Title: Walt Whitman to Herbert Gilchrist, 22 Oct 1887
Date: October 22, 1887
Editorial notes: The annotations, "," and "1888?," are in an unknown hand.
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.00088
Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock
Oct 22 Evn'g
Dear Herbert Gilchrist
Yours of the 10th came to-day & is welcome. Every thing goes on much the same here. Quite biting wintry cold to-day after a long stormy spell. I am ab't the same as when you were here—& am sitting by the window in the big chair. Mrs. D1 is well. We have been feasting on some nice stewed quinces and quince jelly—a triumph of Mrs. D's cookery—we wish you were here to have some—the very color goes beyond all description. I have no doubt the portrait fully justifies all encomiums there, and goes beyond them.2 —In a good light & in a frame it must indeed appear well—having neither here, & intentionally hung where it would be tested to the severest—Success to the painter of it—& to it (the nobly carnal & Shaksperian work)—I have rec'd a nice letter from Herbert Horne3—have heard from Morgan Brown,4 who is well & remains in N Y state—the Smiths are here, & come to see me—Morse5 is here—has been here every day this week—Mrs. Stafford6 was here Wednesday, is well, as are all the family—But it is growing too dark to write—
Sunday forenoon early—Oct 23—The sun is shining bright—I have had my breakfast (pann'd oysters toast & coffee) & in half an hour I shall start in my light wagon & Nettie7 for Glendale—you ought to be here to accompany me—the air is full of sheen & oxygen with a pleasant coolness—write soon again. Give my best regards to Ernest Rhys8—a synopsis of his "New Poetry" lecture has been published here in the "Critic"9—Well I must be off—
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. Gilchrist's letter of October 10, 1887 was filled with comments on Whitman's portrait, including that of "Bernard Shawe, (a delightful Irishman who reviews books in the Pall Mall cleverly). . . . He thought there was a joyous spirited look about its execution." This portrait is now at the University of Pennsylvania. [back]
4. Leonard M. Brown, a young English schoolteacher and friend of Herbert Gilchrist, came to America in May, 1887. On March 31, 1887 Gilchrist wrote to Whitman: "he is an uncommonly good fellow, quiet earnet serious soul and very practical, full of solid worth, whose knowledge and attainments are sure to be valued in America. His father is a clergyman, and this son of his reads Leaves of Grass silently & unobserved by the sect of his orthodox family." An entry in Whitman's Commonplace Book on August 29 reads: "Leonard Morgan Brown goes back to Croton-on-Hudson—has been here ab't a week" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). See also Whitman's letter to Leonard Brown of November 19, 1887; his letter to Herbert Gilchrist of December 12, 1886, note 2; and his letter to Leonard Brown of February 7, 1890. [back]
5. 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]
6. Susan M. Stafford was the mother of Harry Stafford, who, in 1876, became a close friend of Whitman while working at the printing office of the Camden New Republic. Whitman regularly visited the Staffords at their family farm near Kirkwood, New Jersey. Whitman enjoyed the atmosphere and tranquility that the farm provided and would often stay for weeks at a time (see David G. Miller, "Stafford, George and Susan M.," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998], 685). [back]
7. Whitman's mare. [back]
8. 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]
9. Whitman is referring to The Critic of September 24, 1887. [back]