Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Herbert Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 25 January 1886

Date: January 25, 1886

Editorial note: The annotation, "H Gilchrist," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02178

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray



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12 Well Road1
Hampstead,
London, England.
25-1-86.

My dear Walt

You will be glad to hear that I am going to republish some of mothers essays;2 giving some account of her beautiful life. May I quote from some of your letters to mother?3 and will you help me to the extent of lending me, mother's letters to you? those that you have kept? I should be glad of them quite soon, as I have got to work already; at present thinking over her life is the only thing that I take pleasure in: indeed I am unable to get my thoughts away, and I don't want to.

It will help the book if you can insert the following paragraph or something like it in the "Phila: Press" & "Ledger"—

"A Memoir of the the Late Mrs Anne Gilchrist is being prepared by her family & friends, we understand that the volume will contain a large amount of interesting correspondence exchanged with a varied circle of acquaintances and friends, including amongst others Mr and Mrs Carlyle,4 George Eliot,5 George Henry Lewes,6 William Michael Rossetti7 and Walt Whitman. Mr. T. Fisher Unwin will publish the work."

I and Rossetti have inserted a final paragraph about "free-will-offering",8 giving the amount; as a final whip up to any laggard well wisher. I have just received 10/ from the Honble: Roden Noel,9 who tells me that he is just republishing an article about you in volume form. I understand from Rossetti that since the last paragraph in Athenaeum; he has received several subscriptions. Giddy10 is fairly well and so is my brother Percy,11 his wife and chubby boy (Alexander G.) Rossetti is staying by the sea for his wife's sake, who continues [steady?]; a little inclined to consumption I fear, is Mrs Rossetti, but not much. I am getting back to my painting again and feel a little bit more together, but not much: never did son have such a sweet companionable dear mother as mine.

With best love to you dear old fellow.
Herbert H. Gilchrist.

P.S. You might as well send the copy of paragraph to [J.?] Marvin12 for I have sent one to Burroughs.)13 Washington papers


Correspondent:
Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Mickle Street | Camden, New Jersey, | United States, America. It is postmarked: HAMPSTEAD | D ZX | JA25 | 86 | N.W.; NEW YORK | [illegible] | 6; PAID | D | ALL; CAMDEN, N.J. | FEB | 7 | 10 AM | 1886 | REC'D. [back]

2. Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings would be published in 1887 with a foreword by William Michael Rossetti. [back]

3. Whitman sent a quote to Gilchrist in his reply of August 23, 1886[back]

4. Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) was a Scottish writer who wrote frequently on the conflict between scientific changes and the traditional social (often religious) order. For Whitman's writings on Carlyle in Specimen Days, see "Death of Thomas Carlyle" and "Carlyle from American Points of View." [back]

5. "George Eliot" was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans (1819–1880), one of the most influential British writers of the nineteenth century. Her works include The Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch, and Daniel Deronda. Whitman was especially enamored by Eliot's essay writing: "She is profound, masterful: her analysis is perfect: she chases her game without tremor to the very limit of its endurance" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, October 31, 1888). [back]

6. George Henry Lewes (1817–1878) was an English critic and philosopher. He was the partner of George Eliot. [back]

7. William Michael Rossetti (1829–1915), brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was an English editor and a champion of Whitman's work. In 1868 Rossetti edited Whitman's Poems, selected from the 1867 Leaves of Grass. Whitman referred to Rossetti's edition as a "horrible dismemberment of my book" in his August 12, 1871, letter to F.S. Ellis. Nonetheless, the edition provided a major boost to Whitman's reputation, and Rossetti would remain a staunch supporter for the rest of Whitman's life, drawing in subscribers to the 1876 Leaves of Grass and fundraising for Whitman in England. For more on Whitman's relationship with Rossetti, see Sherwood Smith, "Rossetti, William Michael (1829–1915)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. See Whitman's letter of August 1, 1885. Herbert Gilchrist and William Michael Rossetti had been collecting funds in England for the financial support of the aged poet. A paragraph in the Athenaeum of July 11, 1885, read: "A subscription list is being formed in England with a view to presenting a free-will offering to the American poet Walt Whitman. The poet is in his sixty-seventh year, and has since his enforced retirement some years ago from official work in Washington, owing to an attack of paralysis, maintained himself precariously by the sale of his works in poetry and prose, and by occasional contributions to magazines."  [back]

9. The article in question, Roden Noel's (1834–1894) "A Study of Walt Whitman: The Poet of Modern Democracy" (Dark Blue 2 [October 1871], 241–253), spoke glowingly of Whitman, describing him as "tall, colossal, luxuriant, unpruned, like some giant tree in a primeval forest . . . He springs out of that vast American continent full-charged with all that is special and national in it" (242). [back]

10. Grace Gilchrist Frend (1859–1947) was one of Anne Gilchrist's four children and Herbert's sister. She became a contralto. She was the author of "Walt Whitman as I Remember Him" (Bookman 72 [July 1927], 203–205). [back]

11. Percy Carlyle Gilchrist (1851–1935) was a British chemist and metallurgist, and the son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist. Along with his cousin, Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, he developed the Thomas-Gilchrist process of producing steel from phosphoric pig iron during the late 1870s. See Marion Walker Alcaro, Walt Whitman's Mrs. G: A Biography of Anne Gilchrist (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1991), 252 n28. [back]

12. Joseph B. Marvin, a friend and admirer of Whitman's poetry, was from 1866 to 1867 the co-editor of the Radical. He was then appointed as a clerk in the Treasury Department in Washington, on behalf of which he took a trip to London in the late fall of 1875. On October 19, 1875, Whitman wrote a letter to William Michael Rossetti to announce a visit from Marvin. Rossetti gave a dinner for Marvin, which was attended by the following "good Whitmanites": Anne Gilchrist; Joseph Knight, editor of the London Sunday Times; Justin McCarthy, a novelist and writer for the London Daily News; Edmund Gosse; and Rossetti's father-in-law, Ford Madox Brown. [back]

13. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a lifelong correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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