UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Documents associated with: City of Aberdeen, SS
Record 2 of 4

System Number: 06363
Date: 15, 16 and 18 September [1848[1]]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: [Steamer City of Aberdeen[3]]
Recipient: JW
Place: [Portishead[4]]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W359
Document Type: ALS


Friday noon Sept 15th

I have seated myself very bravely at the long table in this spacious saloon to begin what I hope to keep for you my precious boy a sort of journal of our voyage. The City of Aberdeen discharged her Pilot about eight o'clock this morning, for Capt Knocker[5] was delayed in putting to sea, by having to wait for papers from his employers[6] (I dont mean newspapers of course dear Jemie) and there was a distinguished passenger for Copenhagen waited for, the Prince of Hesse[7]. I think it must be he, on a sofa at my right now taking a nap, the moustache and air extraordinaire proclaim him, tho I have not been introduced! The moon shone in vain then upon our voyage last night; I wish it may last us thro. I was weary from journeying & sadness, but attended darling Willie[8] first to his berth in the Gents Cabin, then prepared for my own in the ladies which is under Miss Christie's[9], she was so happy to find us on board when she arrived from London last evening! & no doubt misses Mary[10]. there is not a ladys maid among the passengers, tho there are several families. a dear little baby just weaned sleeps with a young lady her sister just opposite my berth. I walked the deck after breakfast with the plump good little one, while Willie played with its little Georgie (brother)[11] he is not quite four years old but very precocious, his favorite thing is a pocket spy glass which he spied at a shop window yesterday & coaxed his father to buy for him, having been extremely ill with brain fever lately, he is now indulged more than he would have been, he is very fond of books too, my friend Fred Smith[12] gave him some pretty little pictured tracts, altho Georgie is not so beautiful as our angel Kirkie[13], his bright black eye[s] with long lashes & his vivacity associate them. The parents of these little pets Emmy[14] & Georgie are both ill, Mr and Mrs Wright Anderson of Alexandroffsky[15]. they talked to me last evening of all the Americans there as if they respected them highly. We feel that we are upon the North Sea many of the passengers are sick, tho the sea looks smooth and the day is so bright. Willie disappeared before lunch! but was over his attack and ready for it when the bell rang for it. Capt Knocker has everything in perfect order, I think this steamer will astonish the Russians, it is twice the size of the Camilla [16] & so elegantly fitted up. there are accommodations for sixty cabin passengers, the state rooms have some six or eight berths each & so Willie & I could not have one. Jemie dear mind when you travel to label your trunk & every package. I should have lost a box yesterday but for its being so carefully directed, it was missing when we reached Hull, they telegraphed for it and tho I was in suspense some hours, it was restored to me ere I slept. I certainly think there ought to be a reform in the English railways, the Conductors are so cross & inattentive, but you will learn to look after your own property by being a sojourner in the land I hope. Ah dear boy how large a share of your Mothers thoughts you engross! My heart was almost bursting last evening as I asked young Smith to write you of his having spent an hour on board with us, he is the only brother of the youthful Zella[17] whom we saw at Chaddock. I hope dear Jemie you will answer his letter & encourage him to write you, he is I suppose about the age of Morrah[18], but he is a man in experience has been from home since he was eleven years old, & is truly a disciple of Jesus, hence he is attractive, for the law of kindness governs his every word & deed. he is nice looking & I am sure my Jemie would like him. If you have not answered his note yet, now do, you can tell him of having heard from your Mother & he will rejoice with you for he loved his Mother & mourns his loss of her, she was very ill you remember when we were at Chaddock & that was why little Zella was sent there, they both died last spring, & he strives to live in Christ that he may be happy in the prospect of meeting them in heaven to part no more! How many of our loved ones are waiting to welcome us.

Saturday evening 16th.

I have scarcely known so bright & warm a day as this has been all summer, how much you my darling Jemie would enjoy being among us, but I trust you are profiting more essentially where you are. The Prince of Hesse & you might have been cronies had you been here, for he is very affable, he sat on the Capts right at table today & my place is opposite he condescended to address me several times, & is generally respectful to all the ladies. Now you know he is heir to the throne of Denmark & son in law to the Emperor[19] of all the Russias! he is exceedingly handsome. are you so rebellious as not to let Mrs Phillott[20] curl your hair? The Prince has his curled by his valet, his teeth are white & sparkling from good brushing. We have a bell rung for our toilette before dinner. Capt Knocker keeps up a most perfect system in every particular, he assembles his crew morning and evening in the saloon to prayers & you may be sure I am among the number of passengers who join them. Tomorrow I look forward to enjoying the worship of our Lord on His own day, we have some very pious persons in the cabin I am happy to find, A young Scotch couple married only about two months ago I am particularly attracted by, they have letters to Wm Merriellees[21] & are to reside at Riga[22], where I doubt not they will set a bright example. I read your letter to Wm Merriellees yesterday my dear boy it is a very pleasing one, & I am sure he will welcome & answer it. Will you try the plan I have often urged whenever you write to have your dictionary open at your elbow? it will be time saved in the end. We have been running eight miles per hour steadily. God grant we may step ashore on Monday, if so I shall bid adieu and send this off to you my own dear Jemie. Willie cannot write aboard ship

Monday morning Sept. 18th.

Good morning darling Jemie, how I am missing you, but hope you are well and happy, & better off than if you were with me. Capt Knocker set a good example to all heads of families this morning, by conducting the devotions of his crew & passengers, tho he could not leave the deck long enough to take his own breakfast until now. We have all been admiring Elsinore, its curious castle [23], and many white wind mills, & woody knolls & nooks make it look almost as pretty as Copenhagen itself, we expect to be there in about two hours, it is now half after nine. Ah Jemie dear how I shall be thinking of you in the church & at Thorswaldens Museum[24] if we go to it! we have a fine bright day, how favored we have been! I feel that our Heavenly Father mingles mercies in every cup of tribulation He calls upon me to drink, my annual separations how grievous they are! but this world is only a state of discipline. You will write me regularly once a fortnight my own dear boy I trust, a little sheet like this you will easily fill and send to Sis[25] to forward in hers to St P. Tell me all your thoughts as you have ever done, Say to Mr and Mrs Phillott with my regards I'll write them when I am settled and when father[26] & I shall have had time to talk over all we wish about you. Remember me kindly to Morah and Woolley[27]. I hope dear Jemie you are trying to become an early riser & Seymour[28] says you will defeat all our efforts for your health unless you get to rest earlier. Pray and strive dearest to learn a better system. And now God bless you and cause you to dread His power & to seek His blessing. I had much comfort yesterday in our service on board. I distributed some tracts to the steerage passengers as they went out of the saloon such as might interest their children. And now dear Jemie let me beg you not to expose the scrawls of your Mother by throwing them about, it is not easy to write on board ship, I hope from home to send you many a page more fully to express the love of your devoted Mother. We hope to arrive at Cronstadt by friday morning.

For my dear James


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Notes:

1.  1848
The following letter (#06364) in AMW's correspondence is dated 22 and 23 September 1848, and is written from the steamer City of Aberdeen.

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

3.  City of Aberdeen
Steamer City of Aberdeen (1835-1858), Aberdeen & London Steam Navigation Co. (877 tons.)

4.  Portishead
Eldon Villa, JW's boarding school, was at Portishead.

5.  Capt Knocker
Captain William Knocker (b. ca 1809), sea captain.

6.  his employers
John Scott & Sons, Greenock for Aberdeen & London Steam Navigation Co. (John Duffus & Co., managers); see Graeme Somner, The Aberdeen Steam Navigation Company Ltd, Kent, 2000.

7.  Prince of Hesse
Friedrich Wilhelm Hessen-Kassel (1820-1884), son-in-law of Tsar Nicolas I [more].

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

9.  Miss Christie's
Miss Christie, a stewardess.

10.  Mary
Mary Brennan (b. 1825), AMW's servant [more].

11.  Georgie (brother)
Georgie York Anderson, son of J. Anderson.

12.  Fred Smith
Fred Smith, a young friend of AMW.

13.  Kirkie
Kirk Boott Whistler (1838-1841), JW's brother [more].

14.  Emmy
Probably Emmy Anderson, daughter of J. Anderson.

15.  Anderson of Alexandroffsky
John Anderson, of Alexandroffsky, an acquaintance of AMW, and his wife. Alexandroffsky was the name of the firm and house owned by Harrison, Winans and Eastwick. Its name 'Alexandroffsky' (a variant spelling of 'Alexandrovsky') came from a factory at St Petersburg, which was built by the Russian government in the years 1825-1828 to produce metal products as well as steam engines. In 1844 it was leased to the American firm of Harrison, Eastwick and Winans, who built the rolling stock for the St Petersburg-Moscow railway. It was situated in the outskirts of St Petersburg (10 km from the city centre). See R. M. Haywood, The Beginnings of Railway Development in Russia in the Reign of Nicolas I, 1835-1842, Durham, NC, 1969.

16.  Camilla
Probably Steamer Camilla, built in 1844 for the Waterford Company of New York.

17.  youthful Zella
Zella Smith, sister of Fred Smith.

18.  Morrah
Jim Morrah, JW's fellow pupil at Portishead, later a lawyer.

19.  son in law to the Emperor
In 1844, the Prince of Hesse was married to Alexandra Nikolaevna Romanov, daughter of Nicolas I Romanov (1796-1855), Tsar of Russia from 1825-1855 [more].

20.  Mrs Phillott
Mrs Phillott, wife of Phillott, JW's tutor at Portishead.

21.  Wm Merriellees
William Spurr Mirrielees (b. 1828), son of A. Mirrielees.

22.  Riga
Founded in 1201, Riga is situated at the south end of the Gulf of Riga, a bay of the Baltic Sea. Its historic centre is on a peninsula at the confluence of the Daugava (the western Dvina) and Ridzene Rivers.

23.  Elsinore, its curious castle
Helsingør, Elsinore, city and port, Frederiksborg amtskommune (county commune), Denmark. It lies on the northeast coast of Sjclland (Zealand), at the narrowest part of The Sound (Rresund) opposite Halsingborg, Sweden. Kronborg Castle was built between 1574 and 1585 by Frederick II in Dutch Renaissance style to replace an earlier fortress; its design was altered by Christian IV after a fire in the 17th century.

24.  Thorswaldens Museum
Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen; designed by M. G. Bindesboll, and built in 1839-1848, to house a collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1768/1870-1840), neo-classical sculptor [more]. This collection was probably the finest in 19th century Rome, where Thorvaldsen spent most of his working life and where after the death of Antonio Canova in 1822, he became the foremost Neo-classical sculptor. See B. Jornæs and A. S. Urne (eds.), The Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen, 1985.

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

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

27.  Woolley
Woolley, JW's boyhood friend at Portishead.

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