System Number: 09938
Date: 21 May - 3 June [1872]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler
Recipient: Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer
Repository: Princeton University Library, Princeton, NJ
Call Number: Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
Credit Line: Published with permission of Princeton University Library
Document Type: ALS
2 Lindsey Houses Chelsea London
May 21st Tuesday
My own dear Sister
I need not tell you how welcome your letter to announce the coming of the Burnhams & your friend Mrs Thatcher & now that I have had a call from them yesterday, I am glad to report to you how pleasant it was to revive old times! and my heart quite warmed towards "Jane" & her good husband. he was not changed, the gentleman he was at 21 years, is only mellowed by 30 since of the experience of the world. last friday they called to see Debo, their Hotel being not inconveniently far from Sloane St, it was a surprise to her, as I had not seen her to mention their expected arrival, they left with her the box of dear Emmas beautiful work & her letter to me, so "Nurse" brought them that evening here. I am so grateful for her proof of love to "Aunt Anna" I shall write her of course! Willie went on Sunday afternoon to pay his respects to Mr & Mrs B & would have left a card also for Mrs Thatcher but he was so favored as to have a chat with the three & as he told them of my going seldom going out, they came yesterday, just missing Jemie, but meeting Debo here, and we were soon on the most social terms. I felt that an explanation was needed for the unusual disorder of my Parlor and my own dishabille but I made none. I had been out to get my feet warm in sunshine & to do some errands, then loitered in our little front garden training the vines on its wall. The Holy Days of our Church are so perverted Whit Monday has become a holiday for shop lads & servant maids. Lucy was in haste to be off to the Zoological Gardens, & so little unstylish Mary Afflick was in her place to open the door to gentle folk - And odd enough as I thought no one would call. I had allowed our lunch table to stand til the Artist chose to leave his Studio, & as Debo & I had not met in some weeks, she having been out of town, I sat talking with her, when otherwise I should have made my toilet[,] I should have had the table cleared [p. 2] as soon as Jemie finished, had not a Mrs Hooper come in (her first introduction![)] tho he had spent an evening at her home fireside so pleasantly I was glad to make her acquaintance only, as she had written Jemie her wish to see his Mother was increased by her having seen his picture of me at the Academy. I was a little mortified that I was conscious of appearing careless. And then as she took her leave, the Burnhams were ushered in, no chance of clearing off the lunch! tho the Japanese plates & all upon it looked tempting, it was four ocl or later & the hour is for luncheon One or Two ocl. but when I see Mrs Thatcher perhaps I may be able to do away with her first impression, we all went up our dark stair case (for Lucy in her haste had neglected to light the beautiful Venetian lamps (Madme Venturi's gift) to the Drawing room, that they might see the river from its windows, & there they saw also Mrs Leylands portrait & we then went into the Studio, the Artist had in his hurry to fulfil an engagement left it in unusual disorder, but I had wheeled off his Easel into a corner, that my visitors could walk around the fine old room. they promised to call again & I hope Jemie will be in his place! tho he found them at their hotel when he called last evening. We have none of us seen Miss Maria Burnham, she seems to be on her own amusements going about with her youthful friends. Mr & Mrs B said it was like a dream to them that the golden haired little Willie Whistler should re-appear to them as a Doctor with dark moustache & black hair. 30 years how varied, but they saw his likeness to his Father! his hands! & expression. I suppose they thought Jemie even more like his dear Father in face & the same curly head, but he is such an original he takes the greatest care to friz a white lock (such as Debo also has had always[)], & his a copy of it, only hers is not seen, & his was hidden by his masses of curls til he fancied Aigrettes! he is confining himself too closely to his Studio, working with his brain as much as painting, his looks shew it, but if the weather improves so will health when he can paint views of the river at his open window
[p. 3] Saturday evening June 1st
quieter after seven ocl[ock] is rather late to take up my pen but dearest Kate as I have been talking to Mrs Thatcher of the beloved ones of the Corner House I couldn't resist telling you how refreshing to my fond memories. And so Anna Deniston had been making you a little visit. I am wishing for your account of it as you did not mention it in your letter, be sure to send my love to herself & her dear Mother & say how much I wish to see them again.
We have had a more enjoyable change in the weather for a few days, & the Stonington party realize London in its gay Season to be quite charming. My sons saw them last night at the Opera, & Jemie went from the Leyland box to theirs & had a chat, but of course Willie did not deem it proper for both to leave Mrs L & her Sister, the house was brilliantly crowded & the music perfect, as Mrs Thatcher no doubt will describe it, when recounting her pleasures in London to you at home. I went to the Alexandra Hotel to see them to day & spent an hour socially in talking of you all, & listening to their sight seeing they expect to start next week for Brussels & their tour & they say they will come on their return to London, to see me again.
I went on Wednesday last to lunch at the Leylands & then to the Maitlands again to hear Lord Radstock, it is to me "a revival" so impressive is his discourse. In a conversation he had with Mrs Leyland, when all but ourselves had gone to the tea room. he related his religious experience, & that an illness from which his doctors said in his hearing, he could not recover, had caused such heart searching, tho an outward member of the Church, he had not given himself to his Saviour but when raised up from that illness, he resolved to be known in the world as His servant, he gave up music even, as it had been his passion, for he felt sure of heavenly harmonies! Oh how like a brother he urged the lovely Mrs Leyland to make sure her hopes of heaven! We are DV to go again Tuesday to hear him at Mrs M-s and perhaps this day week Lord Radstock's own house, he invited us for today too.
[p. 5] If on your visits to Julie & Dons homes assure them of my being glad of their happiness [&?] you write me of them but makes me wish I could visit them too. I hope you may go in a few days to dear Julia Rodewalds & I am sure in Henry St you will be a welcome guest. Cousin K was eagerly hoping to welcome you & so was his Mit Cousin Mary C mentioned Susie having left [illegible] for N Jersey! as Lizzie heard when she called to see her lately. My love to Suzie & George[,] I hope the dear baby may be spared. I am so fond of the little ones! & so interested in your Grand children dear Kate this is a scrawl! but I trust your loving heart will make it readable, I do not feel indifferent to sending you the notices which have appeared in many of the London Papers about the Whistler pictures now being exhibited. I'll see if Jemie can select one for your Stonington Weekly, he has many new pictures begun & when he can finish any one, we shall have the needful income. Alas that his Model should be ill just as he was intent upon finishing a beautiful painting which in the same way he was prevented doing last Summer. So it is patience must be tried! & my faith exercised.
Dear Debo is well but in the London Season at its height now there are too many parties for her to get released from, to come often to me, as her loving notes tell me she & Annie lately saw Alice Rodewald at the Opera with her Aunt Mrs R & her cousin, so they are all well & happy at Feldheim tho I have not heard so from them. Some day I must avail of the Wimbledon Omnibus to make a call & hear from the dear children of their tour on the Continent, they are so affectionate when I go to their home, I do not fancy their silence caused by their ceasing to wish to make me a sharer in their happiness. I should fear mine to many I think ever fondly of, if so judged. I have intended writing dear Julia Rodewald for so long! for I love her as a daughter & memory often takes me to her home circle! but I am the only one to receive callers in this house or to ensure notes, or attend to the daily domestic cares, having only young thoughtless Servants who need my watchful guidance & following up their heedlesness [sic]. Tho I am always hoping the words of the Gospel may be acted upon for I begin & end each day with them at our family worship. And now dearest Kate I beg you to write me a few lines at such short intervals as I have gathered up for this. My love to our dear Scarsdale circle, My boys join me in love to you all. tell Julia she must not judge Willie to have ceased to care to hear from her, because he has not written, it is from want of time.
[p. 6] Monday 3rd
This early morning was bright & summer like & to my surprise when Jemie came in from his boating on the river to breakfast Fannie Leyland came with him, in her riding habit, whip in hand, her groom & horse at our gate, she is a lively girl of 14 & had after their earlier breakfast come by her Mamas persuasion this short ride before her beginning study, she had been in the boat on the river with Jemie, but we have had showers all day since, tho now at 6 ocl the sun has come out & I hope my young servant Mary may set some Verbenas & Heliotropes in our front garden beds, Jemie is to dine at the Leylands, but I fear will be late, for he has taken up his brush (in his best coat &c! & to paint is more beguiling than any thing else with him. he had a note of invitation to his surprise a few days ago, from Mr Bateman of the Stage! offering him a private box to see the performance of Miss Isabel Bateman as a country woman! for him to take any friends, so it is settled that Mrs Leyland & her Fannie & Florence & her Sister go with Jemie, neither he nor Willie frequent either Theatre or Opera, tho both occasionally go with friends, I dare say amusement may be enlivening after hard work, but I am glad my boys do not seek it for themselves, Jemie seldom goes anywhere but as the escort of the Leylands, as Mr L has to be in Liverpool much, he is like a brother in the family circle. I meant to have told you dear Kate of what will interest you more, & that is of Eliza Boyd & her trials, I had an answer to my last letter a week ago, in which I told her I was only waiting til Debo could look thro hers & Annies wardrobe for me to make ready my parcel to send her, as she turns every thing to advantage, she explained her not having written me by telling me she has let her Parlor & bedroom to two young gentlemen brothers & that one dines every day & both on Sunday with her family, thus increasing her fatigues, so she cannot sit down to write til ten at night & then she is too tired for any place but bed, poor dear Eliza! how like her mother! & yet they pay her only 10 shillings a week the two [illegible]! dinners in proper [illegible words].
[p.7] Tell dear Julia, if my poor Willie were as happy as hers is, he would delight to correspond with his Cousins, he often talks with me of the good times he has had at the dear old Corner house but he is involved in pecuniary cares & perplexities & is required to devote his whole attention to trying to establish himself in his medical career, & whenever he comes to me it is to impart to to Mother as his only earthly helper his distresses & anxieties, yet he is not ungratified by the tokens you send of his being remembered by his Society associated with his Trinity College days.
Again dear Sister I beg you to thank dear Emma for her gift, I know how charmed my young friend will be when I transfer to her the beautiful copy of the American Autumnal leaves, which she will take pride in having framed suitably, to be on the walls of the elegant Drawing room at Norwood. I shall enjoy seeing them there in my visits, but I cannot be spared from my post while I know it is important to dear Jemie that I remain, tho he & Willie ever urge me to accept invitations, but my health is good now & I need no change of air or scene. Your letters always cheer me, but I must not be selfish, in your visits you must be free to walk & talk.
God bless you & yours prays ever your Sister
Dated from references to AMW's portrait by JW, its exhibition at the Royal Academy (see below), and the Perpetual Calendar Whitaker's Almanac.
9. Whit Monday
Whit Monday was first introduced by the Bank Holidays Act of 1871.
11. Mary Afflick
Mary Afflick, a servant.
13. Mrs Hooper
Mrs Hooper, of Philadelphia.
14. his picture of me at the Academy
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101). It was exhibited in the 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1872.
15. Japanese plates
JW's first collection of porcelain, amounting to more than 300 pieces, was assembled over a period of some fifteen years and was sold at his bankruptcy sale on 7 May 1879; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 10-11 February 1864, #06522.
17. Mrs Leylands portrait
The portrait of Frances Leyland (1834-1910), née Dawson, Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106).
18. Miss Maria Burnham
Maria Burnham, daughter of J. I. and J. A. Burnham.
20. views of the river
In the early 1870s JW worked mainly indoors. From the window of Arthur Steven's flat he painted The Last of Old Westminster (YMSM 39), and from his own balcony Brown and Silver: Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 33), and Battersea Reach (YMSM 45); see Richard Dorment and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1994, p. 120.
21. Anna Deniston
Probably Anna Denniston, of Stonington, CT, and her mother.
22. last night at the Opera
Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata was on at Her Majesty's Opera House. See The Athenaeum, London, 1 June 1872, pp. 695-96.
24. Alexandra Hotel
Alexandra Hotel, Knightsbridge, London W22.
30. Cousin K
Susan Euphemia Palmer, née Sears, wife of George E. Palmer, JW's cousin.
Elizabeth Duclos, née Corbett, wife of P. Duclos.
35. Grand children
Catherine Jane Palmer had by 1872 three grand children: Lillian MacNeill Palmer (b. 1871), and George Edwin Palmer (b. 1872), sons of A. and D. McN. Palmer; Florida Palmer, daughter of S. E. and G. E. Palmer.
36. Whistler pictures now being exhibited
There was only AMW's portrait exhibited in the Royal Academy (see above).
In August 1871 JW was working on Annabel Lee (YMSM 79), for William Graham, MP of Glasgow. He was unable to complete the painting because Margaret ('Maggie') (b. ca 1856), a model [more] fell ill; see AMW to Catherine Jane Palmer, 3-4 November 1871, #10071.
40. Fannie Leyland
Fanny Leyland (1857-1880), later Mrs Stevenson-Hamilton [more]. JW made some studies of Fanny in a riding habit for the Portrait of Miss Leyland (1) (YMSM 109); see Study for 'Portrait of Miss Leyland' (M.501), and Study for 'Portrait of Miss Leyland' (M.502).
42. Miss Isabel Bateman
Isabel Bateman (1854-1934), an actress who became a nun [more]; JW made a chalk and pastel drawing of Miss Bateman, Portrait of the actress Isabel Bateman (M.467), who played 'Leah, in the famous romantic play of the same name,' at the Lyceum Theatre; see The London Illustrated News, 25 May 1872, no. 1,707, vol. 60, p. 498 (also see #10038).
43. Florence & her Sister
Florence Leyland (1859-1921), married Val Prinsep, and Elinor Leyland (1861-1952), mariée Speed.
Rev. William S. Boardman, husband of Julia McN. Palmer.
48. old Corner house
The house owned by Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), husband of Kate Palmer, built in 1787, situated in the corner of Main and Wall Streets at Stonington, CT.
50. American Autumnal leaves
It seems that Emma Palmer made a drawing of autumn leaves, which AMW was going to give to her young unidentified friend in Norwood, London; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 10 - 20 April 1872, #06549.