The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: 96th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1864
Record 3 of 12

System Number: 06522
Date: 10-11 February 1864
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: London
Recipient: James H. Gamble[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W516
Document Type: ALS

7 Lindsey Row
Old Battersea Bridge
Chelsea, London.

Feb 10th 1864

My dear Mr Gamble

It is needless to tell you how much I have wished to respond to your kind letter, while I found it difficult to answer those on business during attacks of cold. Accept now my heartfelt thanks for the friendly interest you continue to shew towards Jemie[3], he will be most delighted to attend to your commissions, especially to paint you a Cabinet picture[4], for painting is irresistible, he has been so engaged all winter in subjects ordered before I came that I fear they will not be finished this season; & the Etchings[5] will have to wait til Summer, but that will be a more favorable season for shipping them. I enquired of a N. York lady lately her experience of the expense of Express in reference to a box I wish to send my sister Mrs Palmer[6], she encouraged me by shewing it to be reasonable, but said articles she had sent last Nov. most pressingly needed before Christmas, were not delivered thro Jany[.], so I beg you to inform me whether more than a receipt will be required to secure your safely getting the package. Are you an admirer of old China? this Artistic abode of my son is ornamented by a very rare collection of Japanese & Chinese[7], he considers the paintings upon them the finest speciments of Art & his companions[8] (Artists) who resort here for an evening relaxation occasionally, get enthusiastic as the[y] handle & examine the curious subjects pourtrayed [sic], some of the pieces more than two centuries old, he has also a Japanese book[9] of painting, unique in their estimation. [p. 2] You will not wonder that Jemies inspirations should be (under such influences), of the same cast, he is finishing at his Studio (for when he paints from life, his models generally are hired & he has for the last fortnight had a fair damsel sitting as a Japanese study) a very beautiful picture[10] for which he is to be paid one hundred guineas without the frame that is always separate. I'll try to describe this inspiration to you. A girl seated as if intent upon painting a beautiful jar which she rests on her lap, a quiet & easy attitude, she sits beside a shelf which is covered with Chinese Matting a buff color, upon which several pieces of China & a pretty fan are arranged as if for purchasers, a Scind Rug carpets the floor (Jemie has several in his rooms, & none others), upon it by her side is a large jar & all these are fac-similes of those around me in this room - which is more than half Studio for here he has an Easel & paints generally - tho he dignifies it as our withdrawing room - for here is our bright fire & my post. To finish now my poor attempt at describing the Chinese picture which I hope may come home finished this week - there is a table covd with a crimson cloth, on which there is a cup (Japanese) scarlet in hue, a sofa covd with buff matting, too, but each so distinctly separate, even the shadow of the handle of the fan, no wonder Jemie is not a rapid painter, for his conceptions are so nice, he takes out & puts it over & off until his genius is satisfied. And yet during a very sharp frost of only a few days I think for two days ice was passing as we look[ed] out upon the Thames, he could not resist painting while I was shivering - at the open window - two sketches[11] & all say are most effective, one takes in the bridge, of course they are not finished, he could not leave his [p. 3] oriental paintings which are ordered & he has several in progress: One portrays a group in Oriental costume on a balcony[12], a tea equipage of the old China, the[y] look out upon a river, with a town in the distance. I think the finest painting he has yet done is one hanging now in this room, which three years ago took him so much away from me. It is called Wapping[13]. The Thames & so much of its life, shipping, buildings, steamers, coal heavers, passengers going ashore, all so true to the peculiar tone of London & its river scenes, it is so improved by his perseverance to perfect it, a group on the Inn balcony has yet to have the finishing touches, he intends exhibiting it at Paris in May, with some of those Etchings[14] which won him the gold medal in Holland last year. While his genius soars upon the wings of ambition, the every day realities are being regulated by his mother, for with all the bright hopes he is ever buoyed up by, as yet his income is very precarious. I am thankful to observe I can & do influence him. The Artistic circle in which he is only too popular, is visionary & unreal tho so fascinating. God answered my prayers for his welfare, by leading me here[.] all those most truly interested in him remark the improvement in his home & health[.] the dear fellow studies as far as he can my comfort, as I do all his interests practically, it is so much better for him generally to spend his evenings tete à tete [sic] with me, tho I do not interfere with hospitality in a rational way, but do all I can to render his home as his fathers was. My being in deep mourning & in feeble health excuses my accepting invitations to dine with his friends[.] I like some of the families in which he is intimate for a long time & promise when flowers & birds bloom & sing in the fields I will go as unceremoniously as Jemie has done to return their calls. The Greek Consul is one of his Patrons & I like his wife & daughters & sons. Ionides[15] is the name. [p. 4] I have had some relief to my deep anxiety about my dear Willie[16] in hearing of him, that his health was improved by his having gone to visit his wifes relatives [in] the month of sick leave which was granted him on the day we parted & that a box I had sent him from Bermuda had been recd. A Christmas letter from him had reached Balt[imore] & tho he was so sadly lonely, he was well, oh how my heart yearns for some of the letters I know he has directed to me! I pray mine may reach him & that the Lords presence may be realized by him. I hear wisdom secretly, for I am all day alone, Jemie has lately engaged the Times[17] to read to me after our 6 1/2 ocl dinner. I must not omit mentioning he goes to church with me & likes the Pastor of Christs Church which we attend, it is a pleasant walk there along the river side. Mr Robinson[18] is an Evangelical preacher, faithful as a Pastor. I am sorry I cannot attend his Monday evening prayer meetings, but I do not venture out at night. Sunday afternoons I go to my daughters[19] home in a Cab[20]. We are a mile & half further out of London, than is 62 Sloane St. her health is very delicate, but she is a great comfort to me, ever anticipating my wants, her three boys and one girl[21] I find so interesting, so improved in the three years[,] their Sunday evening exercises are bible & sacred music. The winter has been remarkably fine, but now again a sharp frost, no snow & scarcely a rainy day, but I feel the cold more in England than our more severe winters, it is so penetrating, & the fogs are so gloomy. I prefer my native land at all seasons. ah shall I ever have a home in it! I treasure memories of happy days at both Homelands[22]! how interested I feel in your report of your dear Mother[23] & that she has such a comfort in a good nurse, it must relieve dear Mrs Wann[24] & yourself of much anxiety. My love to them both. A happy New Year to you all[.] Offer my affectionate remembrance to Mrs J. Aspinwall[25]. Write me when you have leisure of Homeland fireside circle & our mutual friends.

[p. 5] Thursday 11th.

You will not tire of my reporting yet of Jemie, dear Mr Gamble, he had a trying time yesterday thro its frosty fog & had to abandon his painting, so that he came in to his dinner not in his usually bright way & as "Mother" sympathises, we neither of us had relish for our nice little dishes, however in the evening the parcel delivery came to divert our disappointment, the gold medal[26] which you knew was awarded him for his Etchings, in Holland, came most seasonably, with a flattering letter from the President of the Academy for the Fine Arts. The inscription too on the massive gold medal with James Whistlers name in full, how encouraging! There was no American news in the Times, so that was soon dispatched, then Jemie was inspired to begin a sketch in pencil, After which he read to me the service for Good Friday, at eleven we kissed each other good night, when I left him at his drawing again. This morning I asked him what message to you, he said brightly, My love to Mr G & tell him I shall be much pleased to paint the picture he has so kindly ordered & also to send the two sets of Etchings as soon as I get thro my pressing engagements. You must not suppose from my telling you of the prices offered Artists in London my dear friend that Jemie thinks your offer too small. I can assure you he is gratified by your order & oh with what interest I shall watch his painting which is to have a place at sweet Homeland. He is thinking seriously of selling his Wapping large picture to a gentleman[27] in Scotland for 200 guineas, there is so much work upon it & such expenses attend painting, his price was 300 guineas.

Did you hear from Mr King[28] of the relief it was to me on my reaching Southampton, feeling so alone, so dependent on Strangers, that my own dear Son came on board to bring me home! unless you know what a storm was raging & how near night it was, you cannot quite estimate my feelings of thankfulness to God. Oh if I am permitted to visit Homeland again I shall tire your ear with all I have gone thro since our adieu by letter to each other. Share my most affectionate remembrance to her with your dear Mother & Mrs Wann. A happy New Year to your circle including the McAndrews[29]. Believe me sympathising with you in the loss of the loved Cousin you were so suddenly deprived of. I was depending so surely on the companionship of my maternal Sister Alicia[30], to console me in my sorrow at having had to leave dear Willie, the tidings of her death could not be recd by me while I was with him, but it was in Sept while she was visiting a dear friend at Linlithgow, Scotland, as she was walking to church on the morning of the Lords day, she suddenly felt faint, & went into the house of another kind friend, in three hours she fell asleep! gently, not a struggle! speech had been taken from her, tho she evidently was in silent prayer til she ceased to breathe! She was an earnest follower of Christ & her affairs were in perfect order, by this dear Sister's will we each have small legacies[31], she loved my boys & their father most especially. It was on her visiting us in Russia [p. 6] she formed the friendship with Miss Morgan from Edinburg, now Mrs Rogers[32] at Linlithgow from whose house she was buried, Since the death of her own (our eldest) sister Mrs Winstanley[33], this dear Sister Alicia had gone annually to spend her summers in Scotland & to visit at Linlithgow, she was a warm hearted North Carolinian, her attatchments strong, & unselfish in character, she was loved by all who knew her & is now missed sadly by poor as well as in her circle of friends. She weaned me & was as a Mother to my Sister Mrs Palmer & myself, we unite naturally in the sad intention when our legacies enable us to do so to have a suitable Tablet to her precious memory placed at her grave in Linlithgow. It has been a fresh trial to my sorrow, that I should have the duty to perform to relatives of my darling Ida[34] last Spring and now to receive the trunks of my Sister, tho she willed me her wardrobe, I shall as in the former case distribute it.

And now my dear friend I must beg you to envelope in a larger, the enclosed & forward it, I know you will. Will you also say to dear Mr King I hope to write him next week, my eyes have been too painful until now, or I should at once have answered his welcome letter recd by last weeks steamer, tell him my heart is continually prompting my pen. Surely Ida's father has the most sacred claim upon me, besides his example in so promptly do[ing] all he can for my comfort. But I had too long been obliged to put off answering your kind letter. Say to Mr K. how thankful his report of our dear Willie's Christmas date to little Georgie[35] Whistler made me. I have not yet recd any of the letters I know he has directed to me!

My[36] pets are the birds of the air, I entice them to our little Garden by crumbs, that they may sing by and by.

how shall I break Jemies cat [of] the naughty game she makes of these poor little birds, she kills them!

Jemies pet cat with collar & bell reminds me of the pets at Homeland. I hope all are well.

I shall feel interested in any thing you will write me of my native land & my dear friends.

I have been prevented by a second attack of Influenza writing either my friends[37] at Scarsdale or at Jersey City.

Yours most truly

A M W.

This document is protected by copyright.


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

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

3.  Jemie
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more].

4.  Cabinet picture
It is not known if it was ever painted. In February 1864 JW was working on Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony (YMSM 56).

5.  Etchings
By 1864 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. Gamble had previously bought etchings from JW; see AMW to Gamble, 19 February 1862 (#06518), and Katherine Lochnan, The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984, pp. 137-44.

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

7.  Japanese & Chinese
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 The London Bankruptcy Court to [James Anderson Rose], 7 May 1879, #11711; JW to John O'Leary, #09333.

8.  companions
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), artist and poet [more], William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919), civil servant and critic [more], and others.

9.  Japanese book
Possibly colour woodcuts by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858); see Robin Spencer, ed., Whistler: A Retrospective, New York, 1989, p. 72.

10.  picture
Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks (YMSM 47).

11.  sketches
One of the two sketches is Chelsea in Ice (YMSM 53).

12.  balcony
Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony (YMSM 56).

13.  Wapping
Wapping (YMSM 35). JW changed the figures in the painting repeatedly. Initially the central figure of the painting was leaning towards the female sitter (JW's mistress, Joanna Hiffernan); her head was repainted three times, and her cleavage was covered. The other sitters were an old man and a sailor, both anonymous. By 1863 JW had replaced the old man in the centre with a portrait of his Parisian colleague Alphonse Legros. The painting was exhibited in the 96th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Academy, London, 1864. See JW to Henri Fantin Latour, #08042.

14.  Etchings
JW's Thames etchings were awarded a gold metal at the Tentoonstelling van Kunstwerken van Levende Meesters, Hague School of Art, Princessegracht, 1863 (see below).

15.  Ionides
Alexander Constantine Ionides (1810-1890), shipping merchant and collector [more], and Euterpe Ionides (1816-1892), née Sgouta, wife of A. C. Ionides [more], and family.

16.  Willie
William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900), physician, JW's brother [more]. He was probably still serving the Conferederate army as an assistant surgeon, and was based in Richmond, VA.

17.  Times
The Times of London.

18.  Mr Robinson
Rev. William Woolhouse Robinson (fl. 1826-1867), pastor of Christ's Church, Chelsea [more].

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

20.  Cab
Probably a Hansom Cab, designed by Joseph Hansom in 1834, redesigned and patented by John Chapman in 1836. It was a two-wheeled, closed carriage, whose distinctive feature was the elevated driver's seat in the rear. It was entered from the front through a folding door and had one seat above the axle with room for two passengers. The driver spoke to the passengers through a trapdoor on top.

21.  three boys and one girl
The children of Deborah and Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910), surgeon and etcher, JW's brother-in-law [more], were: Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece [more]; Francis Seymour Haden, Jr (1850-1918), JW's nephew [more]; Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, JW's nephew [more] and Harry Lee Haden (1855-1877), JW's nephew [more].

22.  Homelands
Homeland, on Staten Island, was the home of James Gamble's mother and his sister, Jane Wann. Homeland, Baltimore was also the name of the residence of David Maulden Perine, Sr (1796-1882), merchant [more].

23.  Mother
Jane Gamble (1790-1864), mother of J. H. Gamble [more].

24.  Mrs Wann
Jane Wann (1822-1875), née Gamble, wife of S. Wann [more].

25.  Mrs J. Aspinwall
Margaret Aspinwall (d. 1881), née Maxwell, wife of J. S. Aspinwall [more].

26.  medal
The medal was accompanied by a letter from Carel Vosmaer to JW, 12 September 1863, #01947; this may be the letter to which AMW refers to as coming from the President. Vosmaer (1826-1888) was an etcher, writer on art, and Secretary of the Hague School of Art.

27.  gentleman
Probably James Leathart (1820-1895), collector [more]; see William Bell Scott to Leathart, 25 February [1864], #12433. It was Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more] of Baltimore who bought Wapping from JW in 1864.

28.  Mr King
Ralph King (1801-1878), broker, father-in-law of W. McN. Whistler [more].

29.  McAndrews
Alexander McAndrew, merchant; see AMW to Harriet and James H. Gamble, 6 May 1869, #06542.

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

31.  legacies
AMW and her sister Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer (ca 1812-1877), née McNeill, were the chief beneficiaries, both receiving the same amount. JW, his brother William McNeill Whistler and his half-sister Deborah Delano Haden were also legatees, the three of them sharing equally. In addition AMW inherited a portrait of her sister Eliza Winstanley, née McNeill, and Alicia McNeill's wardrobe; see AMW to JW, 22 January 1866, #06527, and William Charnley to Catherine Jane Palmer, 23 October 1863, #00575.

32.  Mrs Rogers
Sophia Morgan (b. 1825), daughter of E. and S. Morgan [more]. In 1856 she had married John Rodger; see Scots Origins, Official Government Source of Genealogical Data for Scotland. Old Parish Register Index & Statutory Register Index Marriage Records. (28 May 2002).

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

34.  Ida
Ida Bayard Whistler, née King (d. 1863), JW's sister-in-law [more]; former wife of JW's brother William.

35.  Georgie
George ('Georgie') Worthen Whistler (b. 1851), JW's nephew [more].

36.  My
'My ... by' continues in the left margin of p. 5; 'how ... them' continues in the right margin of p. 5; 'Jemies ... well' continues in the right margin of p. 2; 'I ... friends' continues in the right margin of p. 3; 'I ... AMW' continues in the left margin of p. 1.

37.  friends
Margaret Getfield Hill (1802-1881), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY [more], and William Sherbrooke Popham (1793-1885), merchant [more], and his family. Mrs Jenkins, a fellow invalid of AMW at Northampton, MA, was from New Jersey; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 15 November 1862, #06520.