Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Herbert Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 16 November 1887

Date: November 16, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02196

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: Alex Kinnaman, Nicole Gray, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock

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November 16th, 1887
Wednesday morning
12 Well Road, Hampstead
London England.

Dear Walt Whitman;

After ascertaining from Frederick Locker-L.1 that Tennyson2 was still staying at Haslemere, I posted your portrait to him last Monday and received an acknowledgement from Hallam3 this morning with a letter for you, wch I direct and forward with this.4

I received your welcome letter of October the 22nd5—I rejoice that you and my friends at Glendale continue in such excellent health—I should indeed have enjoyed the drive with you that you suggest in yr letter—quite pleasant to think of.

Poor Frederick Locker-Lampson6 is suffering from "an obstinate attack of rheumatism," he is at Bath; but his daughter Mrs Lionel Tennyson7 tells me that he is coming to London soon. I posted your present to Mrs. Tennyson (as bade me to) last Monday and I have heard of its safe arrival since: L said in a letter to me "how kind of Walt Whitman to give me his poems" or some such remark: this rather languid swell has grown very friendly to you and I may add myself!—as we say here in school-boy fashion Locker-L is a "very decent chap"! and a distinct success from his own "West-end" point of view.

It is foggy, smoky and dark this morning at the a.m. o.c. and I am scribbling this instead of painting—oh, how often I think of American "air full of sheen & oxygen" as compared to this groggy London fog, alas. What a wonder it is that we are a great people and that there are Englishmen with good tempers!

Ernest Rhys8 must I should fear be having a rough time of it on the Atlantic he sailed last Saturday—I have given him Mrs. Paul's address where I expect he will stay.

I enclose my portrait and one for Morse.9 I like it because I look in it as if I meant to paint or do my best in that direction!

Give my regards to all enquiring friends especially Tom Harnard10 and also to Mrs Davies.11

A stream of people continue to call on Sunday afternoon to see your portrait—and general approbation is continued to

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. Frederick Locker-Lampson (1821–1895), an English poet, corresponded with Whitman in 1880 (see the letter from Whitman to Locker-Lampson of March 21, 1880). [back]

2. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Whitman wrote to Tennyson in 1871 or late 1870, probably shortly after the visit of Cyril Flower in December, 1870, but the letter is not extant (see Thomas Donaldson, Walt Whitman the Man [New York: F. P. Harper, 1896], 223). Tennyson's first letter to Whitman is dated July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]

3. Hallam Tennyson (1852–1928) was the eldest son of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Hallam was educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He served as the personal secretary and biographer of his father, and he was made the Governor of South Australia in 1899. Four years later, he began serving as the second Governor-General of Australia, a position he held until 1904. He spent the last years of his life in Farringford, serving as the deputy Governor of the Isle of Wight from 1913. [back]

4. See Tennyson's letter to Whitman of November 15, 1887[back]

5. See Whitman's letter to Herbert Gilchrist of October 22, 1887[back]

6. Frederick Locker-Lampson (1821–1895), an English poet, corresponded with Whitman in 1880 (see the letter from Whitman to Locker-Lampson of March 21, 1880). [back]

7. Eleanor Mary Bertha Locker (died 1915) was married to Lionel Tennyson (1854–1886), the poet's younger son. [back]

8. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

9. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109. [back]

10. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel, was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

11. Mary Oakes Davis was Whitman's housekeeper. [back]


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