Title: Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 2 May 1884
Date: May 2, 1884
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), 225–226. 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.05767
Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, and Nicole Gray
May 2, '84.
My Dearest Friend:
Your card1 (your very voice & touch, drawing me across the Atlantic close beside you) was put into my hand just as I was busy copying out "With husky, haughty lips O sea" to pin into my "Leaves of Grass." I hardly think there is anything grander there. I think surely they must see that that is the very Soul of Nature uttering itself sublimely.
Who do you think came to see us on Sunday? Professor Dowden.2 And I know not when I have set eyes on a more beautiful personality. I think you would be as much attracted towards him as I was. It was he who told me (full of enthusiasm) of the Poems in Harper's which I had not seen or heard of.3 We had a very happy two or three hours together, talking of you & looking through Blake's drawings. He is a tall man, complexion tanned & healthy, nose finely modelled, dark eyes with plenty of life & meaning in them, hair grayish—I should think he was between forty & fifty—but says his father is still a fine hale old man.
Herby4 disappointed again this year of getting anything into the R. Academy.
I think I like the idea of the shanty, if you have any one to take good care of you, to cook nicely, keep all neat & clean &c. I wonder if I have ever been in Mickle St. I, still busy, still hammering away to see if I can help those that "balk" at "Leaves of Grass". Perhaps you will smile at me—at any rate it bears good fruit to me—I seem to be in a manner living with you the while.
Everything full of beauty just now here, as no doubt it is with you.
Good-bye, dearest friend—don't forget the letter that is to come soon. Love from us all, love & again love from
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).
2. Edward Dowden, of the University of Dublin. [back]
3. Gilchrist is probably referring to the poem "With husky-haughty lips, o sea!" that was published in the March issue of Harper's. [back]
4. 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]