Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Herbert Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 10 September 1886

Date: September 10, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02176

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: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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12, Well Road
September 10, 1886.

My dear Walt:

I felt my Book1 would not be complete with out at least one or two of your letters and though I have some 30 or 40 to myself & mother hardly any of them are suitable (for one reason or another) for publication. I therefore asked W M Rossetti2 if he (on reading my M.S.S.) could look out two of your most characteristic letters: he has kindly done so; [sending?] me last night one written by you Dec: '77 about W.R.'s Selection,3 in which you speak against an expurgated editon etc:

Rossetti speaks of it as "an uncommonly good letter." And I indeed, think it [manly?] and characteristic and also a letter of considerable literary interest, one that will help the readers to understand you; hence, I shall [venture?] to print it in my Book, unless I have a letter or telegram to the contrary from you.

What I wrote about Dr. B.4 sings discordantly in my ears—but in truth I was and am angry at his cool request to hand over your letters (& mothers) to him: his injudicious literary zeal does you and every body else harm however, I will say no more on this head.

My M.S. has been cast & makes 430 pages!

I am very busy

With love to you & friends
Yours affectionately
Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist

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).


1. Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings would be published in 1887 with a foreword by William Michael Rossetti. [back]

2. William Michael Rossetti (1829–1915), brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was an English editor and a champion of Whitman's work. In 1868, Rossetti edited Whitman's Poems, selected from the 1867 Leaves of Grass. Whitman referred to Rossetti's edition as a "horrible dismemberment of my book" in his August 12, 1871, letter to Frederick S. Ellis. Nonetheless, the edition provided a major boost to Whitman's reputation, and Rossetti would remain a staunch supporter for the rest of Whitman's life, drawing in subscribers to the 1876 Leaves of Grass and fundraising for Whitman in England. For more on Whitman's relationship with Rossetti, see Sherwood Smith, "Rossetti, William Michael (1829–1915)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Gilchrist is referring to the volume: Poems of Walt Whitman, ed. William Michael Rossetti (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868). [back]

4. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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