Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 25 February 1876

Date: February 25, 1876

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02887

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "Mrs. Gilchrist Feb. 25 '76 ans: March 17," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, Ashley Lawson, Eder Jaramillo, John Schwaninger, Caterina Bernardini, Marie Ernster, Amanda J. Axley, Jeff Hill, and Stephanie Blalock

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1 Torriano Gardens
Camden Rd
Feb 25 /76

My dearest Friend,

I received the paper & enclosed slip Saturday week—filling me so full of emotion I could not write—for I am too bitterly impatient of mere words. Soon, very soon I come my Darling.1 I am not lingering, but held yet a little while by the firm grip of conscience—this is the last spring we shall be asunder—O I passionately believe there are years in store for us— years of tranquil, tender happiness—me making your outward life serene & sweet—& you making my inward life so rich—me learning, growing, loving—we shedding benign influences round us out of our happiness and fulfilled life—Hold on but a little longer for me my Walt—I am straining every nerve to hasten the day—I have enough for us all—with the simple, unpretending ways we both love best.

Percy2 is battling slowly doing as well as we could expect in the time. I think he will soon build the nest for his mate.3 I think he never in his heart believed I really should go to America and so it comes as a great blow to him now. You must be very indulgent towards him for my sake dear Friend.

I am glad we know about those rascally book agents4—for many of us are wanting a goodish number of copies of the new edition5 & it is important to understand we may have them straight from you—Rossetti6 is making a list of the friends & the number, so that they may all come together—

Perhaps dearest friend you may be having a great difficulty in getting the books out for want of funds—if so let me help a little—show your trust in me and my love thus generously.

Your own loving

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. 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 a British chemist and metallurgist, and the son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist. Along with his cousin, Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, he developed the Thomas-Gilchrist process of producing steel from phosphoric pig iron during the late 1870s. See Marion Walker Alcaro, Walt Whitman's Mrs. G: A Biography of Anne Gilchrist (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1991), 252n28. [back]

3. Norah Gilchrist, née Fitzmaurice, would later become the wife of Anne Gilchrist's son Percy Carlyle Gilchrist. [back]

4. Whitman's relationships with his publishers and distributors in the 1870s were extremely fraught, and as a result, a large number of his unsold books changed hands several times. In 1873, Whitman entrusted his books to Asa K. Butts & Co., which went into bankruptcy in the following year. Thomas O'Kane, a New York book dealer, assumed possession of the books from Butts, as well as a number of books from Michael Doolady, a New York bookseller and publisher. Though Walt Whitman wrote cordially to O'Kane on April 22, 1874, he later became hostile. Citing only the initials, Richard Maurice Bucke, in Walt Whitman (1883), his "official" biography, averred that O'Kane and Somerby, Butts's successor, "took advantage of [Walt Whitman's] helplessness to embezzle the amounts due—(they calculated that death would soon settle the score and rub it out)" (46). After his difficulties with publishers and agents, in 1875, Whitman decided to self-publish and -distribute Leaves of Grass and Two Rivulets in 1876. In Whitman's December 30, 1875, letter to Jeannette Gilder, Whitman justified his decision, writing that "No established publisher in the country will print my books, & during the last three years of my illness & helplessness every one of the three successive book agents I have had in N.Y. has embezzled the proceeds." [back]

5. During America's centennial celebration in 1876, Whitman reissued the fifth edition of Leaves of Grass in the repackaged form of a "Centennial Edition" and "Author's Edition," with most copies personally signed by the poet. For more information, see Frances E. Keuling-Stout, "Leaves of Grass, 1876, Author's Edition," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. William Michael Rossetti (1829–1915), brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was an English editor and a champion of Walt Whitman's work. In 1868 Rossetti edited Whitman's Poems, selected from the 1867 Leaves of Grass. Rossetti would remain one of Whitman's staunchest supporters for the rest of Whitman's life, drawing in major subscribers to the 1876 Centennial edition of Leaves of Grass and fundraising for Whitman in England. For more on Whitman's relationship with Rossetti, see "Rossetti, William Michael (1829–1915)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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