UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Documents associated with: US, Baltimore
Record 4 of 53

System Number: 02197
Date: 3 May 1855
Author: Frank Larned Hunt[1]
Place: Washington
Recipient: JW
Place: [Baltimore][2]
Repository: Glasgow University Library
Call Number: MS Whistler H293
Document Type: ALS


Washington

May 3/55

What's this? open it if you are not afraid to touch it - its - hair - or at least it was souvenir de - I won't say what - it might be some dear friends - tho you've kept it like a Grocers boy - and have carried it around as a contrast to your own pet & much caressed ambrosials which you deserve to lose for doing so -

I never found myself in such a confounded mess in my life as I did five minutes after you left me yesterday, of all - but perhaps your dear Mama[3] might get hold of this and I would not have her add to the reproaches of yr own conscience - I'm merciful Jamie, and will say no more,

I've just come over from 'Esmereldas'[4] & have written her a receipt for the Carman to sign when he calls - on talking with 'ye express' this morning he said it wd cost no more to send by him than by the Freight line - so as your Portfeuille[5] [sic] was along I send them all by him, it can be but a trifle more at best - 'Micawber'[6] whom I met on the Avenue last evening - is to give me your shawl to send on - poor old Micawber [p. 2] was fingering a couple of half dollar pieces that he had just diddled out of a "patent seeker"[7] to whom he explained the differences between a cone & a cylinder - he gave me the description in his usual way curling his lip contemptuously at what he called "the man's pretentious way of speaking" and reverting to the half dollars - (which he rattled with indifference) said "oh d-n it - it's - (spit - spit -) just as if I had picked them up in the street - (spit) only I have the consolation of knowing nobody lost them,." spit The 'victim of society' smiled feebly & looked in the distance when I broke down in an attempt to be funny saying something about 'chafing' - and being 'dished' &c & seemed to regard your munificent bequest - but slightly but sucked in approval of you between his teeth - which spat out again directly - I accorded - & said 'yes' - I believe the ancient 'Zouave'[8] likes his younger brother,        standing like another 'Marius'[9] yesterday afternoon & looking down at your trunk, which with some exertion I had strapped - Marius became aware he had no coat on - in his ardor & desire to miss nothing - he had packed [p. 3] that up too, Marius smiled -

Thinking of your book that 'King'[10] had I carried my graceful outline to his Painting room - he has not "done it" as yet but will give it over to me some of these fine days for you, he rather astonished me by retaining my hand & looking so infernally benevolent - when it came out - he is going to a May ball this evening - takes that sylph-like Miss [Fausten?][11] - if he is not happy - he ought to be - weighty reasons - I shd think

Now Jamie dear - Im going to please you - in this wise - Mrs Larned[12] quite bored me talking of your 'Denny'[13] she really & enthusiastically - Good Lord what a long word - thinks it the most beautiful picture she ever saw - in fact "King" cousin tho he is - is jerked off his throne - tripped up & thrown 'nowhere' 'King' was, you are - in fact this amiable lady wants you to copy a picture of her sister[14] for her - run over some day & take dinner here - strike this hot iron - [p. 4] the 'Iron' by the way does not want Cousin Charles - to know of it - "Artists are so jealous" - 'umph' - you'll cut that sort of thing - even if you do grow old & grumpy - which you will of course - but as you are not now - how did you get on with 'la fiancée'[15] railroad speed no doubt, naughty Jimmie.

Its rather stupid here today - been raining hard - tho I dont dislike that - but Washington can be stupid - or at least - Ive heard that "Lieut Maury[16]" (who I think is a humbug) says so - discovered it -

Carlos[17] is as stately - in a small way as ever - Alex[18] good natured - they amuse themselves all the time just now by making & drinking my coffee - if they dont stop Ill get 'Gautieres'[19] prices & ruin them -

Dont forget my bullying you about being in earnest - paint - it brings a name - & "tin" - whistle. & theyll come to you .[20]

Da! da!
Yours always

Frank Hunt.


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Notes:

1.  Frank Hunt
Frank Larned Hunt (1825-1903), a friend of JW in Washington, DC [more]. Hunt wrote again to JW on 18 May and 15 June 1855 (#02198, #02199). No replies have been located.

2.  Baltimore
During or after his time at the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey JW took a studio in Washington, but the reference in the letter to JW's mother suggests that the letter may have been addressed to JW in Baltimore, where his mother was staying with the Winans family.

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

4.  Esmeralda
Spanish gipsy dancer, heroine of Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (1831).

5.  Portfeuille
Fr., portfolio (or wallet, less likely in this context).

6.  Micawber
David Copperfield ran away to London and stayed with the impecunious and mercurial Wilkins Micauber, in Dickens, Charles, David Copperfield, London, 1849-50.

7.  patent seeker
The American patent office in Washington was a block away from the U.S. Coast Survey where Whistler had worked.

8.  Zouave
Possibly Hetzell, an acquaintance of JW (see #02198). Algerian recruits to the French infantry were noted for their vivid uniform, which was adopted by some American regiments.

9.  Marius
Unidentified.

10.  King
Charles Bird King (1785-1862), portrait painter [more]. King was apparently a cousin of Mrs Larned.

11.  Miss [Fausten?]
The name is unclear, but may read Miss Fausten, an acquaintance of AMW.

12.  Mrs Larned
Mary Sherwood Larned (1805-1897), née Sherwood, wife of William Larned [more]. She may have been the mother of Charles Troubridge ('Frank') Larned (d. 1882), class-mate of JW at USMA, West Point, later Deputy Paymaster General [more], and/or Charles William Larned (1850-1911), Professor of Drawing at USMA, West Point from 1874-1911 [more].

13.  Denny
Portrait of Anna Denny (YMSM 4). The sitter was Anna ('Annie') Harding Denny (1834 or 1838-1913), a cousin of JW, later Mrs Corcoran [more].

14.  sister
The sister of Mrs Larned has not been identified.

15.  la fiancée
Unidentified.

16.  Lieut Maury
Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873), naval officer and hydrographer [more]. Maury's book, Physical Geography of the Sea, was published in 1855. Its oversimplified and contradictory explanations caused controversy, although his basic premise that large-scale ocean currents were due to convection, rather than winds, was very important. The Director of the U.S. Coast Survey from 1843-67, Alexander Dallas Bache, was closely involved in the discussion surrounding Maury's work. See Schlee, Susan, A History of Oceanography, London, 1973, pp. 36-40, 40-48.

17.  Carlos
Charles (possibly nicknamed 'Carlos'), an early friend of JW.

18.  Alex
Alex, an acquaintance of JW in Washington, DC.

19.  Gautieres
Gautière, possibly a shopkeeper.

20.  tin - whistle. & theyll come to you
A pun on JW's name combined with a reference to Robert Burns's poem, starting 'Whistle and I'll come to you my lad'.