Documents associated with: Palmer, Lillian MacNeill
Record 1 of 4
System Number: 06549
Date: 10 - 20 April 1872
Author: Anna Matilda Whistler
Recipient: James H. Gamble
Place: [Homeland, Staten Island]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: Whistler W543
Document Type: ALS
- in my room
Wednesday April 10th
I wonder dear Mr Gamble if your Sister  will be welcomed home before this can reach you! I have been so ill since she last called to bid me adieu, I enquired of her that day - I believe it is 3 weeks ago! how exactly I should direct to you & she told me, except I should write by her! I had no idea I must lose another Cunard  Steamer, but my walk to the gate thro our little Parterre with her was my last effort, such a sudden & severe change in the weather no wonder seized my lungs, & caused almost a paralysis of my feet & hands affecting my eyes painfully. Jemie too had a serious sore throat which confined him to the warm Studio nearly a week. but he did not abandon his pictures. Willie is our "beloved Physician" trudging all this distance to attend to us, made him lose the pleasure of calling to see your Sister & Mr Wann. I know you will rejoice to hear that Jemie is quite well, & in good spirits about his work. he had some Artistic friends on Easter Tuesday to see my Portrait especially, as that was sent that evening to the Royal Academy & with it a lovely grey dawn Study of the river. I was up in my Japanese bedroom, seated in my arm chair & refused not the particular friends & admirers of my Son's work, who begged permission to tell me their impressions of the picture[,] if I were to write all that was said, you'd fear, a proof of the human weakness, had overcome me in my declining years! But my gratitude goes up to the One source of help on which I rely for the continued success of either of my dear boys. their struggles are so unwearied to attain position to enable them to keep bright their name & gain an honest livelihood. Both their Professions involve unavoidable expence, with the strictest self denial & practical economy - as yet the income so inadequate to cover expences. But I know all the discipline must be safest & best for them. I am always sorry to be an additional care, I fain would [p. 2] be up & doing, to keep our house in a good method. You will know what a disappointment both at Christmas & Easter for me to be ill in bed, instead of joining in the worship of the Old Church. It was not so much to Lucy my only servant during the Masters stay at Speke Hall having to give me all the attention an invalid requires, & I had when convalescent benefitted by the visit of a week to kind friends at Norwood, so that I was tolerably well at the middle of Feb when Jemmie came home & resumed his work here. Lucy lost her father then & fretted herself ill, so that I had great exertions to make[,] Mr Leyland lunching with us while Jemmie had the favor of his posing - Your Harriet now is initiated in the troubles of Servants & can understand that letters & all leisure hours are put a stop to. Suffice it, the short dark wintery days have done their worst, & tho I have felt so enfeebled by my recent attack of Bronchitis, I took a short stroll today & feel invigorated. & so by degrees I hope to relieve my anxiety to answer many dear correspondents. Miss Perine wrote me last Oct of what was then occupying their attention at Homeland W Baltimore. A beautiful Memorial window to her Mothers & her brother Harwoods memory in their church, on their own grounds. it has been in my heart ever since. But except to my Sister or business letters to Mr Ralph King I have had to stifle my wishes to hear again from those deserving & expecting answers.
Tell Mrs Wann I heard from Mrs Palmer just after she had been so kindly inquiring of me about her, & I hope my dear Sister is enjoying visits to her married daughter at Camden & to her Son  & his wife in Brooklyn. Donald is the younger in the business house in Duane St in N York. he seems very happy in the choice of a Western girl, she is a nice housekeeper & my sister is very fond of her & her baby. the little one was born last summer at the Old Corner house at Stonington. My neice [sic] Julia Palmer's husband Revd W Boardman is Rector  of St Johns Church at Camden. they had taken a house & my sister was going to help Julia furnish it & begin her [p. 3] trials as a housekeeper. This month of April will be too short to satisfy these two couples, but George Palmers wife & little one are to be at the Corner house for the whole of May & my Sister must be a home to welcome their coming, tho she has two daughters to aid her in all the duties of hospitality.
We are having the benefit of clear bright weather & I who have been pining for fresh air have come down from my room at noon these two days past ready to go out for a short stroll, for I am yet feeling very feeble, loss of relish for food, but such kind neighbors sending me in all sorts of tempting nourishment, wine &c. when Mrs Leyland came last week to stand day after day in the Studio for her Portrait, she of course came up to my room first, as I was yet confined to it. One day she sent up a large Satchel containing a pr of chickens, Asparagus, a doz "Natives" a bottle of best old Port wine & ditto of Cogniac (sic) such as I could not buy. The oysters were the first thing I had relished. you my dear friends at Homelands so naturally exercise such acts of loving kindness I am sure you will appreciate my London neighbours.
I wish I could have taken you next door to see a couple who are the genuine English lady & gentleman of the old school. they have occupied No 3 Lindsey House for 39 years, rather my seniors. I love her as a Sister, so she seems to feel towards me. You used to admire the bright Autumnal flowers covering their garden walls.
My dear daughter comes to an afternoon tea with me as often as she can, but as Mr Hadens circle as a flourishing M D is very extensive & she presides in her own home & is the companion of her daughter & three sons in society she is not free to indulge our mutual wish oftener than once a week, her boys are talented & of steady habits, Seyr has just returned to Oxford since his Easter holidays at [p. 4] home, his Mama tells me the comfort he is to her & he is such a kind good brother, he is very talented & so we may hope he will distinguish his name as a Barister [sic]. Arthur the next would naturally have made music his Profession but his Father wisely has bent his mind to the study of medicine & he is devoting himself to be ready soon for his first Examination before the board of Surgeons. Harry the youngest has lately returned from his iniative [sic] in a business house at Lyons, preparatory to entering that of Brown & Shipley in London. he has earned a high character, for all the habits & qualifications essential. I tell his Mama I hope he at least may visit her native land!
A neighbour & true friend interrupted my writing yesterday, dear kind Madame Venturi, she is wearing Crape [sic] now for Mazzini, who was her Fathers friend & hers most revered. the Perines saw her here & were charmed by her grace & goodness. she has a high appreciation of Jemie's talents & as she was here all day Easter Tuesday, she heard remarks which could not reach me, except thro her. One I'll tell you of the Portrait my unworthy self. An Artist said to her "it has a holy expression. oh how much sentiment Whistler had put into his Mothers likeness[.]" Your Sister will tell you dear Mr Gamble how wonderfully the 3 cases of Portraits were preserved from fire on the R R train coming from Speke Hall, tho many packages of valuable luggage were entirely consumed, and the case in which my Portrait was, the flames had reached but in time discovered. the lid so burnt, a side of the frame was scorched! & yet the painting uninjured. you will know my thankfulness for the Interposition that my dear Jemie was spared the loss of his favorite work. I hope it is a favorable omen that it may be hung properly in the Royal Academy for the Exhibition.
[p. 5] Wednesday April 17th.
I wrote my dear Cousin Anne Clunie yesterday of your never forgetting her & enclosed here your 2 first letters from Norland, as they so minutely describe yours & Harriets home dear Mr Gamble that she might be familiar with it as you have made me so, but I would not let her read your last, shewing how the natives of Norland are so lazy & ignorant as to neglect health & prefer filth to the refreshment of free use of water & air! she shall fancy all beautiful surrounding your mountain Homeland.
But you will grieve to hear as I was thro a letter from the Clunies in Liverpool that the dear aged Saint has been suffering thro a long painful illness, a carbuncle on the back of her neck. how prostrating at her time of life. You will see by Cousin Annes last attempt at writing me, her collar bone had been injured by a fall. I shall let you know when next I hear from her. & I am sure she will wish that dear Mrs Wann could have gone to Edinburg, as I wrote of my pleasant surprise & of your dear Sisters kindest queries about her. I hope this may be received by you, yet on Staten Island. & I wish I could manage to secure to you & Harriet the real Servant, which Willie with reluctance is concluding he must discharge. Hannah has been his only one since he took a house two years ago (in Augt 1870, she is an Irish woman about 30 in age, active, capable in very department & cheerful. All who go to his house say how favored he is, but it is so important for him that she should never take advantage when he is out, to leave her post & she has lately several times done so, & he has threatened & then forgiven her in vain! It is such a pity she has made acquaintances to tempt her out, but she feels lonely & excuses herself, hoping that neither her Master or visitors may come to need her, but many have complained to him & Patients have had to go away, who would have waited in his consulting room his return, had she been within to open [p. 6] the door, poor Willie was greatly distressed yesterday when he came to consult with me about Hannah, she has been an honest & faithful servant in every other way. he laments for his loss & feels sorely having to turn her away, tho she has saved £10 wages, he cannot recommend her in London because of the giddy acquaintances she has lately formed. but he can if she likes to go to our native land as she has some times talked of doing. I believe in a household she would work cheerfully, especially under a kind, good Mistress. it must be decided soon & if she goes to N York I'll give her a letter to you. Alas for my dear young Doctor he will be in difficulty to supply himself with as capable & bright an attendant, for we hear much complaint in England as every where! I was interrupted by a Pastoral call from Mr Davies of the Old Church. he has missed me from my seat four Sundays past, & fears my cough & debility may make it unsafe to venture thro this month. I have put in this letter an engraving of the church from a circular I wish I could do more than approve, for repairing & improving so venerable an edifice. the old Archway & low row of houses are to be taken away, as the Thames Embankment comes up to Old Battersea Bridge. I suppose you never go to Brooklyn, or else, how gladly Mr King would welcome a talk with you. he is usually at home at 189 Henry St, both he & Mrs King are obliged to be so prudent not to risk their health.
I feel rather better today, tho I yet cough & my feet need the warm stool, A cheering report has come about Jemies picture of his Mother, it is considered a fine work & is well hung at the Royal Academy for the Exhibition. Willie tells me he will fear to recommend his Servant to any friends, yet I think should she go to N York, I may give her a note that you may see her & try her as a New [born?] she is honest & cleanly! tho fond of idle company.
My love to you all at the S I Homeland. Your true friend
A M Whistler
3. Homeland, Staten Island
Homeland, Staten Island was the home of James H. Gamble and his sister Jane Wann prior to 1872. It seems here that Gamble has made a new home at Norland with his wife. However at present he is visiting Staten Island.
Cunard Steamship Co. Ltd, founded by Sir Samuel Cunard (1787-1865).
The only painting accepted by the Royal Academy was Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101).
12. Old Church
Chelsea Old Church, London.
16. Mr Leyland
Frederick Richards Leyland (1832-1892), ship-owner and art collector [more]. Leyland was posing for Study in Grey for the Portrait of F. R. Leyland (YMSM 95); see AMW to James H. Gamble, 13 March 1873, #06548.
Harriet Gamble, née Wheaton, wife of J. H. Gamble.
18. Miss Perine
This could be one of the following: Mary Glenn Perine (1822-1896); Susan Buchanan Perine (1820-1899); Ann Carson Perine (1819-1919); and Rebecca Young Perine (1825-1879); daughters of David Maulden and Mary Perine.
20. Mothers & her brother Harwoods
Mary Perine (1797-1861), née Glenn, wife of D. M. Perine, Sr [more], and her son Thomas Harwood Perine (1830-1861), godson of AMW [more]. The Perine family helped in founding and enlarging the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, by donating land and stone in 1856, 1864 and 1882. Thomas Harwood Perine was the first vestryman and treasurer of the church; see Mathew P. Andrews, Tercentenary History of Maryland, Chicago, 1925, vol. 4, pp. 64-74.
24. Western girl
Anna Palmer, née Feazel, wife of Donald McNeill Palmer.
Lillian MacNeill Palmer (b. 1871), daughter of Donald McNeill Palmer.
26. Old Corner house
The house owned by Dr George E. Palmer (1803-1868), husband of Kate Palmer, built in 1787, situated in the corner of Main and Wall Streets at Stonington, CT.
27. Revd W Boardman
Rev. William S. Boardman, husband of Julia McN. Palmer.
28. George Palmers wife & little one
George Erwin Palmer (1843-1909), and his wife Susan Euphemia Palmer, née Sears. Florida Palmer was their daughter.
Native oysters; see Margaret F. MacDonald, Whistler's Mother's Cook Book, London, 1979, pp. 15, 35, 42, 46, 62, and 139-40.
31. lady & gentleman
William Boggett, and his wife Elizabeth Boggett (b. 1801), AMW's neighbours at Lindsey Row, London; they lived at No. 3; see PO Directory, 1870, p. 401.
34. daughter & three sons
Annie Harriet Haden (1848-1937), later Mrs Charles Thynne, JW's niece [more]; Francis Seymour Haden (1850-1918); Arthur Charles Haden (1852-1910), musician; Harry Lee Haden (1855-1877); they were the children of D. D. and F. S. Haden.
35. Brown & Shipley
Brown, Shipley and Co, merchants, Founders' Court, Lothbury, London, EC; see 'Commercial Directory' in PO London Directory, 1871, p. 721.
36. Madame Venturi
Emilie Venturi (d. 1893), née Ashurst, wife (1) of Sydney Hawkes, and (2) Carlo Venturi [more]. She owned Chelsea in Ice (YMSM 53), and she persuaded Thomas Carlyle to sit to JW after she and Carlyle had seen Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101). The result was Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137).
Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872), Italian nationalist [more]. Emilie Venturi had long been close to Mazzini. During the autumn of 1868 he had been severely ill. Such had been the anxiety about his condition that Venturi went out to Italy to attend him (see #05623). Mazzini had praised JW's work, and this had pleased AMW (see #04031). JW and Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), poet and critic [more], were great admirers of Mazzini's politics and philosophy; see Cecil Y. Lang, ed., The Swinburne Letters, 6 vols, New Haven, 1959, vol. 4, p. 260; JW to Guiseppe Mazzini, #04031.
39. 3 cases of Portraits
AMW's portrait was taken to Liverpool in October 1871 to show to the Leylands at Speke Hall, and escaped being burnt along with other paintings in a fire on the train during the return of the journey. See AMW to Catherine Jane Palmer, 3-4 November 1871, #10071, and Andrew McLaren Young, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980, p. 59.
This is the only time Norland appears in AMW's correspondence.
Hannah, William McNeill Whistler's servant.
43. Mr Davies
Rev. Robert Henry Davies (1821-1908), incumbent of Chelsea Old Church.
44. Thames Embankment
The Thames embankment was built in connection with the London Main Drainage scheme (1871-74). See Dale H. Porter, The Thames Embankment: Environment, Technology, and Society in Victorian London, Akron, OH, 1998.