Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Logan Pearsall Smith to Walt Whitman, 5 January 1889

Date: January 5, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03823

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.

Contributors to digital file: Andrea Bastien, Breanna Himschoot, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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Jan 5th 1889
Ashfield House
West Malvern

Dear Mr. Whitman

I am perched up high on the side of Malvern Hill in a rediculous little red. brick house, and out of the window I see a great plain being splashed with rain. I am paying a visit—it is a vacation—to Benjamin Jowett,1 the Head of my college, a venerable and dreadful person in whose presence we all tremble at Oxford. But here he is very good, and talks about the old times when England was full of venerable abuses. It makes one realize how much your generation—my father's generation—has done for progress, I only hope we young ones will do half as well. I hear of you from Alys,2 she is our great tie with America now. I have put myself into the machine at Oxford, and shall not be turned out for about two years, then I hope to see America again.

My father3 is extremely well, and enjoying life. Mrs. Costelloe4 has got a pair of spectacles, and is as strong as she ever was. Whenever I go away from London Ray Costelloe5 grows visibly in the meantime. I met the other day a great friend of yours, Mr. Yorke Powell,6 he is coming over to see you sometime. He spoke of "November Boughs"7 with enthusiasm, some of the prose he set in an examination at Oxford. If I were at home I am sure all would send love—as I do—from your friend


Logan Pearsall Smith


Correspondent:
Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946) was an essayist and literary critic. He was the son of Robert Pearsall Smith, a minister and writer who befriended Whitman, and he was the brother of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, one of Whitman's most avid followers. For more information on Logan, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Logan Pearsall (1865–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. Benjamin Jowett (1817–1893) was elected master of Balliol College in 1870, which he turned into the leading college in Oxford. He fostered a network of friends that included Tennyson, Browning, Sir Robert Morier, and Florence Nightingale. He had a great interest in advancing young men's lives and reforming his university, and was remembered for his fond friendship and sometimes overbearing nature (Peter Hinchliff and John Prest, "Jowett, Benjamin," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [2006]). [back]

2. 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." [back]

3. Robert Pearsall Smith (1827–1898) was a Quaker who became an evangelical minister associated with the "Holiness movement." He was also a writer and businessman. Whitman often stayed at his Philadelphia home, where the poet became friendly with the Smith children—Mary, Logan, and Alys. For more information about Smith, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Robert Pearsall (1827–1898)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Rachel Pearsall Conn Costelloe (1887–1940), known as Ray Strachey, was the first daughter of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe. She would later become a feminist writer and politician. [back]

6. Frederick York Powell (1859–1904) was a lecturer and tutor of Christ Church at Oxford and became the Regius Professor of Modern History. He focused on Icelandic scholarship, English history, modern French poetry, and helped to found the English Historical Review (Oliver Elton, Frederick York Powell: A Life and a Selection from His Letters and Occasional Writings [Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1906]). [back]

7. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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