Title: Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 3 September 1878
Date: September 3, 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), 159–160. 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.04062
Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein
Sept. 3, '78.
I am half afraid Herby has got a malarious place by his description.
I had a lingering hope1—till Herby2 went south again—that I should have a letter from you, in answer to mine, saying you were coming up see us here. In truth, it was a great disappointment to me, his going back to Philadelphia instead of your joining us, or him, either here or somewhere near to New York. I wonder where that North Amboyna is that you once mentioned to me—and what kind of a place it is. I have had a long, quiet time here, and have enjoyed it very much—never did I breathe such sweet, light, pure air as is always blowing freely over these rocky hills. Rocky as they are—and their sides & ravines are strewn with huge boulders of every conceivable size & shape—they nourish an abundant growth of woods, and I fancy the farmers here do a great deal better with their winter crops of lumber and bark and maple sugar than with their summer one of grain & corn. I expect Herby has described our neighbours to you—specially Levi Bryant, the father of my hostess—a farmer who lives just opposite and has put such heart & soul and muscle & sinew into his farming that he has continued to win quite a handsome competence from this barren soil (it isn't muscle & industry only that are wanted here—but pluck and endurance) hauling his timber up & down over the snow & through the drifts, along roads that are pretty nearly vertical. I am never tired of hearing his stories (nor he of telling them) of hairbreadth escapes for him & his cattle—when the harness or the shafts have broken under the tremendous strain—& nothing but coolness & daring have got him or them out of it alive. Generally, as he sits talking, his little boy of eleven who bids fair to be like him and can now manage a team or a yoke of oxen as well as any man in the parish—and work almost as hard—sits close by him leaning his head on his father's shoulder or breast—for the rugged old fellow has a vein of great gentleness and affectionateness in him & I notice the child nestles up to him always rather than to the mother—who is all the same a very kind, amiable, good mother. Then there are neighbours of another sort up at the "Centre"—Mr. Chadwick,3 &c., from New York, with whom I have pleasant chats daily when I trudge up to fetch my letters—now & then I get a delightful drive or go on a blackberrying party with the folks round—I expect Giddy4 over to-day & we shall remain here together for about a fortnight—then back to Round Hill—where I am to meet the Miss Chase whom you may remember taking tea with & liking—then on to Boston to see dear Bee5—& then to New York, where we shall meet again at last, I hope ere long. Love to Mr. & Mrs. Whitman6—I enjoy her letters. Also to Hattie7 & Jessie8—who will hear from me by & bye. With love to you, dear Friend.
1. Anne Burrows Gilchrist (1828–1885) was the author of one of the first significant pieces of criticism on Leaves of Grass, titled "A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman (From Late Letters by an English Lady to W. M. Rossetti)," Radical 7 (May 1870), 345–59. Gilchrist's long correspondence with Whitman indicates that she had fallen in love with the poet after reading his work; when the pair met in 1876 when she moved to Philadelphia, Whitman never fully returned her affection, although their friendship deepened after that meeting. For more information on their relationship, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Anne Burrows (1828–1885)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
2. 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). [back]
3. John White Chadwick (1840–1904), who termed himself a radical Unitarian, was the pastor of the Second Unitarian Church in Brooklyn from 1865 until his death. He was also a reviewer for The Nation and the author of A Book of Poems (1876). [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. Beatrice Carwardine Gilchrist (1854–1881) was the second child (and first daughter) of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist. An aspiring physician, Beatrice took the needed preparatory classes but was barred (as were all women) from becoming a medical student in England. As a result, she attended the Women's Medical College in Philadelphia. She held positions as a physician in Berne, Switzerland, and later Edinburgh before committing suicide by fatally ingesting hydrocyanic acid in 1881. [back]
6. Whitman's brother, George Washington Whitman, and his wife Louisa Orr Haslam (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou." [back]
7. Mannahatta Whitman was the first daughter of Walt Whitman's brother, Jeff Whitman, and his wife Martha Mitchell Whitman. [back]
8. Jessie Louisa Whitman, the second daughter of Jeff and Martha Whitman, was born June 17, 1863. [back]