Title: Herbert Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 20 August 1882
Date: August 20, 1882
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.02192
Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schoeberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, and Nicole Gray
August 20th 1882
I am staying for a couple of weeks in the country 98 miles N.W. of London. At George Eliot's native place & I see traces of the great novelist everywhere.
The workman—[M Alton?]—withom I am lodging, says his father remembers seeing G. Eliot's father walk into Griff with a bag of tools slung over his shoulder—a carpenter, one who could read & write, a rare thing for a workman in those days; soon he came to be made a land steward for a large estate, & got on like a "house on fire" now his son Isaac Evans lives in Griff house & is a rich country gentleman. The character of Adam Bede is a portrait of her father, I will send it to you if you have not already read it? Tell me in your next letter. G Eliot was very fond of her father, and the only time he was severe with her, was once, when, she was a young woman at the time, a great student, and I suppose after a great deal of reflection and conning G Eliot came to the conclusion that to go to church and mumble a creed you no longer believed in was intolerable, and so, she told her father, for the first time, that she could not go to church any more; so Old Mr. Evans said 'you shall not live in my house then' she was greatly distressed but finally agreed to go to church. I am sketching her house, and a bit of her garden that she was particularly fond of, it makes quite a pretty little picture. I wish that I could show it to you, albeit, I can't.
Am also sketching her house covered with creepers, ivy blue Japanese creeper sweet-peas and the rest a large [illegible]-tree on the lawn. George Eliot's brother inhabits this house, and is very friendly and hospitable to me, whilst I am at work on these sketches, considering that I have never seen him before; Miss Nelly George Eliot's Niece) has just returned from the Highlands; a fresh, lively, candid, pleasing, plain woman, rather churchy, but not obtrusively so; altogether very good fun. I had a jolly game of tennis on their lawn,—a lawn such as you Americans dont dream of!!—with them.
I went to Astley church this morning, an ancient church. The church was nearly empty, the clergyman was late—presently, I heard a scuffle in the belfry, I turned and saw a big raw country-bumpkin boy hastily donning his white surplus! He strides up the aisle; buries his face in his hands, on kneeling, with the exception of one eye which squints at the new comer, who is busy trying to find his place in the prayer book. The [raw?] young Rector reads with a musical voice a curious contradiction to his face. I afterwards learned that he hunts (an unusual thing for a parson.) and on occasion can swear ably.
There is a jolly [moated?] castle quite close to this little church whither I shall wend next week, and sketch!
I am writing by this post to Eustace Conway, my lawyer friend in New York, a gay young spark, a fine constant friend of mine of whom I have mentioned in other letters to you. I have told him that "I shall try and look him up in New York some day" he tells me that he has a spare bedroom for me whenever I like to go. And now goodbye Love to Debbie Ruthie Joe Mont: Van: Georgie: Ed: Where is Ed now? & Hal and yourself.
Send your letter to London as usual.