Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Alys W. Smith to Walt Whitman, 9 November 1889

Date: November 9, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03815

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "Sat: evn'gThis is Alys Smith's note returning ER's letter.," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Kirby Little, Ashlyn Stewart, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Bryn Mawr College
Nov. 9th. 1889.

Dear Mr. Whitman—

I am very sorry, but I shall not be able to get over to see you this week. I am writing an essay on Victor Hugo1 and I find him a stubborn subject! So all my time will be taken up with him.

I send you The Sun-Maid,2 but I am afraid the print is not very good. Thank you for letting me see Mr. Rhys'3 letter.

Yours affectionately
Alys.


Correspondent:
Alyssa ("Alys") Whitall Pearsall Smith (1867–1951) was born in Philadelphia and became a Quaker relief organizer. She attended Bryn Mawr College and was a graduate of the class of 1890. She and her family lived in Britain for two years during her childhood and again beginning in 1888. She married the philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1894; the couple later separated, and they divorced in 1921. Smith also served as the chair of a society committee that set up the "Mothers and Babies Welcome" (the St Pancras School for Mothers) in London in 1907; this health center, dedicated to reducing the infant mortality rate, provided a range of medical and educational services for women. Smith was the daughter of Robert Pearsall and Hannah Whitall Smith, and she was the sister of Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945), the political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend."

Notes:

1. Victor Hugo (1802–1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist best known for Les Miserables (1862) and Notre-Dame de Paris (1833). For more on Hugo, see Victor Brombert, Victor Hugo and the Visionary Novel (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1984). [back]

2. This publication has yet to be identified. [back]

3. 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]


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