Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, 7 December 1889

Date: December 7, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01391

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, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden New Jersey US America
Saturday Evn'g Dec: 7 '891

Finest sort of weather, sun, skies &c here days & nights—I was out last evn'g to supper and stopt my chair2 to have a good long look at the skies & full moon—Alys3 has been here to-day with a young woman chum—on their way to Milville—Nothing to write about but feel pretty well & tho't I w'd write. The news (the papers full) is of death of Jeff Davis4—that ends it—or seems to—

Love & respects to father & all, not forgetting the girls.
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 letter is addressed: Mrs: Mary Whitall Costelloe | 40 Grosvenor Road | the Embankment | London England. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Dec 8 | 5PM | 89. [back]

2. Horace Traubel and Ed Wilkins, Whitman's nurse, went to Philadelphia to purchase a wheeled chair for the poet that would allow him to be "pull'd or push'd" outdoors. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of May 8, 1889[back]

3. Alys Smith (1867–1951) was Mary's sister. She would eventually marry the philosopher Bertrand Russell. [back]

4. Jefferson Davis (1808–1889) was a politician who served as the President of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865, during the Civil War. He died on December 6, 1889. [back]


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