Title: Herbert Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 5 June 1881
Date: June 5, 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), 200–202. 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.05118
Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Stefan Schöberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, and Nicole Gray
Keats Corner, Well Road
June 5th, 1881, Sunday afternoon
5 P. M.
MY DEAR WALT:
You don't write me a letter nor take any notice of my magnificent offers concerning "Pond Musings", etc. however, I will forgive you this oft-repeated offence. I often think of you, very often of America and things generally there, and nearly always with pleasure.
My mother is away staying with Beatrice in Edinburgh city, recruiting her health, which has most sadly needed it of late. So I and Grace & a new Scotch lassie, one Margaret, who officiates as servant most efficaciously too, I can tell you (such scrubbing & cleaning as you never saw the like) we three, I say, are alone at Keats Corner; cool sitting here in our long drawing-room (hung with innumerable pictures as of yore), although it has been scorchingly hot this past month. The morning I spend sketching on Hampstead Heath, which is lovely just now, all the May-trees are in full bloom the gorse & broom are a blaze of yellow, the rooks fly constantly by a quarter of a mile (seemingly) overhead, the sly fellows giving some side like dart when you look up at them even at that height. I am painting one of them; so I have to look up pretty often. In the early morning the nightingale sings, oh, so sweetly, long trills & roulades in the most accomplished manner.
Last Wednesday Miss Ellen Terry, whose name you are doubtless familiar with as being the leading actress in London, well, she called upon me to ask my advice or opinion of a drawing connected with my father's book. Ellen Terry expressed herself highly interested in our house, pictures, decorations and so forth. Her manner was a little stagey, but graceful to the extreme, and you could see peeping out of this theatric manner a kind, good heart, oh, so kind, I feel as if I would do anything for her, her manners were so winning. "Will you come to the stage entrance of the Lyceum some day soon and you shall have stalls for two; now will you come? Do." Were her last words to Grace. I called on her at Kensington last week, returning the drawing, and I was so charmed with two beautiful children of hers, a tall, fair girl, a pretty mixture of shyness and self-possession that quite won me. She too I should fancy will be a great actress some day, she has such a bright face, The boy, Master Ted, was nice too.
Well, I gave Ellen Terry a proof of a drawing that I have just completed for Dr. Bucke's book—a job I got through Buxton Forman, a great friend of Bucke's, done con amore on my part. This drawing has been beautifully reproduced by the new photo intaglio-process. I hope Dr. Bucke will like it, but I should not expect great things from him in that line, judging from the twopenny hapenny little pen & ink sketch by Waters which he sent over in the first instance; however, Forman rescued him from that & so far he has been guided by his friend. Whether he will when he sees my drawing, we neither of us know; but both feel to have done our best in the matter. I said that Ellen Terry must ask for you when she goes to America, which she contemplates some day. I have sold the last drawing I made in New York of you for £10. 10s to Buxton Forman ($50. odd). Church bells have just commenced chiming in the distance, a sound I like better than the parsons. I hear that the young American artists are doing capitally filling their pockets. My cousin Sidney Thomas is, or was, in America, a good deal lionized, I understand. If at any time you favour me with a letter let it be a letter and not a postcard please. I have been reading Carlyle's reminiscences—good stuff in them, brilliant touches, but dreadfully morbid, don't you think? & one shuts the book up with a feeling that in some respect one Carlyle is enough in the world: & yet in some respects a million wouldn't be too many. I often think of your remark to us one day that tolerance is the rarest quality in the world.
Interested in those Boston scraps you send my mother. You have always been pretty well received in Boston, have you not—I mean in the Emerson days? Pity that when Emerson is no more there will be no fine portrait of him in existence; there was a nobility stamped upon his face that I never saw the like of, and which should have been caught and stamped forever on canvas.
We all see something of the Formans & all like them; they have so much character, rather unusual in literary folk of the lighter sort, I fancy; but there is something very fresh and original about Forman. Nice children they have, too. Miss Blind is bringing out a volume of poems; why will people all imagine they can write poetry? William Rossetti is writing a hundred sonnets—writes one a day; one about John Brown is not bad: and many are instructive, but are in no sense poems. I am going down to tea & must not keep Grace waiting any longer. Love to you.
HERBERT H. GILCHRIST.