them, while my Sister Eliza[12] thinks she has scarcely had me before I shall be gone. Mr Winstanley[13] never was more indulgent to me, tho he was wont to pet Anna MacNeill more. they talk of our dear Mary[14] most fondly, tho I am sure Julia would have been as great a favorite, Aunt Eliza wishes to write by this opp[ortunity] to N Orleans, she gave me today to pack in my travelling bag for Eliza F[15] a doz handsome damask serviettes & for Kate[16] ditto. I think I shall go to Stonington directly from the Africa, & after embracing the dear ones there & at Norwich, to take Brooklyn on my way to Scarsdale. The Steamer Niagara [17] just from Boston reports a fine & smooth run of ten days. The weather in England has been rough & bleak, flurries of sleet & wind, with rarely a bright day, but I recollect how cold last spring was.

My general health since then now improved. it is only when I am excited, or fatigued as today beginning to pack, I am reminded how impaired is my strength.

Of course I hear much of the popular mania Mrs B Stowe's[18] travels in England increases, & I am oftener questioned than I like as to my opinion of her work, I am no advocate of slavery, but can witness to the humanity of the owners of [the] southern Atlantic states[19] & testify that such are benefactors to the race of Ham[20], believing as I have been led to from my mothers opinions, that the blacks in the south are cared for by christian owners, being taught from the gospel & all their religious indul[p. 3]gencies [sic] provided, I take the view that God has permitted the stigma to remain upon our country that missionaries might be prepared for Africa, thro the religious instruction provided by slave owners in our Atlantic States, & that thro the Colonization Society[21] it will be effected. Uncle Tom may prove an incentive, tho so much romance & poison is mixed up with the abolishionist [sic] prejudices of the writer. Uncle Tom is stamped on everything all over this kingdom. But I suppose he has had his reign in N York & that the World Fair[22] must be engrossing.

I have been spending a fortnight in the immediate neighbourhood of the estate of the Earl of Ellesmere & there heard that his family had embarked with him as the Queens commissioner to the N York Exhibition. they are worthy of all the honor our country can offer them, such promoters of public good in church, faithful stewards of the weath [sic] entrusted them. I shall be so gratified if they are favorably impressed. my friends at Hope Farm[23] will hear of it. they occasionally meet the Countess[24] on school committees &c - how delighted this church woman & noble lady would be with our Scarsdale church. How much more I have realised in my present sojourn in England than, I could have planned, I feel like an indulged child, most gratefully submitting all the remainder of my pilgrimage to our Heavenly Guide. Many English ladies timid even in crossing a ferry, say to me, they dare not venture out of sight of land & they are amazed at my temerity. I think they do not know faith in Him who sustains us all in the path of duty, practically. Mr Winstanley says he wishes he could see Cath C of whom he has so long heard, he is sure he should like you. But he advises me [p. 4] to finish my say to you when we meet. With love from all around me to our loved ones within your reach, adieu dear Cath. Embrace the dear Grandmama & Jacks for me, & say all that is kind to Harwood[25] & Nurse in anticipation of their joining in the welcome to Brooklyn of

your attached

Anna Whistler


Our precious Marys letter reached me today, will you tell her it helped me to the refreshment of grief, tears which in passing through the furnace of affliction I seldom am soothed by, tell her how interested I am in her home, & in Willy[26] there & that her promise to visit my Cottage will yeild [sic] me peculiar enjoyment. In my hopes there Donald[27] & Jacks & my boys are inseparable.

I am not writing George[28], but depend upon some of your gents reporting my prospect of returning to him soon, by the blessing of God upon my voyage. My love to Adolfe[29][.] Love[30] to dear Julia, tell her I hope for a share of Loulous[31] love, to whom I shall like to talk of Debos trio[32]. I have some dolls trinkets for Louloo. Love to Julia W & her dear girls[33] & to all who care for me among your loved ones. Love to Josie R[34] & say Debo & I rejoice to hear of her added home - joy - a daughter!

This document is protected by copyright.


Liverpool Mail Steamer of Saturday 30th

Rodewald Brothers[35]
Beaver St.
New York

Miss Cammann

[Postmark:] LIVERPOOL / F3 / AP29 / 1853

Will[36] you let Margaret Hill[37] know the box with my dresses has not reached England perhaps it may be in the agents hands in N Y. if so taken to Scarsdale.


1.  07641
See essay on Slavery and Civil War.

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

3.  Catherine Cammann
Catherine Julia Cammann, a relation of Dr G. P. Cammann [more].

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

5.  Julia & Jacks
Julia Catherine Rodewald (1825-1897), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of A. Rodewald, Sr [more], and her brother Patrick T. Jackson ('Jacks') McNeill (1835-1898), accountant, JW's cousin [more]. Their father was AMW's brother William Gibbs McNeill.

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

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

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

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

10.  Mr Boyds
Thomas Boyd, merchant, of Liverpool.

11.  Mrs Sandland & Eliza
Betsey Sandland of Liverpool, friend of AMW, and her daughter Eliza, wife of Thomas Boyd (b. 1821).

12.  Sister Eliza
Eliza Isabella Winstanley (1788-1857), née McNeill, JW's aunt, AMW's half-sister [more].

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

14.  Mary
Mary Isabella Rodewald (1823-1867), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of J. F. Rodewald [more].

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

16.  Kate
Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer (ca 1812 - d.1877), née McNeill, AMW's sister [more].

17.  Steamer Niagara
Steamer Niagara (1848-1875), Cunard Line (1,824 tons.). It was launched in August 1847, and built at the same time with the America, Europa and Canada, in order to double the Atlantic mail service. It made its maiden voyage from Liverpool to Boston and Halifax on 20 May 1848 and subsequent voyages went to either New York or Boston. In 1854 it was used as a Crimean War transport. It ran from Liverpool to Havre in 1866 but was then sold without a change in name and its engines were removed. On 6 June 1875 it was wrecked near South Stack, Anglesey.

18.  Mrs B Stowe's
Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), school teacher, writer and philanthropist [more]. Stowe wrote a famous anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-1852), in reaction to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made it illegal to assist an escaped slave. In the story Uncle Tom is sold and bought three times and finally beaten to death by his last owner. Stowe visited Britain in April 1853 and spent a few months travelling in Europe. Her observations were communicated to the public some time after her return by the issue, in conjunction with her husband (Rev. Charles Beecher), of two volumes of travels, Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands. Stowe spent some time prior to the date of this letter visiting Glasgow and Edinburgh, where she received great 'cordiality. The people of Glasgow thought of her as the property of the whole world of literature and humanity.' See The Times, 18 April 1853, no. 21,405, p. 8.

19.  owners of [the] southern Atlantic states
The 1850s marked a crucial turning point in the US history. Ideological, economic and political conflict between the free-labor society of the North and the slave-based plantation society of the South became acute. The secession (of eleven Southern states from the Federal government) occured in 1861, but North and South had long been divided. See Michael F. Holt, The Political Crisis of the 1850s, New York, 1978; Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War, New York, 1970.

20.  race of Ham
The story of Ham was a powerful myth, useful for the simultaneous refutation of scientific racists, the acceptance of the biblical account of a single human creation, and the justification of slavery. The primary citation was from Genesis where Noah, upset over an indiscretion of his son Ham, cursed all the descendants of Ham's son Canaan. 'And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren,' Gen. 9.25. Although the Bible makes no reference to skin colour at all, many people associated blackness with the 'curse of Ham.' See Werner Sollors, 'The Curse of Ham or "Race? and Biblical Exegesis,' Neither Black Nor White Yet Both: Thematic Explorations of lnterracial Literature, New York and Oxford, April, 1997; Kenneth S. Greenberg, Honor and Slavery, New Jersey, 1996, pp. 110-11; Larry E. Tise, Proslavery: A History of the Defense of Slavery in America, 1701-1840, Athens, Georgia, 1987, p. 106.

21.  Colonization Society
American Colonization Society, an organization founded in the US in 1817 to transport free-born blacks and emancipated slaves to Africa. It was supported by local branches, churches, and the legislatures of border states.

22.  World Fair
World Fair (Crystal Palace Exhibition) held in 1853 in Manhattan; see AMW to JW, 11 and 13 April 1853, #06427.

23.  friends at Hope Farm
The house of Mary Smith, wife of Tom Smith, engineer; Hope Farm was in Shropshire, England. See AMW to JW, 11 April 1850, #06395.

24.  Countess
Lady Mary Louisa Campbell (1825-1916), wife of 2nd Earl of Ellesmere [more].

25.  Harwood
Probably Harwood, a servant.

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

27.  Donald
Probably Donald C. McNeill (1844-1876), JW's cousin [more].

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

29.  Adolfe
Adolphe Rodewald, Sr (1818-1869), husband of J. C. McNeill [more].

30.  Love
'Love ... ones' continues in the left margin of p. 1; 'Love ... daughter' continues in the right margin.

31.  Loulous
Mary Louise ('Louloo') Rodewald (b. 1850), daughter of J. C. and A. Rodewald.

32.  Debos trio
Deborah Delano Haden's children: Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918), and Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician.

33.  Julia W & her dear girls
Julia Eliza Whitehouse (1817-1889), née Cammann, wife of Edward Whitehouse [more], and her daughters.

34.  Josie R
Louisa Josephine ('cousin Josee') Richards (1821-1859), née Swift, wife of P. Richards

35.  Rodewald Brothers
Johann Frederick Rodewald (1808-1886), banker, husband of Mary Isabella McNeill [more] and brother of Adolphe Rodewald. Their address according to Rode's New York Directory for 1852-1853, New York, p. 438, was 20 Beaver Street; their profession, merchants.

36.  Will
'Will ... Scarsdale' written on inside flap of envelope.

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