Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, 13 June [1887]

Date: June 13, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01364

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.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4

Monday June 13
5½ P M1

Dear Mary Costelloe

I will write you a few lines without any thing to say, but because the spirit moves me & every thing is so beautiful & peaceful in the nearly declined but dazzling sun—The little children are playing out on the walks, a mocking-bird is singing over the way, & a young just-bursting magnolia blossom, (sent me an hour ago by the grocery woman at the corner) fills the room with its spicy fragrance, from its glass of water on the window-sill—I have been somewhat under a cloud physically the last week, but feel better to day—& the best of it is a sort of consciousness (if it don't deceive me) of being better for good—at any rate for the time, wh. is as much as could be asked for—

I have written & sent a poem to Lippincotts—wh. has been accepted, & I have got the money for it, (& great good it does me, coming now)—Herbert Gilchrist2 is here—he is drawing & painting my portrait to-day—Sidney Morse3 has modelled a large (colossal I suppose) head of me—I think perhaps the best thing yet—Love to your father, yourself & Alys,4 the baby dear, & all—as I end, after my supper, (mostly strawberries) I see glimpses of a fine sunset in the west & the boys out in Mickle Street are playing base ball—

Walt Whitman

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: Mrs. Costelloe | 40 Grosvenor Road | the Embarkment | London | England. It is postmarked: Camden | June 13 | 8 PM | 87. Whitman's name and address are printed on the envelope as follows: WALT WHITMAN, | CAMDEN, | NEW JERSEY, | U. S. AMERICA. [back]

2. 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). [back]

3. 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), 105–109. [back]

4. Alys Smith (1867–1951) was a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith and the sister of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe. She eventually married the philosopher Bertrand Russell. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.