The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: [Centennial International Exhibition], Philadelphia, 1876
Record 2 of 6

System Number: 12635
Date: 19 July 1876
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[1]
Place: Hastings
Recipient: Mary Emma Harmar Eastwick[2]
Place: Philadelphia
Repository: Library of Congress
Call Number: Manuscript Division, Pennell-Whistler Collection, PWC 34/79-82
Document Type: ALS[3]

Talbot House 43 St Marys Terrace Hastings

Wednesday July 19th 1876

My dear young Friend,

You may be sure that your interesting report of the dear home circle of Bartram Hall[4] of last Sept date should have been responded to months since had I been able. Perhaps the rumour of my most serious illness may have explained my silence. And that would relieve me of writing details, for I yet experience my strength to be perfect weakness, & that I hold not the pen of a ready writer[.] I had been every winter attacked by Bronchitis since my residence on the river side, & I was so the year you & Katy[5] bade me adieu, The most alarming crisis[6] was in Feb last year[,] an experienced nurse[7] was hired - and did not leave me til Sept[.] to tell you that my loving doctor Son[8], watched me 85 consecutive hours, without resting or changing his clothes will suffice to show how low I was laid, my daughter had been summoned at 2 ocl midnight & with Jamie[9] in deep concern, which I was unconscious of[,] I remained on the borders of the grave - vitality only sustained thro stimulants & nourishment every hour administered. A loving friend Mrs Livermore[10] was telegraphed for & two hours after the summons was in the mail train from Londonderry.

[p. 2] That was at the end of March[,] her conviction when she saw me was that she had come to my funeral, I expected death (on the anniversary of my beloved Husbands & my Mothers[11]) 7th of April, But God in compassion to my children gave Willie hope on the 9th of favorable symptoms in reward for his devoted & tender care of his Mother! he consulted none but the Divine Physician "the Heaven of Prayer[.]" It was said by two doctors of St George's Hospital[12] - friends of his whom he admitted to my bedside a few times, tho not for their aid, that but for the skill & watchfulness of Doct Whistler, his Mother could not have rallied - It was by the Lords blessing his care! I can never express my adoring sense of the bountiful goodness of our Heavenly Father, in providing so liberally for my support, in disposing christian hearts to be so unwearied in loving kindness, Mrs L staid 7 weeks to help & comfort my dear daughter & relieve Nurse 8 hours out of the 24. Friends & neighbours supplied Wine Jellies, fruits &c more than I could take. Mrs Gellibrand[13] sent a hamper repeatedly of fresh laid eggs, Jellies &c also such a superior Port wine as I had never tasted. When in May I was lifted from the bed where for so many months I had laid, I realized how helpless as a new born infant disease had reduced me, In the course of a fortnight I took my first steps across the room, & gradually gained strength tho almost imperceptibly. And then as a summons came for Mrs Livermores return home - she left us, our prayers attending her! Mr L[14] is our U S Consul, a most valued friend of ours. My dear daughter[15] also could leave me to [p. 3] faithful Nurses care, But Willie always staid at nights that 3 times a day he could see me. One of the greatest comforts was, in the visits of my good Pastor, the Word of God had sustained me. In all my hours of consciousness. It may [be] readily understood that the strain on Willie's nerves & the fatigues he endured, between my sick room & his other professional claims at last made it absolutely necessary for him to change the air & take rest. It was early in June, when Walter Winans[16] invited him to accompany him to Ryde (The Isle of Wight) to spend a few days on board the Segar Steamer[17][.] I was able to read to Nurse while she served me & I felt sure I should not use Willie's precaution. Doctor Cavafy's[18] address - Oh how insecure are mortals held on this transitory existence - Erysipilas[19] had been among the epidemics in our neighbourhood, and tho I had not left my room! I was the second night after Willie left me, suddenly seized by it. I knew my doctor Son when he came, to release doctor C. but the disorder reached the brain speedily, & even Willie who is usually hopeful, thought he must resign his Patient to dissolution, so severe a case it was & such a shattered frame[.] Dear Willie what a merciful Providence it was that he had had a few days to rally his own! For weeks again he had to be a nightly & daily hoverer around his Mothers couch; while I was unconscious of the distress I caused. And it was months ere one ventured to describe to me the fearful state I was in, when blisters formed on my eyelids the size of a hens egg & my ears likewise - my head was double its natural size! It was a mercy my lungs & throat tho yet so sensitive were not affected, til Erysipilas yeilded [sic] to the course procured, But July was more like a bleak April & the east wind gave me cold when one day of sunshine I was taken down to the drawing room sofa - And when on the 7th of Augt, Willie hastened to try Hastings air for me as a least hope - I scarcely could step down stairs & I had lost my voice from utter prostration. Summer warmth began that day of South wind! & I bore the journey hither marvelously! my dear doctor as tenderly careful as tho I had been his child & he my mother.

[p. 4] It was a great happiness to me & so good in my Grandson George Whistler & his dear young wife[20] their coming to be with me here & if they go to Bartram Hall as I hope they will when they visit the Philadelphia Exhibition[21] in Oct, they can give you an idea of the advantages I have in this retreat, & how charming Hastings was to them. Hettie relieved me of all care & the month they shared these pleasant Apartments with me, it was as tho I was in their home. The drives they took me promoted my recovery, as I could not then take many steps tho the sea air was so essential. Certainly it was Providence led Willie to this house, there are few such people as the two friends who own it & keep it[.] I see no prospect of my leaving them, they do everything for my comfort & I am content it should[22] continue to be so

Your affectionate & aged friend

A M Whistler

[p. 5] Wednesday July 26th

By slow degrees dear Mary I have a little at a time scrawled the pages I fear will prove a task to read especially as you must be constantly demanded to attend to visitors in this exciting Season. Yet the contrast of the quietude of my life here - which all who come to me from London Season experience to be refreshing. May rest you while you sit beside your dear Mama[23] to read this to her. I must not spin it out, for I write so at disadvantage & since enfeebled that it would to be filled up - be kept another week. I shall begin with a message of remembrance to your mother from our mutual friend Mrs Gellibrand during a visit at Eastbourne - the next sea side place on this coast; came twice to spend a few hours with me, her Sister Miss E Ropes[24] accompanied her the second time, & they both left love to me to put in this letter. The dear old gentleman Mr Gel[25] - now 85 could not come, tho he was much benefitted by sea air & it was on his account they all spent 3 weeks in May in this region. The weather that month was very bleak in London, but we are more sheltered on this south coast, I have heard twice from Mrs G since their return home to Albyns in Essex & how lovely the Summer is on their ground. I think your Papa[26] should persuade your Mama if we are all as now next July, to come purposely to see her old friends who would so cordially welcome her. Mr Ropes[27] family broke up house - keeping at Clapton last winter & are trying the climate of France, which has benefitted Mrs R[28], she has been an invalid for some years. A daughter of theirs however returned to the neighbourhood of their English home in June, as a bride she is very happily married & shining in a pretty villa which was furnished tastefully for their reception. Mr & Mrs G went to see the young couple for a day, as it is easy of access by rail from London. Of course Mr Ropes has to be much in St Petersburg, his Son Earnest[29] - next the youngest Son who was in the business house there, has only lately recovered from a severe attack of typhus fever, & after attending the wedding of Ailie[30], & cheering his Mama to see him well he is having a holiday at the Centenial! tho Boston is his US head quarters during his visit to his Uncle Joseph[31]

[p. 6] You may have heard of the wedding [of] Annie Prince[32], for I think you sometimes write each other. Marion the youngest Sister of the three whom I knew as interesting children in 1860 when I visited Peterhoff - had been very ill & their Fathers health much broken[,] these items I had from Mrs G.

I received cheering letters this morning from my Grandaughter Julia & her little brother Joseph[33], tho Neva[34] had been rather affected by the heat in Baltimore they were all enjoying the sea breezes & bathing in the Ocean at New Port, Julia did not mention their Uncle TW-s[35] intentions as to their visiting the Centenial Exhibition. I conclude that is reserved for their return route to Balt. Ross[36] was with his Sisters & brothers in their kind Uncles home Winans Villa[37], & I can fancy how much they & their Cousins enjoy their holidays there. My Son the Doct reported to me lately, how surprised he was by a call from Mr & Mrs Henry Harrison, with their son[38] of 16 yrs of age! a very fine lad! My Son thought the companion of his boyhood, much improved since they had last met in Phila. but his once beautiful wife - less so. However it was pleasant to Willie to talk over by gone scenes, & as his only leisure hour is evening, he was invited to join them at their hotel to dine & chat. Jemie was not in his place when they drove to 2 Lindsay [sic] Houses, so they neither saw him or his paintings, tho I hope they may when in London again, he has been at work steadily decorating[39] the walls at Princes Gate, of Mr Leylands elegant New Mansion[.] I hear how beautiful is the effect produced by the Whistler genius. But a gentlemans private residence is not an exhibition! And I much regret Jamies works are not this year seen in our native Land. From all I hear thro those who go to his Studio, he has attained to the perfection in his Art, he has been aiming at for many years. Willie writes me regularly once a week & in his last he mentioned the Princess Louise[40] had just been to see Jemie & his pictures & requested the favor of his painting a copy of my Portrait[41] - he presented her a Photograph[42] of it instead!

[p. 7] Friday July 28th

Believing your dear parents to be yet interested in my Sons - for their Fathers sake - I trust you will all excuse my making them chiefly my theme. Willie is now one of the staff of Doctors in the throat Hospital[43], which for four years he has practised in. And as mortals must labor for real success, so in the midst of his medical practise he had to consume "the midnight oil" in study to review his course & be proposed for examination before the Board of Physiciens [sic] last winter to attain their Diploma[44]. And having gone thro the same ordeal previously before the Board of Surgeons, he has the 2 English Diplomas required by the strict laws of Gt Britain. So, dear Mary Emma you will find a skillful MD in one of your countrymen - "full pledged" at 80a Brooke St Grosvenor Square, if you come to London for advice for your throat! I hope however to hear that your Phila doctor has relieved it by the blessings of the Divine Healer! I was much interested in all the details of your Sept home circle report, & I desire to be affectionately remembered by all the Eastwick branches. I suppose even Phil & his wife[45] have attended the centennial & that Bartram Hall is yet having a succession of guests.

But I am so very desirous that some juvenile neices [sic] of mine who are not as rich as they were before their Fathers death - should see the Phila Exhibition[.] I venture to do as I'd be done by - and request you - as soon as quite convenient to invite the misses Rodewald[46], for a few days to Bartram Hall. introduce yourself by letter, as one of my friends of St Petersburg connection - direct to them care of Mrs Adolfe Rodewald[47] - at New Brighton - Staten Island - New York. I shall be answering their mamas letter by this mail Steamer - & will confess to her the freedom I am using - & beg her to believe in the sincerity of the Eastwick hospitality - which I am sure my dear neice [sic] will cordially reciprocate, if you & Katy will visit them in Staten Island home! Mrs R is thought to resemble me, as a daughter! her lamented Father General W Gibbs MacNeill[48] my eldest Brother & I were remarkably alike. he was my husbands earliest & most intimate friend as Cadets at West Point[49]. I have a dear Godson[50], among the 8 children of this widowed neice [sic] & Willie might escort his two eldest Sisters. if you can give him a corner! But as I have freely asked, your Mother must as freely decline my suggestion - It may be best to defer it to Oct if you find that most agreeable.

This document is protected by copyright.


Via Queenstown

Miss Eastwick
Bartram Hall. Darby Rd
W Philadelphia
United States of North America. Pennsylvania
[Postmark:] HASTINGS / F / JY 28 / 76

[Rubber stamp:] NEW YORK PAID ALL / [AUG 9]

27th Ward[51]


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

2.  Mary Emma Harmar Eastwick
Mary Emma Harmar Eastwick (1851-1928), daughter of L. A. and A. M. Eastwick [more] .

3.  ALS
Incomplete letter.

4.  Bartram Hall
Bartram Hall, the Philadelphia residence of Andrew McCalla Eastwick (1810-1879), partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more]; see AMW to JW, 15 and 16 January 1852, #06409.

5.  Katy
Probably Catherine ('Kate') Eastwick (m. 1858), née Trimble, wife of J. H. Eastwick [more]; see AMW to M. E. H. Eastwick, 8, 9, 23 and 29 September 1874, #11843.

6.  crisis
AMW was seriously ill in the Spring of 1875; see AMW to James H. Gamble, 9 September 1875, #06555.

7.  nurse
Probably Taplin, AMW's nurse.

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

9.  Jamie
James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), artist [more].

10.  Mrs Livermore
Kate ('Cousin Kate') Livermore (1820-1907), née Prince, wife of A. Livermore [more]. K. Livermore looked after AMW during her illness for seven weeks (see #06555).

11.  Husbands & my Mothers
Both George Washington Whistler (1800-1849), engineer, AMW's husband, and Martha McNeill (1775-1852), née Kingsley, AMW's mother died on the 7th of April.

12.  St George's Hospital
St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, for the relief of sick poor. Doctor Cavafy was one of its physicians.

13.  Mrs Gellibrand
Mary Tyler Gellibrand (b. 1812), née Ropes, wife of W. C. Gellibrand [more], lived at Albyns, England.

14.  Mr L
Arthur Livermore (b. 1811), lawyer [more].

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

16.  Walter Winans
Probably Walter Scott Winans (1840-1928), civil engineer [more].

17.  Segar Steamer
Probably a reference to the famous Cigar Ships designed and built by the Winans family. Their radical marine design concept included an ultra-streamlined spindle-shaped hull with minimum superstructure. The Winans constructed four ships between 1858 and 1866. The one mentioned here was the Walter S. Winans (1865), built in Le Havre (72 feet long and nine in diameter). See Richard Dodds, 'Ross Winans and his Amazing Cigar Ship,' The Weather Gauge, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, MD, October 1989, vol. 25; Scientific American, New York, 5 May 1866, p. 301; The Illustrated London News, 3 March 1866, p. 204, 214.

18.  Doctor Cavafy's
Dr John Cavafy (ca 1839-1901), physician and collector, son of G. J. Cavafy [more].

19.  Erysipilas
See AMW to James H. and Harriet Gamble, 9 September 1875, #06555.

20.  Grandson George Whistler & his dear young wife
George ('Georgie') Worthen Whistler (b. 1851), JW's nephew [more], and his wife Hetty Whistler (see #06555).

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

22.  should
'should ... so' continues in the right margin; 'Your ... Whistler' continues in the left margin of p. 1.

23.  Mama
Lydia Anne Eastwick (1810-1890), née James, wife of A. M. Eastwick [more].

24.  Miss E Ropes
Ellen Ropes, daughter of E. H. and W. H. Ropes.

25.  Mr Gel
William Clark Gellibrand (b. ca 1791), merchant [more].

26.  Papa
Andrew McCalla Eastwick (1810-1879), partner in Eastwick and Harrison, locomotive manufacturers, and later in Harrison, Winans and Eastwick [more].

27.  Mr Ropes
William Hooper Ropes (1811-1891), merchant [more].

28.  Mrs R
Ellen Harriet Ropes, née Hall, wife of William H. Ropes.

29.  Earnest
Earnest Ropes, son of W. H. Ropes

30.  Ailie
Probably Ailie Ropes (b. 1848), daughter of W. H. Ropes.

31.  Uncle Joseph
Joseph Samuel Ropes, merchant [more].

32.  Annie Prince
Annie Prince and her sister Marion Prince, of St Petersburg. They were probably related to George Prince, engineer (see #06361). AMW visited Peterhof at St Petersburg, in the Summer of 1860 (see #06517).

33.  Grandaughter Julia & her little brother Joseph
Julia de Kay Revillon (1855-1930), née Whistler, JW's niece [more] and her brother Joseph Swift Whistler (1865-1905), art critic.

34.  Neva
Neva Winans (1860-1907), née Whistler, JW's niece [more].

35.  Uncle TW-s
Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more].

36.  Ross
Ross Winans Whistler (b. 1858), JW's nephew [more].

37.  Villa
Probably 'Alexandroffsky,' the Baltimore villa of T. Winans; see AMW to JW, 15, 16 and 18 September 1848, #06363.

38.  Mr & Mrs Henry Harrison, with their son
William Henry Harrison (b. 1837), son of S. and J. Harrison, his wife Mary Rebecca Harrison (d. 1886), née Orne, and their son William Henry Harrison Jr (b. 1860).

39.  decorating
In the summer of 1876 JW worked on the decorations of the house owned by Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more], at 49 Princess Gate, London. The decorations became Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room (YMSM 178); see AMW to JW, 11 July 1876, #06559.

40.  Princess Louise
Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939), Duchess of Argyll (1900), sculptor, later Marchioness of Lorne.

41.  my Portrait
Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101).

42.  Photograph
JW had several paintings photographed by John Robert Parsons (ca 1826-1909), painter, photographer, and art dealer, including AMW's portrait (see #07906, #07614, #09563). Also see AMW to Catherine Jane Palmer, 3-4 November 1871, #10071.

43.  throat Hospital
'The hospital for Diseases of the Throat,' 32 Golden Square, London; see #06553.

44.  Diploma
William McN. Whistler graduated from the Pennsylvania Medical School in 1860. During his service in the Civil War he lost his diploma. AMW wrote to Joseph Harrison on 14 May 1868, asking him to help William gain a copy of his medical diploma from the Pennsylvania Medical School; see #11470, #11968. William gained the Diploma of the Board of Physicians in 1875.

45.  Phil & his wife
Philip Garrett Eastwick (1838-1905), son of L. A. and A. M. Eastwick, and his wife Euphemia Eastwick, née Washburn.

46.  misses Rodewald
Mary Louise ('Louloo') Rodewald (b. 1850); Julia Rodewald (b. 1857); Anna Rodewald (b. 1860); Emily Rodewald (b. 1864); they were daughters of J. C. and A. Rodewald.

47.  Mrs Adolfe Rodewald
Julia Catherine Rodewald (1825-1897), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of Adolphe Rodewald (1818-1869).

48.  W Gibbs MacNeill
William Gibbs McNeill (1800-1853), railway engineer, AMW's brother [more].

49.  friend as Cadets at West Point
George Washington Whistler and William Gibbs McNeill were close friends at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY; see Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908, vol. 1., p. 7. McNeill graduated on 17 July 1817, and Whistler on 1 July 1819; see Register of Graduates and Former Cadets, 1802-1980, Cullum Memorial Edition, United States Military Academy, 1980, pp. 217-18.

50.  Godson
William McNeill Rodewald (b. 1862), son of J. C. and A. Rodewald.

51.  27th Ward
Written in another hand.