Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 9 March 1874

Date: March 9, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02875

Source: The Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1842–1937, 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, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, Ashley Lawson, Eder Jaramillo, John Schwaninger, Marie Ernster, Cristin Noonan, Paige Wilkinson, Stephanie Blalock, Jeff Hill, and Amanda J. Axley

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March 9th. 1874

With full heart, with eyes wet with tears of joy & I know not what other deep emotion—pain of yearning pity blent with the sense of grandeur, dearest Friend have I read and reread the great sacred Poem just come to me.1 O august Columbus! whose sorrows sufferings struggles are more to be envied than any triumph of conquering warrior—as I see him in your poem his figure merges into yours, brother of Columbus. Completer of his work, discoverer of the spiritual, the ideal America—you too have sailed over stormy seas to your goal—surrounded with mocking disbelievers—you too have paid the great price of health—our Columbus.

Your accents pierce me through & through—

Your loving Annie.

Anne Burrows Gilchrist (1828–1885) was the author of one of the first significant pieces of criticism on Leaves of Grass, titled "A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman (From Late Letters by an English Lady to W. M. Rossetti)," The Radical 7 (May 1870), 345–59. Gilchrist's long correspondence with Whitman indicates that she had fallen in love with the poet after reading his work; when the pair met in 1876 when she moved to Philadelphia, Whitman never fully returned her affection, although their friendship deepened after that meeting. For more information on their relationship, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Anne Burrows (1828–1885)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. Having successfully submitted "Song of the Redwood-Tree" to Harper's New Monthly Magazine on November 2, 1873, Walt Whitman submitted a second poem, "Prayer of Columbus," later in November 1873, also for $60. Editor Henry Mills Alden (1836–1919) accepted the poem on December 1, 1873; it appeared in the March 1874 edition, 47:524–525. In reprinting the poem on February 24, 1874, the New York Tribune commented that it "shows the brawny vigor, but not the reckless audacity, by which the name of that wild poet has become best known to the public." For digital images of the poem as it appeared in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, see "Prayer of Columbus." [back]


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