Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Anne Gilchrist, 3 November 1871

Date: November 3, 1871

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:140. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Walt Whitman Collection, 1842–1957, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania

Whitman Archive ID: upa.00011

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad




Washington City, U. S.
November 3, 1871.

Dear friend,1

I have been waiting quite a long while for time & the right mood to answer your letter2 in a spirit as serious as its own, & in the same unmitigated trust & affection. But more daily work than ever has fallen upon me to do the current season, & though I am well & contented, my best moods seem to shun me. I wished to give to it a day, a sort of Sabbath or holy day apart to itself, under serene & propitious influences—confident that I could then write you a letter which would do you good, & me too. But I must at least show, without further delay, that I am not insensible to your love. I too send you my love. And do you feel no disappointment because I now write but briefly. My book is my best letter, my response, my truest explanation of all. In it I have put my body & spirit. You understand this better & fuller & clearer than any one else. And I too fully & clearly understand the loving & womanly letter it has evoked. Enough that there surely exists between us so beautiful & delicate a relation, accepted by both of us with joy.3


Walt Whitman


Notes:

1. For forgeries of this letter, see Walt Whitman Newsletter, 4 (1958), 92–93. This letter is Whitman's response to Anne Gilchrist's September 3–6, 1871 letter to Whitman. [back]

2. Walt Whitman had not as yet received Gilchrist's second letter, written on October 23, 1871: "… but spare me the needless suffering of uncertainty on this point & let me have one line, one word, of assurance that I am no longer hidden from you by a thick cloud—I from thee—not thou from me: for I that have never set eyes upon thee…love thee day & night.…I am yet young enough to bear thee children, my darling, if God should so bless me. And would yield my life for this cause with serene joy if it were so appointed, if that were the price for thy having a 'perfect child'." [back]

3. After Horace Traubel read this letter aloud in 1889, Walt Whitman spoke at some length of the "passionate love" of his friends which "offset the venomous hate" of his critics: "The substance of that letter—its feel: what it starts out to say to her: oh! with a few words taken out and put in—it would do for any of you!" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 3:514). [back]


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