Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Logan Pearsall Smith to Walt Whitman, 29 December 1890

Date: December 29, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03828

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: Kirby Little, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Open the whole year round
Ouvert toute l'année
J. BOSS, Propriétaire
Dec. 29th 1890

Dear Mr. Whitman

This is rather late I am afraid to wish you a Merry Christmas—or even a happy New Year—but I had forgotten all about Christmas till it was on me. I have come here to Switzerland to have a little winter, such as one gets in America, the winter in England is a poor affair generally, but I see in the papers that it is cold enough there now. My family live happily in London, though it is always fog there when there is frost—I should think they would choke, but they seem to like it. But I don't, so I packed up my books and came here. In summer Grindelwald is one of the most crowded of the Swiss places but now, in the winter there are only a few people, almost all English, who came here for the skating and coasting. We are in a hole, surrounded by tremendous mountains, and the sun has not yet got high enough to shine in yet. The wind never blows, but we have day after day of clear cold weather, when one feels so well and strung. We have a very jolly party—five or six people from Oxford—a master from one of the great English schools with one of his boys, an English member of Parliament or two, and several ladies.

The Costelloes1 have gone to Italy and Alys2 with them, and they write that they are having a most delightful time there among the churches and pictures. Alys is going to stay on a month & learn Italian & then in February she is going to Sicily with my mother.

The "Parnell Crisis"3 has been the one great topic of late. At first we feared that Home Rule was dead,4 but now, since the election at Kilkenny, things are looking better, and it may not be so bad after all. But it has been most exciting—certainly the Irish make politics dramatic. It always seems to be the unexpected that occurs. Mrs. Costelloe does a great deal of speaking, and is getting quite a name.

How did you like the American elections?5 I was delighted it seems to me that the time has come for the Republicans to go. All my American friends—young men who have gone in for politics—are working with the Democratic party.

Your books were so much appreciated in Oxford, and that great one you sent my father is certainly a royal book. Are you writing anything else?

I wish I had got this letter off in time to wish you a happy Christmas—but you must accept my somewhat tardy letter as if it had come earlier.

ever yours with love
Logan Pearsall Smith

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).


1. The Costelloes were Benjamin Francis ("Frank") Conn Costelloe (1854–1899) and Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945). Frank was Mary's first husband, an English barrister and Liberal Party politician. Mary was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." For more information about her, 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]

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. The "Parnell Crisis" refers to the public scandal that occurred when the Irish soldier and Member of Parliament Captain William O'Shea (1840–1905) named Charles Stewart Parnell, the Leader of Irish Parliamentary Party, as a co-respondent in divorce proceedings. Parnell had a long-lasting affair with O'Shea's his wife Katharine O'Shea, and there was considerable fear that the scandal would jeopardize support for Home Rule in Ireland. [back]

4. The term "Home Rule" is a reference to the Irish Home Rule movement that advocated for self-government for Ireland within the United Kingdom. Charles Stewart Parnell (1846–1891) was an Irish Nationalist Politician, Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, and a Member of Parliament. The First Home Rule Bill, to which Parnell reacted with a mix of support and critique, was defeated in the House of Commons in 1886. For more on Parnell, see Paul Bew, "Parnell, Charles Stewart, (1846–1891)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004). [back]

5. The 1890 election was held during Republican President Benjamin Harrison's term of office. Republicans suffered major losses, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, but with Republicans hanging onto control of the Senate. The Populist Party had some surprising successes, electing two U.S. Senators. [back]


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