Title: Herbert Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 21 July 1885
Date: July 21, 1885
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.02188
Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Kyle Barton, Nicole Gray, and Ed Folsom
12 Well Road
July 21st, 1885.
Dear old Walt
A wish has suddenly and quite spontaneously sprung up in England amongst your readers to in some part pay off the debt owed every poet & especially to you. I hope that you may see your way to letting this little bud blossom. I shall proceed no further in this until I hear from you: trusting that you will not deprive England of this honour.
I could not well write to you before as the scheme was so sudden and spontaneous.
I think that you will like Wedmore,1 he is coming to call upon you in September. Wedmore is about the best critical writer in London and quite the best of his kind. Although precise and neat his mind moves with freedom as a candid mind should. Our friend is somewhat of a butterfly though I have always found a staunch friend in Wedmore, in short I like him.
I fear me that you do not take such pleasure in Glendale2 as you did in Kirkwood I do not hear of your being there much. I am sorry Ruthie has married so young,3 it means a long hard life probably in the country. Her mother too has no one to help her. My mother's health is but sadly, but it is wonderful what she manages to do, continuing always to think and work for others, herself last. My sister's voice is developing and her art is beginning to be admired.4 I am in excellent health and spirits. My picture in this year's Royal Academy was a good deal noticed, and has done my reputation good: in fact I am getting on my feet, slowly. I am rather hankering after a studio right down in the city amongst men: From a business point of view it is fatal not be central, and besides I love the Strand, Oh! how you would too, sort of human Delaware river.
With best love
Herbert H Gilchrist.
No 3011, July 11, '85
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. Mr. Herbert H. Gilchrist, 12, Well Road, Hampstead, acts as honorary and corresponding secretary to this scheme; Mr. Rossetti,5 5, Endsleigh Gardens, Euston Square, as treasurer.
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).
1. Frederick Wedmore (1844–1921) was a theater critic and scholar from England. He was also a neighbor of the Gilchrists. Whether he really met Whitman that fall (as was planned) is unclear. [back]
2. The Staffords had moved to Glendale, New Jersey, a few miles from their farm at Timber Creek (in Laurel Springs, close to Kirkwood), where Whitman had frequently visited in the late 1870s and early 1880s. [back]
3. Probably a reference to Ruth Stafford Goldy (1866–1939), the sister of Whitman's close friend Harry Stafford. She had married in August of 1884 at the age of 18. [back]
4. 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]
5. 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]