Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Mary Whitall Smith to Walt Whitman, 12 November 1884

Date: November 12, 1884

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01341

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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 created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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8 Berkeley Street1
Wednesday Nov. 12, 1884.

Dear Mr. Whitman —

Altho I am busy this evening, I must find time to send you word of how very, very much we enjoyed seeing Mr. Quincy Shaw's Millet pictures this morning. Your note I believe gained for Mr. Clifford permission to go and see them, and papa, Logan and I went with him. I hardly ever spent such a delightful morning, and the remembrance is almost as good as the reality was. And, best of all, Mr. Shaw invited Logan and myself to come over any time, and spend quiet, free hours among his beautiful collection. It added not a little to our pleasure this morning to be with a man who knew and loved the artist so well, and we all feel very grateful to you for the pleasure of the morning. Mr. Clifford showed us his sketch of you. We liked the cheery expression—but were not entirely satisfied with the picture.

Logan and I will be home soon—for Thanks giving. Papa said "What shall we do to celebrate your vacation and make you have a good time"—"Pursuade Mr. Whitman to come over!" I said. Well, we certainly shall see you, even if the Daimon doesn't approve of your coming to Germantown—But I hope he will be in a complaisant mood!

I had a letter from Mr. Costelloe (one of the Englishmen who came over with me to see you), and he asked me to tell you that he read the little book you gave him to the passengers on the steamer going home, and that both reader and audience enjoyed it sincerely, and were much enlivened and strengthened by the "wonderful faith and hope" that breathed through the poetry. You certainly do 'blow grit' into people!

But I must not make my letter longer—I shall look forward to seeing you soon, and I hope you will be well.

With much love
Mary W. Smith

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).


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: CAMBRIDGE (?)TA MA | NOV 13 | 12 (?); CAMDEN N.J. | NOV (?) | 8 AM. [back]


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