UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: Fairfax, Martha
Record 9 of 11

System Number: 06512
Date: [15/31 July 1861][1]
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler[2]
Place: [Stonington]
Recipient: JW and Deborah Delano Haden[3]
Place: [London]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler W507
Document Type: MsL


I send you dear Jamie[4] a wee extract to shew you Washington City as it now is - do write often as yrs & sister's letters will be among the few to cheer me. under my present depression. regarding Willie[5], continue to direct to care of R King[6] es[q], 59 Beaver Street, New York. You could not have gratified me more dear Jamie, than by writing "dear Aunt Alicia[7]" - What a pleasant sojourn I might have had with her this summer in Scotland[8]. - and then have been ready to receive you - on your yr return from Italy[9] - (O, Jamie - forgive me for stealing this line - to say, Willie is incomprehensible!! & I think is causing this retarded recovery of his loving mother (here again are yr Mother's words.) but I came to America in the path of duty. And ought not [to] regret it. Willie ha[ving?] disappointed - only deepens the tenderness & attentions of all at the Corner house[10], & elsewhere[.] dear, dear Willie I know he is acting conscientiously & can have no idea how much he makes me suffer. he wrote me once from Richmond[11] and said he would explain satisfactorily all to me, when we should meet in the coming Autumn. - I am so thankful he reports his own & Ida's[12] health to be so good. Poor miserable cousin Mattie[13] now appeals to Aunt Kate[14], to get all her relations to unite in supporting herself & family thro the war, which the wisest knows not the end thereof. And Aunt Kate [p. 2] has scarcely enough for her own family - the Doct is so badly paid. How timely was Aunt Alicias gift[15] to Mattie. she does not know the source from whence Mr King remits to her the small sums - when these terrible letters come, he has once sent her 50 - then 25, & now 25 more must go, to relieve her great need. we dare not trust her with more at a time, as her husband[16], deceives her at every turn & is altogether worthless.

I have not yet informed Mr Winans[17] about yr etchings[18], but shall get Jacks[19] to write about them whilst at Sharon[20]. I suppose you will not send him others till yr return from Italy. how it cheered me to hear of the fortnights painting in the Music room, at Sloan St[21] to finish my picture[22]. - as you advise me to direct from Sloan [sic] St I shall do so, & beg Sis to forward to you as soon as possible. I hope dear Jemie you wound up all yr affairs to the uttermost farthing, before you left London. I was glad to find you had been in the country with yr friend Ridley[23] - You ask about Lilly[24], I did enjoy daily walks & talks with him on the deck, you our theme, & he could tell me too, much of our Ch. in Paris[25] as he is a member, & his lodgings were in the family of our American Episcopal clergyman, - up to the time of his sudden recall from Paris to N. Y. he told me he should soon be [p. 3] going far West to Iowa, to spend the interval with his Mother & Sister, till the revival of business - when he hoped to return to the Jaffrey[26] house. Rumor says they have suspended, only because none are to be trusted. the South repudiates all her debts; how blighted B. W.[27] looks with its splendid warehouses closed. - and now dear Jamie Adieux, Adieu - & I trust we daily meet in child-like confidence at the footstool of our Heavenly Father. Write soon, & often, to yr loving Mother

Anna Whistler

Debo dearest,

You know by yrself how little leisure Aunt Kate can have to write for me. or she would have replied to the two letters which I received from you. It cheers me to picture you & dear Seymour[28], & the children in Surry [sic], enjoying Country Air. how sincerely could I wish you here, for I know no place abounding in such advantages to health as Stonington & it has become truly a shady beautiful place. The Misses Darrach[29] now Julia's[30] guests - are charmed with the drives - which in yr days was not resorted to. The girls were welcomed here a fortnight after I came & for these two weeks past have joined various Pic nics & other [p. 4] parties, tho Julia's deep black prohibits her joining in tho she goes with them to Walsh hill, where she indulges with them in bathing. Jule is a great Swimmer.

You know Willie studied with the brother of the Miss D. & during the two years I shared the house of Dr J. D. I was under his medical care.

My case was new to the dear good Doct here. the eye being a distinct study. Doct J. D. came to consult with him, & having applied the electric battery[31] successfully it has been continued to my right eye, which was quite dim, now I can see objects with both. I hope the mountain air, & Sulphur baths at Sharon, may benefit me greatly. I am sure both Seymour & kind Mr Traer[32], will feel interested about their old patient, who never forgets their unwearied attention, tell them small doses of Belladonna[33], I am trying. & have great faith in.

Mail time obliges me to close. with love from all[.] You should hear from me God willing after I reach Sharon.

Yr affectionate Mother

Anna M Whistler.


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Notes:

1.  [15/31 July 1861]
Dated with reference to AMW's trip to Sharon Springs, NY, after 11 July 1861; see AMW to JW, 11 July 1861, #06511, and [31?] July 1861, #06515.

2.  Anna Matilda Whistler
Anna Matilda Whistler (1804-1881), née McNeill, JW's mother [more]. The letter was dictated to her sister, Catherine ('Kate') Jane Palmer (ca 1812 - d.1877), née McNeill, AMW's sister [more].

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

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

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

6.  R. King
Ralph King (1801-1878), broker, father-in-law of W. McN. Whistler [more], seems also to have overseen Anna Whistler's financial affairs.

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

8.  Scotland
Alicia McNeill lived at Culross in Perthshire, Scotland.

9.  Italy
JW had apparently been contemplating a trip to Italy since 1858 (see #01604, #06498). However, despite AMW's belief that he was in Italy at this time, he does not seem to have made the journey. Nevertheless, JW did spend three months in Brittany, from September to November 1861.

10.  Corner House
The house owned by Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), husband of Kate Palmer; it was built in 1787, and situated in the corner of Main and Wall Streets at Stonington, CT.

11.  Richmond
Richmond, VA, where William McNeill Whistler was stationed as a doctor in the Confederate Army. During the Civil War, AMW found herself in a difficult position, with divided loyalties. Born in the South and with family still resident there, AMW's natural sympathies were with the South. However, she had spent the greater part of her life in the North and many in her husband's family (such as her nephew Donald McNeill Fairfax (1821-1894), naval officer, JW's cousin [more]) were serving officers in the US Navy and Army.

12.  Ida's
Ida Bayard Whistler, née King (d. 1863), JW's sister-in-law [more].

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

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

15.  gift
Alicia M. Caroline McNeill seems to have helped Martha Fairfax financially for some time.

16.  husband
Isaiah Davenport (m. 1838), husband of Martha Fairfax [more].

17.  Mr Winans
Thomas De Kay Winans (1820-1878), locomotive engineer and collector [more].

18.  etchings
Probably a reference to JW's 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) (excat 4), begun in 1859. He produced approximately twenty-one etchings in 1861 including Vauxhall Bridge (K.70), Millbank (K.71), Westminster Bridge in Progress (K.72), Little Wapping (K.73) and Ross Winans (K.88). JW probably hoped that Thomas Winans would purchase some etchings as he had previously purchased etchings from the 'French Set', published in November 1858 (see #07079).

19.  Jacks
Patrick T. Jackson ('Jacks') McNeill (1835-1898), accountant, JW's cousin [more].

20.  Sharon
AMW stayed at Anthony House, a boarding house at Sharon Springs, NY. Sharon Springs was by the early 20th century known as an internationally renowned resort and health spa; see AMW to JW, 3 August 1861, #06515.

21.  Sloan Street
The Hadens' London home was at 62, Sloane Street. JW was a frequent visitor there until the mid 1860s.

22.  picture
Harmony in Green and Rose: The Music Room (YMSM 34), later given by AMW to her daughter-in-law, Julia de Kay Whistler (1825-1875), née Winans, JW's sister-in-law [more]. The sitters were Deborah and Annie Haden and Isabella Boott (b. 1831), a relation by marriage of JW's brother-in-law, F. S. Haden [more].

23.  Ridley
Matthew White Ridley (1837-1888), painter and etcher [more].

24.  Lilly
Lilly, an acquaintance of JW in Paris.

25.  Ch. in Paris
The American Church in Paris was the first American church established on foreign soil in 1814. Its first sanctuary was built in 1857 at 21 Rue de Berri, Paris. In 1861 John McClintock (1814-1870), mathematician, and clergyman was its pastor.

26.  Jaffery
Probably a misspelling of the business owned by Richmond Woodriff Jaffray (1813-1862), merchant [more].

27.  B. W.
Probably Brooklyn Wharf.

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

29.  Misses Darrach
Sisters of James Darrach (1828-1869), physician in Philadelphia [more]; see AMW to JW, 3 August 1861, #06516.

30.  Julia's
Julia Catherine Rodewald (1825-1897), née McNeill, JW's cousin, wife of A. Rodewald, Sr [more].

31.  electric battery
AMW had suffered from chronic eye problems since 1857; see AMW to JW, 17 August and 16 September 1857, #06487. The invention of the electric battery in 1800 by Alessandro Volta brought about a whole variety of treatments using electricity. It appeared to people at the time to be a powerful force, which they believed to have miraculous medicinal properties. 'When electricity was applied in moderate degrees of intensity, it was believed to cause an increase of nervous action, sensibility and irritability, and vigorous circulation of the blood. It was also believed to restore the functions of seeing and hearing.' See 'Medical Application of Electricity,' The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, London, 1837, vol. 9, p. 339.

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

33.  Belladonna
The name given to a drug obtained derived from the leaves and roots of the deadly nightshade plant. It dilates the pupils of the eyes and was thought to enhance vision.