Title: Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 20 June 1879
Date: June 20, 1879
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), 181–182. 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.04210
Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein
Friday, June 20, 1879.
My Dearest Friend:
We set foot on dry land again Wednesday morning after a good passage1—not a very smooth one—and not without four or five days of seasickness, but after that we really enjoyed the sea & the sky—it was mostly cloudy, but such lovely lights and shades & invigorating breezes! and as we got up into northern latitudes, daylight in the sky all night through. The last three days we had glorious scenery—sailed close in under the Giant's Causeway on the north coast of Ireland—great sort of natural ramparts & bastions or rock, wonderfully grand. Then we sailed on Lough Fozle to land a group of Irish folk at Moville—some of them old people who had not seen Ireland for forty years, and who were so happy they did not know what to do with themselves. And what with this human interest, and the first getting near land again and the rich green-and-golden gorse-covered hills & the setting sun streaming along the beautiful lough with golden light, it was a sight & a time I shall never forget. Then we entered the Firth of Clyde & sailed among the islands—mountainous Arran, level Bute—& on the other hand the green hills of Ayr, with pleasant towns nestled under them, sloping to the Clyde—this was during the night—we did not go to bed at all it was so beautiful—& then came a gorgeous sunrise—& then the landing at Greenock & a short railway journey to Glasgow, the tide not serving to bring our big ship up so far. We had very pleasant (& learned withal) companions on the voyage—the Professor of Greek & of Philosophy from Harvard and a young student from Concord, all of whom we have seen since we landed and hope to see often again, especially the young student, Frank Bigelow, who is a very nice fellow. Herby2 enjoyed the voyage much & so did Giddy.3 Glasgow is a great, solidly built city, very pleasant [in] spite of smoky atmosphere—full of sturdy, rosy-cheeked people with broad Scotch accent. We have been rushing about shopping—have not yet seen Per.—shall meet him at Durham in a week's time & spend a month together there where he will be superintending your works. Meanwhile we are going to Edinburgh for a few days. I kept thinking of you on the voyage, dear friend, & wondering how you would like it–& whether you could stand being stowed away in the little box-like berth at night. I should recommend any American friend coming over to try this line–we had a fine ship–fine officers & crew–& the latter part, fine scenery. Love to your Brother & Sister & to Mr. Burroughs.4 Address to me for the present.
Love from us all. I shall write soon again. Good-bye 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. 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]
4. 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]
5. 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]