Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, 3 July 1888

Date: July 3, 1888

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:181. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia

Whitman Archive ID: uva.00587

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Alex Ashland, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden1
July 3 '88—P M

I am sitting up & feeling pretty well—the weather is fine now (after coolish & cloudy) & I have not retrograded—Congratulate yr father & Alys2 after their safe & favorable arrival wh' I have heard, & sent to Dr Bucke3—As I sit early afternoon every thing is quiet & comfortable—I have not yet left my room—


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Mrs: Mary Whitall Costelloe | 40 Grosvenor Road | the Embankment | London England. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Jul(?) | 8 PM | 88. [back]

2. Alys Smith (1867–1951) was Mary's sister. She would eventually marry the philosopher Bertrand Russell. [back]

3. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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