Title: Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 25 October 1878
Date: October 25, 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), 161–162. 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.04959
Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein
My Dearest Friend:
The days are slipping away so pleasantly here that weeks are gone before I know it.1 The Concord folk are as friendly as they are intellectual, and there is really no end to the kindness received. We are rowed on the beautiful river every day that it is warm enough—a very winding river not much broader than your favourite creek—flowing sometimes through level meadows, sometimes round rocky promontories & steep wooded hills which, with their wonderful autumn tints, are like a gay flower border mirrored in the water. Never in my life have I enjoyed outdoor pleasures more—I hardly think, so much—enhanced as they are by the companionship of very lovable men and women. They lead an easy-going life here—seem to spend half their time floating about on the river—or meeting in the evening to talk & read aloud. Judge Hoar says it is a good place to live and die in, but a very bad place to make a living in. Beatrice spent one Sunday with us here. We walked to Hawthorne's old house in the morning, & in the afternoon to the "Old Manse" and to Sleepy Hollow, most beautiful of last resting places. Tuesday we go on to Boston for a week very loth to leave Concord—at least, I am!—but Giddy begins to long for city life again. And then to New York about the 5th Nov. Herby told you, no doubt, that I spent an hour or two with Emerson—and that he looked very beautiful—and talked in a friendly, pleasant manner. A long letter from my sister in England tells me Per. looks well and happy & is so proud of his little boy—and that Norah is really a perfect wife to him—affectionate, devoted, and the best of housewives. How glad I am Herby2 is painting you. I wonder if you like the landscape he is working on as well as you did "Timber Creek." Miss Hillard3 has undertaken the charge of a young lady's education, and is very much pleased with her task. She is in a delightful family who make her quite one with them—live in the best part of New York, and pay her a handsome salary. She has the afternoons and Saturday & Sunday to herself.—Concord boasts of having been first to recognize your genius. Mr. Alcott & Mr. Sanborn say so. 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. Perhaps Katharine Hillard (1839?–1915), editor, translator, and Brooklyn resident. [back]