The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 94th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1862
Record 5 of 14

System Number: 06519
Date: 12 May 1862
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Northampton MA
Recipient: JW
Place: [London][2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: Whistler W513
Document Type: MsL[3]

Northampton[4] Mass

Monday evening 12 May 1862

My own dear Jemmie[5]

I ought perhaps to direct this note to our dear little Annie[6], but her very nice Good Friday[7] letter telling me about the suspense you were in, prompts my heart to send a few lines of sympathy and I know dear Annie and Harry[8] will wait for theirs till the next time. Kiss them both for me and say how very nice I think their letters are. I should have been able to read them, as my sight is certainly better and they were written so clearly, but the Doctor[9] has lately begun operating upon my eyes and I dare not use them. In case Traar[10] may feel interested tell him it is the wine of opium dropped in at bed time, and after that upon my closed lid a salve of belladonna[11], he anoints them with water upon the pupil. Doctor D. speaks encouragingly of them and he never flatters. But now Jemmie Dear of your paintings! how pleased I am to hear [p. 2] that you finished the two[12] in time to present at the Royal Academy. Your mother is satisfied even if they are not hung this year. You must see in the retrospect it was all for the best. Your picture of the Thames[13] was not accepted last Spring, not that they are unfinished as was that, but however trying is the disciplining it must be rightly ordered by our Heavenly Father to whose over-ruling I commend you day by day. During your torturing suspense of last month my Dear boy I am sure you thought of your mother's sympathy while we were in our lodgings together. I review the dealings of God with you and see with gratitude that you have profited by them. I trust you will not be discouraged just go in child like faith and dependance upon the loving Saviour in all your trials and you will find light upon your pathway and when you have success in your handy work give Him the praise for He delighteth to bless those who come to Him[14]. The Discipline of life has so strengthened my faith that I make no plans and am enabled to cast off daily burdens. I have not heard from our dear Willie[15] yet but expect soon he must leave Richmond and I surely hope that this years trial to him may result in praise to God from us both. I hope you find time to read the papers which are directed every week from Northampton and New York to 62[16] by Jackson and myself. In one of the Springfield Republicans I sent you last week was mentioned Lieut Vinton[17] among the wounded in the bayonet charge of Hancock's[18] company which was so successful in opening the way for the taking of Williamsburg by Genl McClellan[19]. I hear nothing especially of Julius Adams of or of Edw Barnes and his sons[20] but doubt not they are doing valiantly but pray that their valuable lives may be spared to bless their families and reward the noble sacrifice for country's cause. You can have only a faint idea how deep is the spirit of patriotism among the women[21] of our motherland. It is so sad to think of the suffering hearts of the widowed mothers and sisters. There is a noble [p. 3] charity at our far West in Iowa which I mean to contribute to for an industrious home for the orphans of the soldiers that have fallen in the defense of our government. I can better bear now the details of the battles that the prospect seems opening for an end of bloodshed[22]. Jacks last week wrote me of dear old General Swifts[23] having gone to visit his old friend General Scott[24] at Elizabeth N Jersey. What a satisfaction to the veterans to compare their views. Now dear Jemmie I must tell you what pleasure it has afforded me that your etchings are so much appreciated in your native state[25]. Mr Sumner[26] who has passed the whole winter long, a great traveller always in the brightest circle of Europe, really a judge of the fine arts, seemed perfectly charmed with them.

Those whose opinion is not less contemptible have asked me why you do not come to your own country to offer your works? Liberal men of means they say are glad to promote the advancement of their countrymen. I hope Mr Day[27] may not have left England it will be so safe an opportunity for your sending two sets of etchings[28] which our friend Mr Gamble[29] has in his mornings letter, advised you about. Tell Sis[30] she may draw upon Mr Day for two sovereigns instead of one in my name if not too late for her buying a set of "Pleasant Pages[31]" which I wish so much to send to our little friend in Missouri. I have recently had a long home report from dear Kate Livermore[32] and in return sent her the two last letters I had received from your sister. I shall ere long forward her dear Annie's last for her to read. She will be so interested that Debo's daughter can write so nicely to save Mama's eyes and comfort me. The season in London I fear will aggravate dear Debo's feeble health. I shall be so glad when it is over and wish she could run over to Brighton. but it is time for me to remind you now dear Jemmie of the wish expressed by our friend Thomas Winans[33] for a good long letter from you and also that you would send him any new etchings [p. 4] to add to those of last year. Do not neglect to send with them [any a?] printed lists you have to complete the Thames etchings[34]. I know you think this of no importance but it would make your works more satisfactory to purchasers. Your first set, the french etchings[35] are preferred by some, some time or other perhaps you could allow a lady friend of mine to signify the selection from the two sets, but how can this be done unless you number them? She is one I so highly esteem, I should like to gratify her. It is her daughter who when here is my amanuensis whose fingering at the piano, recalls the grace and dignity of your sister's touch. And now Jemmie I am sure you will be greatly obliged to the friend who writes this for me. Think how delighted I am now to have a son in Mr Gamble to join me here while I am so unnaturally separated from my own. The season here is perfectly charming. We take a pleasant stroll between breakfast and ten at which hour I must give myself up to the park. Many who delight me by telling of your works, hope some day I may introduce you to them and feel sure that the beauty and grandeur of this scenery would yield you charming subjects.

All are well at Stonington. Aunt Kate[36] had rather a startling surprise in a visit from poor cousin Mattie[37] who started off leaving her husband and family in Cincinatti. I know how great the trial must be at the corner. Julia Palmer[38] is having a pleasant time in Philadelphia and writes of Donald Fairfax[39] as doing nobly at his post at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia.

I hope you go to see dear Mary Rodewald[40] sometimes and take her my love. Surely a long letter from you must[41] be on the way now to your mother. Tell me of all you have been about and of all that interests you, and now share love with Sis and Seymour[42], with the children, and Mr. Traar[.] Remember me to our friends the Smiths[43]. Send me a dozen penny stamps. [fin?]

God bless you.

Your fond Mother

A M Whistler

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

2.  London
JW was in London at this time staying with his half-sister Deborah Delano ('Debo' or 'Sis') Haden (1825-1908), née Whistler, at 62 Sloane Street (see below).

3.  MsL
Dictated to James H. Gamble (see below).

4.  Northampton
AMW spent the winter of 1862 in the Springdale Water Cure establishment at Northampton, MA, under the care of Dr E. E. Denniston .

5.  Jemmie
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more].

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

7.  Good Friday
Good Friday was on 18 April 1862. The letter has not been located.

8.  Harry
Harry Lee Haden (1855-1877), JW's nephew [more].

9.  Doctor
Dr E. E. Denniston.

10.  Traar
James Reeves Traer (ca 1834 - d.1867), partner in F. S. Haden's medical practice [more].

11.  belladonna
The name given to a drug obtained from the leaves and roots of the deadly nightshade plant. It dilated the pupils of the eyes and was supposed to enhance vision; see AMW to JW and D. D. Haden, [15/31 July 1861], #06512.

12.  two
Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl (YMSM 38) was rejected by the Royal Academy in London in May 1862. The Coast of Brittany (YMSM 37), and The Thames in Ice (YMSM 36) were accepted and well received by the R.A; see Gordon H. Fleming, The Young Whistler 1834-66, London, 1978, p. 173.

13.  Thames
Probably The Thames in Ice (YMSM 36), which he painted on 24 December 1860.

14.  He delighteth to bless those who come to Him
Probably a paraphrase of 'The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.' Ps. 37.23.

15.  Willie
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more]. He joined the Confederate army as an Assistant Surgeon, and he served in various Richmond locations including Libby Prison, and Drewry's Bluff on the James River near Petersburg.

16.  62
62 Sloane Street, London, the home address of Deborah Delano Haden.

17.  Lieut Vinton
Francis Laurens Vinton (1835-1879), room-mate of JW at USMA, West-Point, later Professor of Mining and Engineering [more]. Vinton was in the 43rd New York Infantry Regiment, and served in the 2nd Division under the Brigadier General William F. Smith, 1st Brigade under the Brigadier General Winfield Scott Hancock. See Austin A. Yates, Schenectady County, New York: Its History to the Close of the Nineteenth Century, 1902, pp. 306-311.

18.  Hancock's
Winfield Scott Hancock (1824-1886), Union General [more].

19.  Williamsburg by Genl McClellan
George Brinton McClellan (1826-1885), Union General [more]. On 5 May 1862 the battle at Williamsburg, VA, took place. This was at an early stage of McLellan's 'Peninsular campaign' (4 April - 1 July 1862), a large-scale but unsuccessful Union effort to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, VA, by way of the peninsula formed by the York and the James rivers. On 6 May, Confederate forces were defeated by the Union armies, and Williamsburg remained in Union hands until the end of the war. Nearly 41,000 Federals and 32,000 Confederates were engaged; the battle was inconclusive. McLellan's campaign ended in defeat by Robert E. Lee, which forced the withdrawal of the Federal Army of the Potomac after the Seven Days' Battles (June 25-July 1). See Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, PA, 1956, vol. 1. AMW's favorite paper for this period, the Springfield Republican, 10 May 1862, vol. 39, no. 19, p. 1, stated: 'On Monday the divisions of Gen Hancock and Gen Hooker came up with the enemy and compelled them to fight, and there was severe fighting during the whole day, in which our troops displayed great gallantry, taking several of the rebel redoubts by bayonet charge, and putting the rebel forces to flight. Great damage was inflicted of the enemy of this battle... Monday's experience had taught the enemy that they could not stand any better at Williamsburg than at Yorktown, and during the night the whole army quietly stole away...'

20.  Julius Adams or of Edw Barnes and his sons
Julius Walker Adams, Sr (1812-1899), civil engineer and soldier [more]. Adams was engaged in the Williamsburg battle with the Union forces, and served in the First Division of Brig. General Darius N. Couch. Edward Barnes was probably a relation of James Barnes (1806-1869), soldier and civil engineer [more].

21.  women
The activities and patriotism of American women during the civil war era are well documented by historians who have covered a vast spectrum of actions and reactions manifested either at home, or in the public arena of farms, business, battlefields and charities. See Marilyn Mayer Gulpepper, Trials and Triumphs, The Women of the American Civil War, Michigan, 1991.

22.  end of bloodshed
It is possible that AMW was led to believe that the war would end soon, due to the Unionist sympathies of the paper she was reading, and the Unionist victory at Williamsburg. An article in the Springfield Republican, 10 May 1862, vol. 39, no. 19, p. 1, entitled 'General Situation' stated, 'There can be no doubt that the rebels begin to realize their desperate condition. Their leading papers confess that the prospect is gloomy, and they heap reproaches upon their generals and especially upon President Davis and his congress. The Richmond Examiner now says that the final stand will be made twelve miles from Richmond ...'

23.  General Swifts
General Joseph Gardner Swift (1783-1865), chief engineer of the US Army, brother-in-law of JW's father [more].

24.  General Scott
General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), Commander in chief of the Union army [more], was General-in-Chief of the army until 1 November 1861, when he was placed upon the retired list on his own application, and was succeeded by Major-General George B. McClellan. See Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, PA, 1956, vol. 1, p. 10.

25.  native state
JW was born at Lowell, MA.

26.  Mr Sumner
Probably Charles Sumner (1811-1874), lawyer and Senator from Massachusetts.

27.  Mr Day
Probably Philip Day, of Stonington, CT.

28.  etchings
By 1862 JW had completed many etchings of the Thames but they were not actually published, as A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames (the 'Thames Set') (K.38-44, 46, 52, 66, 68, 71, 74-76, 95), until 1871. However, they must have been available for sale, as they were for exhibition.

29.  Mr Gamble
James H. Gamble (b. 1820), clerk [more].

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

31.  Pleasant Pages
Probably an earlier edition of Zachariah A. Mudge, Pleasant Pages and Bible Pictures for Young People, New York, 1869.

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

33.  Thomas Winans
Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more]. AMW probably hoped that Winans would purchase some etchings as he had previously done so from JW's 'French Set', published in November 1858.

34.  Thames etchings
There is no record of JW producing an etching of the Thames in 1862, but he could have been printing ones produced earlier. The last etching from the 'Thames Set,' prior to the date of this letter, was Old Hungerford Bridge (K.76).

35.  french etchings
Twelve Etchings from Nature, 1858 (the 'French Set,' K.9-11, 13-17, 19, 21, 22, 24); see AMW to J. H. Gamble, 5 December 1858, #06502.

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

37.  Mattie
Martha ('Matty') Fairfax (b. ca 1820), JW's cousin, later wife of Isaiah Davenport [more].

38.  Julia Palmer
Julia McNeill Palmer (1851-1902), JW's cousin, later wife of W. S. Boardman [more].

39.  Donald Fairfax
Donald McNeill Fairfax (1821-1894), naval officer, JW's cousin [more].

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

41.  must
'must ... Whistler' is cross-written in the upper margin of p. 1.

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

43.  Smiths
Probably Tom Smith, engineer, and his wife Mary; they lived at Hope Farm, Warwick, England; see AMW to JW, 11 April 1850, #06395.