Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, 18 February 1889

Date: February 18, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01382

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Breanna Himschoot, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

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328 Mickle St: Camden, New Jersey
U S America
Feb: 18 18891

Nothing special or very different—continue laid up & imprison'd in sick room—y'rs of a week ago rec'd & welcom'd2—I want to send over some copies of my big book3 (works complete) one for you of course, & think of enveloping them stoutly & sending by ocean express—(to be call'd for there, or perhaps sent by local express)—& may send the parcel if you are willing—congratulate Mr. C4 on his success—

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 postal card is addressed: Mrs: Mary W Costelloe | 40 Grosvenor Road | The Embankment | London England | SW. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Feb 18 | 8 PM | 89; Philadelphia, PA | Feb 18 | 11 PM | F D. [back]

2. See Costelloe's January 25–26, 1889, letter to Whitman. [back]

3. Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose was published in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions, and Frederick Oldach bound the volume, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]

4. Benjamin Costelloe, Mary's husband, was recently elected to the London directory municipal government. See Whitman's February 6, 1889, letter to Richard Maurice Bucke. [back]


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