Title: Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 18 April 1881
Date: April 18, 1881
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), 197–199. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.05110
Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Stefan Schöberlein, and Nicole Gray
Well Rd., Hampstead
Apr. 18, '81.
MY DEAREST FRIEND:
I have just been sauntering in our little but sunny garden which slopes to the South—surveying with much satisfaction some fruit trees—plum, green gage, pear, cherry, apple—which we have just had planted to train up against the house and fence—in which fashion fruit ripens much better with our English modicum of sunshine, besides taking no room & casting no shade over your little bit of ground—Then we have filed our large window with flowers in pots which make the room smell as delicious as a garden. Giddy is assiduous in keeping them well watered & tended.—Welcome was your postcard—with the little rain-bird's coy note in it. But I had not before heard of your illness, dear friend—the letter before, you spoke of being unusually well, as I trust you are again now, & enjoying the spring. I am well again so far as digestion &c. goes; but bronchitis asthma of a chronic kind still trouble me. My breath is so short I cannot walk, which is a privation. I am going, at the beginning of June, to stay with Bee in Edinburgh, as she will not have any holiday or be able to come & see us this year, & much am I longing to be with her. Have you begun to have any summer thoughts, dear Walt? And do they turn towards England, & our nest therein? Yes, I have received & have enjoyed all the papers & cuttings—dearly like what you said of Carlyle. Everyone here is speaking bitterly of the harsh judgments & sarcastic descriptions of people in the "reminiscences." But I know that at bottom his heart was genial and good & that he wrote those in a miserable mood—& never looked at them again afterwards. I hope you received the little memoir of my husband all right. Herby is very busy with a drawing of you—hopes that with the many sketches he made, & the vivid impress on his memory & the help of photographs, it will be good. I wish he had possessed as much power with the brush when he was in America as he has now—he is making very great progress in mastery of the technique. I observe, too, that he reads & dwells upon your poems—especially the "Walt Whitman"—with growing frequency & delight. We often say, "Won't Walt like sitting in that sunny window?" or "by that cheery open fire" or "sauntering on the heath"—& picture you here in a thousand different ways. I believe Maggie Lesley is coming from Paris, where she is studying art in good earnest, at the beginning of May, & then will come and spend a few days with us. Welcome are American friends! The Buxton Forman's took tea with us last week & we had pleasant talk of you & of Dr. Bucke. Mrs. Forman is a sincere, sympathetic, motherly woman whom you would like. The Rossetti's too have been to see us—we didn't think William in the best health or spirits—& his wife was not looking well either, but then another baby is just coming.
This Easter time the poorest of London working folk flock in enormous numbers to Hampstead Heath; it is a sight that would interest you—they are rougher & noisier & poorer than such folks in America—& the men more prone to get the worse for drink—but there is a good deal of fun & merriment too—the girls & boys racing about on donkeys (who have a pretty hard time of it)—plenty of merry-go-rounds—& enjoyment of the pure air & sunshine, & such sights, more than they know. The light is failing, dearest friend; so with love from us all, good-bye.
Friendliest greeting to your brother & sister & to Hattie & Jessie when you write & to the Staffords.