Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Smith, Robert Pearsall (1827–1898)
Author:
Davey, Christina
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Philadelphia Quaker Robert Pearsall Smith was a map publisher, glass manufacturer, and evangelist popular in the United States and England, and on the European Continent. He fostered the evolution of the map publishing industry in the United States by being one of the first to reproduce maps using the anastatic process of lithography, an easier and less expensive method of reproducing maps (1846). His religious works include Holiness through Faith (1870).

Smith, son of John Jay and Rachel Pearsall Smith, was educated at Haverford College. In 1851, he married Hannah Whitall. Smith and his family befriended Whitman at Christmas time, 1882. The eldest child, Mary Whitall Smith, had wanted to meet Whitman after reading his work, so her father invited the poet to their Germantown home. Robert Pearsall Smith joined Whitman's American supporters. In 1883 he gave Whitman two hundred shares in the Sierra Grande Mines, Lake Valley, New Mexico; however, the mines failed. Moreover, he took Whitman to New York to deliver the Lincoln lecture at the Madison Square Theater on April 14, 1887, and planned Whitman's reception held at the Westminster Hotel. There, the poet enjoyed the attention of two hundred to three hundred admirers.

Both Smith and Whitman valued their relationship. Although Hannah Whitall and Robert Pearsall Smith moved permanently to England in 1888, Whitman's friendship with Smith and his family continued until the poet's death.

Bibliography

Ristow, Walter W. "The Map Publishing Career of Robert Pearsall Smith." Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 26 (1969): 170–196.

Strachey, Barbara. Remarkable Relations: The Story of the Pearsall Smith Family. London: Victor Gollancz, 1980. Rpt. as Remarkable Relations: The Story of the Pearsall Smith Women. New York: Universe Books, 1982.

Whitman, Walt. The Correspondence. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. 6 vols. New York: New York UP, 1961–1977.

———. Daybooks and Notebooks. Ed. William White. Vol. 2. New York: New York UP, 1978.


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