Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, 8 August 1889

Date: August 8, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01388

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Aug: 8 '891

Am feeling pretty well for me—good weather here—was yesterday over to Phila: to Gutekunsts'2 to sit for big picture3 (at vehement request)—went in large easy cab—every thing river, ferry, Market & Arch streets, & the vehicles & people look'd so well & bright & prosperous & even gay—

—thank Logan4 for his good letter & send this to him—H Gil:5 was here last evn'g & has taken the letter away

Love to all
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: Mary Whitall Costelloe | 40 Grosvenor Road | the Embankment | London: England. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Aug 8 | 8 PM | 89. [back]

2. Frederick Gutekunst (1831–1917) was a well-known ninteenth-century American photographer in Philadelphia. During the Civil War he made portraits of soldiers, and, after the War, he continued to create high quality portraits of notable figures, including Abraham Lincoln, Lucretia Mott, and Grover Cleveland. He made portraits of Whitman in Philadelphia ca. 1879–1881 and in 1889, which are available in The Walt Whitman's Archive's Gallery of Images. [back]

3. Whitman recorded his visit to Frederick Gutekunst's Philadelphia studio in his daybook on August 6, not the 7th, as this postal card suggests. For more information, see the digital facsimile of the "big picture" on The Walt Whitman Archive[back]

4. Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946) was an essayist and literary critic. He was the son of Robert Pearsall Smith, a minister and writer who befriended Whitman, and he was the brother of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, one of Whitman's most avid followers. For more information on Logan, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Logan Pearsall (1865–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. 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]


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