Title: Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 13 November 1878
Date: November 13, 1878
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from The Letters of Anne Gilchrist and Walt Whitman, ed. Thomas B. Harned (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1918), 163–165. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1842–1937, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.04052
Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Eder Jaramillo, Grace Thomas, and Nicole Gray
39 Somerset St.
Nov. 13, '78.
My Dearest Friend:
I feel as if I didn't a bit deserve the glorious budget you sent me yesterday, for I have been a laggard, dull correspondent of late, because, leading such an unsettled kind of life, I don't seem to have got well hold of myself. Beautiful is the title prose poem—the glimpse of the autumn cornfield: one smells the sweet fragrance, basks in the sunshine with you—tastes all the varied, subtle outdoor pleasures, just as you want us to. A lady who has just been calling on me—Miss Hillard—no relation of the odious Dr. H.—said, "Have you seen a lovely little bit about a cornfield by Walt Whitman in a New York paper?" She did not know your poems, but was so taken with this. By the bye, I am not quite American enough yet to enjoy the sound of the locusts & big grasshoppers—ours are modest little things that only make a gentle sort of whirr—not that loud brassy sound—couldn't help wishing for more birds & less insects when I was at Chesterfield1—but I like our English name "ladybird" better than "ladybug". Do your children always say when they see one, as ours do, "Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home: your house is on fire, your children are flown"? But for the rest—I believe I am growing a very good American; indeed, certain am I there is no more lovable people to live amongst anywhere in the world—and in this respect it has been good to give up having a home of my own here for awhile—for I have been thrown amongst many more intimately than I could have been otherwise. What you say of Herby's picture delights me, dear Friend. I have been grieving he was not with us, sharing the pleasant times we have had and enlarging his circle of friends—but after all he could not have been doing better—he must come on here by & bye. I wonder if you are as satisfied with his portrait of you as with the landscape. I suppose he is gone on to New York to-day. I have sighed for dear little Concord many times since I came away—beautiful city as Boston is & many the interesting & kindly people I am seeing here: but the outdoor life & the entirely simple, unpretending, cordial, friendly ways of Concord & its inhabitants won my heart altogether—one of them came to see me to-day & to ask us to go and spend a couple of days with them there again before we leave & I could not say nay, though our time is short. There are some portraits in the Art Museum here, which interested me a good deal—of Adams, Hancock, Quincy, &c.,—& of some of the women of that time—they would form an excellent nucleus of a national portrait gallery, which (together with good biographies while yet materials & recollections are fresh & abundant) would be a very interesting & important contribution to the world's history.—Tennyson's letter is a pleasure to me to see—considering his age & the imperfection of his sight through life, matters are better rather than worse with him than one could have expected. Since that was written a friend (Walter White)2 tells me they—the Tennysons—have taken a house in Eaton Sq., London, for the winter. And last, not least, thanks for Mr. Burroughs's beautiful letter—that young man is indeed, as he says, like a bit out of your poems.
There are two or three fine young men boarding here, & Giddy & I enjoy their society not a little. Love to your Brothers & Sister. I shall write soon as I am settled down in New York to her or Hattie. Love to Mrs. Stafford. And most of all to you.
Good-bye, dear friend.
I will send T's letter in a day or two.
1. Chesterfield, Massachusetts, is a hilltop summer resort town where Herbert Gilchrist liked to paint. Anne Gilchrist visited her son there from July 25th through mid-September, 1878. See Marion Walker Alcaro, Walt Whitman's Mrs. G: A Biography of Anne Gilchrist (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1991), 192, 260 n20. [back]
2. Walter White had been a friend of Anne Gilchrist's late husband, Alexander Gilchrist. He was known for writing essays on walking excursions for British periodicals. See Marion Walker Alcaro, Walt Whitman's Mrs. G: A Biography of Anne Gilchrist (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1991), 68. [back]