The St. Petersburg Diaries (1843–1848) of Anna McNeill Whistler


Evelyn Jasiulko Harden


Anna McNeill Whistler, Russia, St. Petersburg, Romanov, history, George Washington Whistler, railways, James Whistler, art history, art education


This annotated critical edition of The St. Petersburg Diaries (1843–1848) of Anna McNeill Whistler is an unprecedented resource for scholars in the fields of Russian and European history, transportation and railway history, art history, and women’s history.

Anna McNeill Whistler, in writing her St. Petersburg diaries (1843–1848), was in a position to comment on a unique opportunity and space within her world. The wife of Major George Washington Whistler, who had been commissioned by Tsar Nicholas I to oversee the construction of the St. Petersburg–Moscow Railway, she had access to both the Russian and the foreign communities in St. Petersburg. Recording through the lens of her unyielding religious, moral, and social beliefs; unable to communicate with Russians and other non-English speakers because of her inability to achieve fluency in Russian and her shyness in speaking French, the two major languages of the capital city; and restricted by the selective cultural isolation of the English and American  communities and the random ability of Russians to speak English, in her frequently detailed diaries she presented her criticizing, anguishingly empathetic, and sometimes uninformed insights into the life of mid-nineteenth-century St. Petersburg.

While the diaries have been studied by previous scholars, investigations have been superficial, hampered by language barriers that inhibit access to Russian archives and printed sources. As a Russian scholar, Dr. Evelyn Harden is able to expand on the wealth of information Anna Whistler presents. Her research in archives in Russia has enabled her to provide readers with extensive in-depth annotations and biographical information not previously collected. The result of the addition of mini-biographies and hundreds of images has meant that she has identified almost everyone in Anna Whistler’s world and, where possible, clarified her understanding of what she experienced.


  • Title page
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Maps
  • Preface
  • St. Petersburg and the Journey There
  • Their Home and Social Life
  • George Washington Whistler: The Whistlers as They Were in the 1840s
  • Anna Matilda (McNeill) Whistler: The Whistlers as They Were in the 1840s
  • George William Whistler: The Whistlers as They Were in the 1840s
  • Deborah Delano (Whistler) Haden (Debo): The Whistlers as They Were in the 1840s
  • James Abbott Whistler (Jemie): The Whistlers as They Were in the 1840s
  • William McNeill Whistler (Willie): The Whistlers as They Were in the 1840s
  • Anna Whistler's St. Petersburg Diaries, Part I: 1843–1844 Diary
  • Anna Whistler's St. Petersburg Diaries, Part II: 1845–1848 Diary
  • Appendix A: Epigraph from the Diaries
  • Appendix B: “Excerpt from the Marquis de Custines travels in Russia in 1842”
  • Appendix C: “Lines on the death of dear Elizth Haslewood”
  • Appendix D: "From Eliza I. Winstanley to her Sister Anna M. Whistler …"
  • Appendix E: Biographies
  • Appendix F: “Chornyi tsvet” (romans) [“The Color Black” (love song)]
  • Appendix G: Permission for Serfs to Live in the City
  • Appendix H: Service of Heirs
  • Appendix I: Letter to Catherine (McNeill) Palmer
  • Appendix J: Possible Sketch of John Stevenson Maxwell
  • Images: Anna McNeill Whistler’s Extended Family
  • Images: The Whistlers’ Lives in the United States
  • Images: Eliza Winstanley’s Diary
  • Images: The Journey to St. Petersburg
  • Images: The Bobrinskii Mansion
  • Images: St. Petersburg
  • Images: The Imperial Academy of Fine Arts
  • Images: Literature, Music, Science, and the Arts
  • Images: The Alexandrofsky Head Mechanical Works and Major Whistler’s Work Associates
  • Images: Friends and Acquaintances in St. Petersburg
  • Images: Other Important People
  • Images: Dr. Edward Maynard
  • Images: Daily Life in St. Petersburg
  • Images: The St. Petersburg Environs
  • Images: The Imperial Family
  • Images: Grand Duchess Aleksandra Nikolaevna
  • Images: A Visit to England in 1847
  • Images: A Trip to Europe and England in 1848
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Bibliography


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Author Biography

Evelyn Jasiulko Harden

Associate Professor of Department of Russian and Russian Literature (retired)
Simon Fraser University

The author can be reached by telephone or post at her home address or through her editorial assistant, Karyn Huenemann, at

Title image of Anna McNeill Whistler with background script from her diaries


November 16, 2022


Details about the available publication format: PDF


ISBN-13 (15)