Title: Walt Whitman to Herbert Gilchrist, 13 April 1888
Date: April 13, 1888
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977).
Location: Walt Whitman Collection, 1842–1957, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania
Whitman Archive ID: upa.00087
Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock
Camden New Jersey US America
April 13 '88
Dear H G
I am still here in the little Camden shanty not much different from when you were here but more disabled perhaps in locomotion power & in more liability to head & stomach troubles & easiness of "catching cold" (from my compulsory staying in I suppose)—Mrs Davis1 is still housekeeping & cooking for me—It is just past noon & I am told I am to have a good rice pudding made in a big earthenware baking dish for my dinner— wh' suits me well—(I wish you were here to help eat it)—
—I see the Staffords2 occasionally—Mrs S[tafford] was here ab't a week ago, is well as usual—nothing very new or different with them. They are still on the old farm & store & expect to continue— I see Ed3 and Harry4 & Joe Browning5 occasionally—Mrs. Rogers6, (Mrs S[tafford]'s sister) is dead & buried, ab't two weeks ago.
Thos: Eakins,7 portrait painter, has painted a picture of me—very different from yours—realistic—("a poor old blind despised & dying King"8)—When you write tell me ab't your pict: whether it has been on exhibition &c: also ab't the bust Mary Costelloe9 has— whether any thing has been done with it—Morse10 is out in Indiana yet—Rhys11 was in Boston at last acc'ts —I am writing little poetical bits for the N Y Herald12— Pearsall Smith13 and Mrs. S. & Alice14 are going to London to live— a big bunch of white lilies scents the room & my little canary is singing gaily as I finish—
If you have a chance you may show this to Mary Costelloe & Wm Rossetti15—to both of whom I send my love
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).
1. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
2. George Stafford was the father of Harry Stafford, a young man whom Whitman befriended in 1876 in Camden. Harry's parents, George and Susan Stafford, were tenant farmers at White Horse Farm near Kirkwood, New Jersey, where Whitman visited them on several occasions. For more on Whitman and the Staffords, see David G. Miller, "Stafford, George and Susan M." Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 685. [back]
3. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was the brother of Harry Stafford, a close acquaintance of Whitman. [back]
4. Whitman met the 18-year-old Harry Lamb Stafford (b. 1858) in 1876, beginning a relationship which was almost entirely overlooked by early Whitman scholarship, in part because Stafford's name appears nowhere in the first six volumes of Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden—though it does appear frequently in the last three volumes, which were published only in the 1990s. Whitman occasionally referred to Stafford as "My (adopted) son" (as in a December 13, 1876, letter to John H. Johnston), but the relationship between the two also had a romantic, erotic charge to it. For further discussion of Stafford, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Stafford, Harry L. (b.1858)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
5. Joseph Browning was married to Harry Stafford’s sister Deborah. [back]
6. Elizabeth W. Rogers was buried on April 2 ((Whitman's Commonplace Book; Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
7. Thomas Eakins (1844–1919) was an American painter. His relationship with Whitman was characterized by deep mutual respect, and he soon became a close friend of the poet. [back]
8. Whitman is alluding here to Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem about King George III, "England in 1819," which begins "An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying King." [back]
9. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
10. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 57–84; and David Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), 546–590. [back]
11. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
12. In late 1887, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., editor of the New York Herald, invited Whitman to contribute a series of poems and prose pieces for the paper. From December 1887 through August 1888, 33 of Whitman's poems appeared. [back]
13. Robert Pearsall Smith (1827–1898) was a Quaker who became an evangelical minister associated with the "Holiness movement." He was also a writer and businessman. Whitman often stayed at his Philadelphia home, where the poet became friendly with the Smith children—Mary, Logan, and Alys. For more information about Smith, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Robert Pearsall (1827–1898)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
14. Alys Smith was Mary's sister. She would eventually marry the philosopher Bertrand Russell. [back]
15. William Michael Rossetti (1829–1915), brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was an English editor and a champion of Whitman's work. In 1868 Rossetti edited Whitman's Poems, selected from the 1867 Leaves of Grass. Whitman referred to Rossetti's edition as a "horrible dismemberment of my book" in his August 12, 1871, letter to F.S. Ellis. Nonetheless, the edition provided a major boost to Whitman's reputation, and Rossetti would remain a staunch supporter for the rest of Whitman's life, drawing in subscribers to the 1876 Leaves of Grass and fundraising for Whitman in England. For more on Whitman's relationship with Rossetti, see Sherwood Smith, "Rossetti, William Michael (1829–1915)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]