Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Robert Pearsall Smith, 23 July 1887

Date: July 23, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03836

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: Ryan Furlong, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

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Camden NJ US America1
July 23 '87

Y'rs of July 8 (?)2 rec'd—with A's3 note on fourth page. All goes safely with me so far thro' the long fearfully hot spell here —It is clouded over a little to day—, —some relief—I have no news to write you ab't my affairs or self. I sit in the big chair by the open window as I write this—"the same subject continued"—Best prayers & love to you all, Mary4, Alys & little R

Walt Whitman

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).


1. This postal card is addressed: Pearsall Smith | 40 Grosvenor Road | the Embankment | London England | S W. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jul 24 | 5 PM | 87. [back]

2. The question mark is Whitman's. There is no extant letter from Smith at this time. [back]

3. Alys Smith (1867–1951) was a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith and the sister of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe. She eventually married the philosopher Bertrand Russell. [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]


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