Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 18 January 1876

Date: January 18, 1876

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02886

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, John Schwaninger, Caterina Bernardini, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, Stephanie Blalock, and Jeff Hill



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Blaenavon
Routzpool
England.
Mon: Jan. 18,/76.

My dearest Friend,

Do not think me too wilful or headstrong but I have taken our tickets & we shall sail Aug 30, for Philadelphia.1 I found if I did not come to a decision now, we could not well arrange it before next summer. And since we have to come to a decision my mind has been quite at rest. Do not feel any anxiety or misgivings about us. I have a clear and strong conviction I am doing what is right & best for us all.—After a busy anxious time I am having a week or two, rest with Percy,2 who I find fairly well in health & prospering in his business—indeed he bids fair to have a large private practice as an analyst here, & is already making income enough to marry on only there is to build the nest—& I think he will have actually to build it, for there seem no eligible houses—& to furnish it—so that the wedding will not be till next spring or early summer—nevertheless with a definite goal & a definite time & the way between not so very rugged though rather dull & lonely I think he will be pretty cheery. This little town (of 11000 inhabitants all miners, smelters &c.) lies up among the hill 1100 ft above the sea—glorious hills here spreading then converging, with wooded flanks & swift brooklets leaping over stones in the hollows—the air too of course deliciously light & pure.—I have heard through a friend of ours of Bee's3 fellow students who lives in Camden (Mr. Süerkrop4 I think his name is) that we shall be able to get a very comfortable house with pleasant garden there for about £55 per an: I think I can manage that very well—so all I need is to hear of a comfortable lodging or boarding house (the former preferred,) where we can be, avoiding hotel expenses while we hunt for the house. I have arranged for my goods to sail a week later than we do, so as to give us time.

Good bye for a short while my dearest Friend
Anne Gilchrist.

Bee has obtained a very satisfactory account of the Womens Medical College in Philadelphia & introductions to the Head, &c.


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. In 1876, Anne Gilchrist (1828–1885), Whitman's friend and the author of "A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman," one of the first significant pieces of criticism on Leaves of Grass, moved with three of her children (Herbert, Beatrice, and Grace) from England to Philadelphia. The family lived in Philadelphia from 1876 to 1878; Whitman visited their home almost daily and even had his own room. From April 1878, to 1879, the Gilchrists lived in Concord, Boston, and New York, before returning to England. Anne's son Herbert (1857–1914) remained in America and lived in Philadelphia, maintaining a close relationship with Whitman; after Whitman's death in 1892, he returned to England. For more on Whitman and the Gilchrists, 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). [back]

2. Percy Carlyle Gilchrist (1851–1935) was the son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, the only of their four children who did not accompany their mother to Philadelphia in 1876 when she met Whitman, as Percy Gilchrist was newly married to Norah Fitzmaurice at the time. At about the same time, Percy Gilchrist collaborated with his cousin Sidney Gilchrist Thomas on refining the Bessemer process for the mass production of steel from 1875 to 1877. [back]

3. Beatrice Carwardine Gilchrist (1854–1881) was the second child (and first daughter) of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist. An aspiring physician, Beatrice was a medical student in England before the educational system there (which excluded women) prompted her to attend the Women's Medical College in Philadelphia. She held positions as a physician in Berne, Switzerland, and later Edinburgh before committing suicide by fatally ingesting hydrocyanic acid in 1881. [back]

4. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]


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