Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, 19 April 1889

Date: April 19, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01383

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 derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Caterina Bernardini, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden NJ
US America
April 19 '891

Am still anchor'd here in my second story in Mickle street—not much different, yet every month letting the pegs lower—Have not sent the big books (complete ed'n)2 but shall soon.

—Fondest love to little Rachel3 & the newcomer too—I rec'd the good letter f'm y'r dear father4 also Mrs S's card5—Is his address still at 44?

—I am preparing a new ed'n of L of G. & shall send you one.


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 postal card is addressed: Mrs: Mary Whitall Costelloe | 40 Grosvenor Road | the Embankment | London England. It is postmarked: Camden [illegible] | April 19 | 8 PM; Philadelphia, PA. | Apr 20 | 4 PM | Paid. [back]

2. Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), a volume Whitman often referred to as the "big book," was published by Philadelphia publisher David McKay in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, he made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound the book, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom's Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]

3. Rachel Pearsall Conn Costelloe (1887–1940), later known as Ray Strachey, was the first daughter of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe. She would later become a feminist writer and politician. [back]

4. Robert Pearsall Smith (1827–1898) was a Quaker who became an evangelical minister associated with the "Holiness movement." He was also a writer and businessman. Whitman often stayed at his Philadelphia home, where the poet became friendly with the Smith children—Mary, Logan, and Alys. For more information about Smith, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Robert Pearsall (1827–1898)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Writing on March 31, 1889, Robert Pearsall Smith informed Whitman of events in the family: Alys was to attend Bryn Mawr College in the fall, Logan was studying at Oxford, and Mary had a second child. Robert's wife Hannah wrote on March 13 to Whitman about her granddaughter's birth (see also Smith Alumnae Quarterly [February, 1958], p. 88). Hannah was no admirer of the poet, and Whitman once said of her: "She still believes that the world is to be persuaded, driven into salvation. I do not—never did!" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, April 19, 1889). [back]


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