The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

return to search results

Documents associated with: [Centennial International Exhibition], Philadelphia, 1876
Record 3 of 6

System Number: 06560
Date: 8 and 9 September 1876
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Hastings
Recipient: James H. Gamble[2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: Whistler W553
Document Type: ALS

Talbot House, 43 St. Mary's Terrace, Hastings

My dear Mr Gamble,

Here I have been for 13 months & by the blessing of the Lord upon this salubrious climate & loving attentions bestowed, health is restored beyond the expectation "at 3 score & 10!["] It will be so delightful to talk to you & your beloved Harriet[3] of all the mercy realized, that I will not write much about self. What a happy prospect it is for me that we may meet here! I am sure you will both be charmed in this retreat, when London fogs envelop even the Park[,] even in winter we often have the contrast of blue sky. Some friends of mine came to Hastings for the Easter holidays & sought me, exclaiming where did you hear of this house? so exactly suiting you! tho Aubry House[4] their home in Kensington is so elegant in taste & enclosed in gardens, for their childrens benefit they had to come to this south coast for sea air. I shall D V introduce you by letter to these dear Alexanders, to call & see in your walks or drives. How pleasantly situated you will be in the home of your Cousin Mrs Dunville[5]. Truly you can say "Our Lot is cast in pleasant places[6][.]" Our Speke Hall[7] friends have recently occupied 49 Princes Gate, a new purchase of Mr Leyland & in it has been the whole of my dear Artist Sons summer been spent decorating a spacious dining room[8], the design quite original, but such a great undertaking painting walls & ceiling as he would do a picture in oils, that by the desire of Mr L he slept there & made it his home, to begin work at 7 in the morning & I know how reluctantly he would break off to dress for an 8 o'clock dinner. imagine him on ladders & scaffolding using his palette and studio brushes! No wonder he looks thin, tho he is so elastic in spirit and thankful for strength according to his need. he sent me last Saturdays weekly of "The Academy[9]" with an Article on this work, which he has just finished. I think we must have an extract sent to N York to appear in some journal for the gratification of our kind sympathisers. Once his sister[10] having called in vain to see him in Lindsay [sic] Houses, went to the room & saw him at work. She wrote me it was beautiful beyond her language to describe. Tho when dear Jemie came to me for a day or two's rest last month, he with his pencil enabled me to fancy it, he came to bid me goodbye in anticipation of soon going to Venice[11] to make a set of 12 etchings[12]. I pray he may be permitted to succeed in it working out of doors & change of scene & climate, such benefits to health.

[p. 2] I fear if your friend Mr Moore[13] found Lindsay Houses he was told as all others, that the Artist was not at home & he may have concluded he might at least have returned his call, but I beg you to explain that his time was not his own. It is about two years now since I saw any of his work except a lovely moonlight picture[14] which he brought up to show me in my sick chamber. I hear from the few who are admitted into his studio that he has some very great improvements in painting Portraits[15]. You may be sure I was sorry he had nothing finished for the Centennial[16]. It would have been so gratifying if he could have attended our national exhibition in person, but you know he has never left England since he established himself among its competitors for distinction in art. You will feel interested to hear that he has the undisputed ascendancy as an Etcher[17], prices for his have risen, to four times their original value, & it is gratifying to Collectors[18] to know he will resume this branch.

You ask about Willie[19] my skilful doctor & most attentive Son. he obtained a 2nd English Diploma[20] in Feb last & was unamimously [sic] selected one of the Staff of doctors in the Throat Hospital[21] soon after[,] he is getting a name & if steady perseverance is rewarded his will be in the lords good time. You will find a welcome embrace at 80a Brook St Grosvenor Square from your Scarsdale Cottage[22] pet boy.

I have proposed to share his little box, now I am not quite good for nothing, but he fears to try such an experiment for my delicate lungs & that I'd miss the comforts which surround me here, he runs down by 2nd class[23] as often as he can to be with me from Saturday night til Monday. My dear daughter has been for a week or more, when health needs bracing air, I expect her D V Wednesday next for the rest of this month. Now Mr Haden[24] is off to Scotland for his annual recess. he removed his home from 62 Sloane St in March, to May Fair, much to the grief of his wife & family, he & all his children[25] were born at 62 and he had made the house so complete. they are not in so airy a place now, tho the central part of the West End, where the Grand M D -s cluster. God loves whom He chastens[26] & so my dear daughter experiences trial after trial, to render her more & more a lovely Christian. her eldest Son Seymour you may recollect as a very young student[,] he is now on his voyage to Natal Africa, having embarked a fortnight ago. And we have not yet heard of the arrival of Harry her youngest Son at Queensland, Australia. he sailed from Graves End 6th April[.] Arthur only is left, to be with Mama & Annie, he is devoted to his calling, his medical practice as yet in St George's Hospital[27].

[p. 3] They are all very talented & free from evil habits. Harry was not doing well in a London Banking House, not liking it & so has adventured himself on being of age! to try sheep farming.

I have very kind next door neighbours who often invite me to take a seat with them in their carriage for a 2 hours airing & so I was tempted this morning & yet wishing to post this for tomorrows steamer. I am scribbling till twilight. You are in advance of me is [sic] wearing glasses. no doubt I could write better if a pr would fit my peculiar sight. I use one for reading. My retirement has been most valuable to me for reading & for the study of my bible. An elderly clergyman sends me books by his daughters selected from his own library, Miss Price[28] also reads to me when I have no body sharing this drawing room. A neice[29] [sic] of mine with her husband shared my apartments thro July.

Saturday 9th

I begin this morning with an extract from a letter of Londonderry date from my friend Mrs Livermore[30] (who nursed[31] me you know thro two months of my long illness[)], we write each other constantly & often put in a letter from those we think most of, so it was with you last dear Mr Gamble in my rejoicing at the prospect of your coming she says. "Mr Gambles letter is very nice I should like so much to know him & his wife, kindly say with my regards to them. I beg when they visit their friends in Ireland, they will remember us among them, & how happy it will make us if they will come & be comfortable in "the friends room" we think such dear friends of yours ought not to be strangers to us". And I know you are kindred spirits & mutual pleasure would be realized in your visiting the U S Consul in Northland Terrace Londonderry. The Livermores[32] are of N Hampshire too, tho she is of English birth & parentage. The view of the Foyle & mountains beyond is enough to attract tourist[s] & then the hospitality & bright christian intelligence in that family circle makes every guest at home. They have lived in the West too, you would have so many familiar scenes to talk about. I must beg you to bring me a Montana, Idaho & Utah Mission[33], published in N York, the only one sent me was of July 1875 & interested me so much. I take regularly every Thursday, "The Christian[34]" which keeps me generally informed of events in the kingdom of our Lord & Savior - & I take the "Net Cast in all waters[35]" edited by the Sister of the lamented Bishop Mackensie of Scotland. The last letter I wrote my aged Cousin Miss Clunie[36] was not responded to, but we may ascertain when you come how she is, very feeble of course! Your visit to Scotland would be in Summer. This last was so warm & dry in Ireland my friends enjoyed excursions, to Donegal Mountains & to places not so far off such as Lough Swillan [sic] &c, which four Summer[s] ago we attempted. but rain always interfered And now to descend to trifles. If in your strolls before you get too busy in preparing for your leaving Scotland, you find Catnip blossoms[37], please gather some for me, it does not grow here & I have often wished for it & for Squaw weed! my herb you recollect it

[p. 4] I suddenly thought I could copy the Article from the Academy & so I have this moment done it. Perhaps, Mr Wann[38] may have it put in the Herald, or if you have time & a friend in Boston! I am quite sure our friend Mr James Francis[39] of the Hydraulic Works in Lowell Masstts would be delighted to have it published in one of the papers of that town, if that is easiest for you to write & ask him, to be sure of its getting him, he is fond of Jemie & so gratefully attached to his Fathers[40] memory.

Don't think, dear friend, that my mind is yet set on worldly things. but my sympathies go out, tho my heart is bent on higher attainment for my Sons. God has given the talent & it cannot be wrong to appreciate it. I enclose a circular about the proposed Etchings[41] not for you to apply to yourself, but in case any one you have shewn your Collection to, may desire to avail of the opening. I hope you may see them in London. Remember me to Mr Wann affectionately & to any of the Scarsdale circle if you happen to meet them - at the Coal office[42]! in N York

On[43] the 27th, my birthday, 72. "In the evening it is light[44]." How gracious is the Lord! In my prayers dear friend you are ever remembered

Your loving

A M Whistler

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

4.  Aubry House
Aubrey House, the home of William Cleverly Alexander (1840-1916), banker and patron [more], at Campden Hill, Kensington.

5.  Mrs Dunville
Mrs Dunville, a cousin of James H. Gamble.

6.  Our Lot is cast in pleasant places
This derives from 'The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.' Ps. 16.6.

7.  Speke Hall
The Liverpool Elizabethan mansion of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more]; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 7-10 September 1870, #06545.

8.  decorating a spacious dining room
In the summer of 1876 JW worked on the decorations of F. R. Leyland's house at 49 Princess Gate, London. The decorations became Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178); AMW to JW, 11 July 1876, #06559.

9.  The Academy
Anon., 'Notes and News,' The Academy: A Weekly Review of Literature, Science, and Art, new series, vol. 10, no. 226, 2 September 1876, p. 249; see #03172, and #00009.

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

11.  Venice
JW began planning a trip to Venice while working on the Peacock Room. In July 1876, he recorded the first orders in his ledger book for a series of etchings of Venice that he planned to make that autumn. He was planning to travel to Venice with the money received from Leyland for the finishing touches to the dining room. JW did not leave for Venice until September 1879, when he was received a commission from the Fine Art Society for twelve etchings; see Lochnan, Katharine A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984, p. 181; MacDonald, Margaret F., Palaces in the Night Whistler in Venice, Aldershot, 2001, pp. 15-17.

12.  12 etchings
Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195), were produced by the Fine Art Society.

13.  Mr Moore
Moore; unidentified.

14.  moonlight picture
Probably one of the Nocturnes of Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea (YMSM 163-70), or Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 140); see AMW to James H. Gamble, 9 September 1875, #06555.

15.  Portraits
Before 1870 there were no full-scale commissioned portraits by JW. Thereafter, they were central to his work. In the 1870s JW sought to revitalize the grand tradition of British portraiture. He followed a technique different to the one he had learned in Paris, and closer to the British method of 'glazing.' At each session he covered the painting with a very thin layer of translucent paint. The technique was responsible for the freshness of colour still apparent in JW's paintings. See Dorment, Richard, and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1994, pp. 25 and 140. In 1876 JW painted Arrangement in Black, No. 3: Sir Henry Irving as Philip II of Spain (YMSM 187).

16.  Centennial
The exhibition which celebrated 100 years of American independence on 10 May 1876; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 9 September 1875, #06555.

17.  Etcher
In 1871 JW published the A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames, 1871 (the 'Thames Set') (K.38-44, 46, 52, 66, 68, 71, 74-76, 95), which was greeted with positive reviews, and ensured his fame as an etcher.

18.  Collectors
James H. Gamble had previously bought etchings from Twelve Etchings from Nature, 1858 (the 'French Set', K.9-11, 13-17, 19, 21, 22, 24), and various etchings of the Thames, published as the 'Thames Set' in 1871 (see above, and also see #06518, #06522, #06539 and #06540).

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

20.  Diploma
The Diploma of the Board of Physicians, which William McNeill Whistler gained in the winter of 1875; see AMW to Mary Emma Harmar Eastwick, 19 July 1876, #12635.

21.  Throat Hospital
'The hospital for Diseases of the Throat,' 32 Golden Square, London.

22.  Scarsdale Cottage
Margaret Getfield Hill (1802-1881), a friend of AMW, of Scarsdale, NY [more], owned the Scarsdale Cottage in which AMW lived intermittently between 1851 and 1857.

23.  2nd class
A reference by AMW to show William McNeill Whistler's financial straits perhaps, emphasizing his choice of a second class ticket rathen than a first.

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

25.  children
Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece [more], Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician, JW's nephew [more], musician, Francis Seymour Haden, Jr (1850-1918), JW's nephew [more], Harry Lee Haden (1855-1877), JW's nephew [more], AMW's grandchildren.

26.  God loves whom He chastens
'For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.' Heb. 12.6.

27.  St George's Hospital
St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, for the relief of sick poor.

28.  Miss Price
Elizabeth Price (b. 1826), AMW's landlady at Hastings [more].

29.  neice
Isabella Lane, née Davenport, JW's cousin, and her husband, an estate agent; see AMW to JW, 11 July 1876, #06559.

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

31.  nursed
Kate Livermore looked after AMW during her severe illness of 1875 for at least seven weeks (see #06555).

32.  Livermores
The family of Arthur Livermore (b. 1811), lawyer [more].

33.  Montana, Idaho & Utah Mission
A publication concerning the establishment of a Protestant Episcopal church at Utah. On 5 October 1866, at a House of Bishops meeting in New York City, Daniel Sylvester Tuttle (b. 1837) was elected missionary bishop of the Territories of Montana, Idaho and Utah. On 1 May 1867 he was consecrated the first Episcopal Missionary Bishop of Montana, with jurisdiction over Utah and Idaho. Bishop Tuttle helped organizing an Episcopal church at Utah; it 'was the Protestant Episcopal Church that first set up a definitive organize for the Gentile evangelization of Utah.' Robert Joseph Dwyer, The Gentile Comes To Utah, A study in Religious and Social Conflict, Salt Lake City, 1971, pp. 38-41.

34.  The Christian
Probably The Christian Spectator, London, 1871-1876. Its subject was missions.

35.  Net Cast in all waters
The Net Cast in Many Waters; Sketches from the Life of Missionaries, ed. A. Mackenzie. vol. 1-31, London, 1866-96. The title of the periodical probably derives from 'Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind.' Matt. 13.47; see AMW to Catherine Jane Palmer, 3-4 November 1871, #10071. The editor was the sister of Charles Frederick Mackenzie (1825-1862), first bishop in the British colonial territory of Central Africa.

36.  Miss Clunie
Anne Clunie (b. 1793), a Scottish cousin of AMW [more].

37.  Catnip blossoms
Catnip, also called Catmint (Nepeta cataria), aromatic herb of the mint family, often used as a seasoning and as a medicinal tea for colds and fever.

38.  Mr Wann
Samuel Wann (b. 1820), merchant, brother-in-law of J. H. Gamble [more].

39.  Mr James Francis
James Bicheno Francis (1815-1892), engineer [more]. He was a hydraulic engineer and inventor of the mixed-flow, or Francis, turbine (a combination of the radial- and axial-flow turbines) that was used for low-pressure installations. In 1833 he emigrated to the USA where he obtained employment with AMW's late husband George Washington Whistler. In 1837 he was appointed engineer of the Locks and Canals company, Lowell, MA, and in 1845 was also made agent of the company.

40.  Fathers
George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, JW's father [more].

41.  circular about the proposed Etchings
By September 1876 JW sent out prospectuses for the series 'Venice - by Whistler' (see #09027), and an announcement had appeared in The Academy saying that JW was about to leave. See Anon., 'Notes and News,' The Academy: A Weekly Review of Literature, Science, and Art, new series, vol. 10, no. 226, 2 September 1876, p. 249, and JW to Alan S. Cole, September 1876.

42.  Coal office
AMW is probably referring to the New York coal office of William Sherbrooke Popham (1793-1885), merchant [more].

43.  On
'On ... Whistler' continues in the left margin of p. 1.

44.  In the evening it is light
Probably derives from 'But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.' Zech. 14.7.