Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 14 January 1879

Date: January 14, 1879

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04054

Source: The Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1842–1937, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from The Letters of Anne Gilchrist and Walt Whitman, ed. Thomas B. Harned (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1918), 169–170. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Eder Jaramillo, Grace Thomas, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein

112 Madison Ave.1
14 Jan., '79.

Dearest Friend:

The pleasantest event since I last wrote has been a visit from Mr. Eldridge.2 We had a long, friendly chat that did me good. Saturday evening we went to one of Miss Booth's3 receptions—met Joaquin Miller4 there, who is just back from Europe—of course we talked of you. Mrs. Moulton5 too is hoping so you will come to New York during her stay here, which is to last a week or two longer. John Burroughs6 has just sent me a post card to say he has returned from a 3-weeks stay with his folks in Delaware Co.—that he hopes to come here soon—wants Mrs. Burroughs7 to come too & board for a month or so—wants also "Walt to come—& lecture"—but "Walt will not be hurried." Did I tell you that we found boarding here a young man, Mr. Arthur Holland, one of the family who were so very friendly to me & made my stay so pleasant both in Concord & Cambridge? He often comes to our room of an evening for an hour or two's chat, & by the bye, being connected with the iron trade he has been able to make some enquiries for me as to what Per's8 chances as a scientific metallurgist would be in this country—& I am sorry to say he thinks they would be very poor indeed. Prof. Lesley9 said the same thing; so it is clear I must not urge him to try the experiment, seeing he has a wife & child. Herby10 & Giddy11 both well. Love from us all. Good bye, Dear Friend.

A. Gilchrist.

Friendly greeting to your brother & sister.


1. 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)," 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). [back]

2. Charles W. Eldridge was one half of the Boston-based abolitionist publishing firm Thayer and Eldridge, who put out the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. In December 1862, on his way to find his injured brother George in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Whitman stopped in Washington and encountered Eldridge, who had become a clerk in the office of the army paymaster and eventually obtained a desk for Whitman in the office of Major Lyman Hapgood, the army paymaster. For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge see "Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903)." [back]

3. Mary Louise Booth (1831–1889) was the first editor of the New York-based Harper's Bazaar, one of the first fashion magazines of its time. Booth also translated around 40 works of French literature and wrote a history of New York. For more on Booth and the Bazaar, see Paula Bernat Bennett, "Subtle Subversion: Mary Louise Booth and Harper's Bazaar (1867–1889)," in Blue Pencils & Hidden Hands: Women Editing Periodicals, 1830–1910 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004), 225–247. [back]

4. Joaquin Miller was the pen name of Cincinnatus Heine Miller (1837–1913), an American poet nicknamed "Byron of the Rockies" and "Poet of the Sierras." In 1871, the Westminster Review described Miller as "leaving out the coarseness which marked Walt Whitman's poetry." In an entry in his journal dated August 1, 1871, John Burroughs recorded Whitman's fondness for Miller's poetry; see Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1931), 60. Whitman met Miller for the first time in 1872; he wrote of a visit with Miller in a July 19, 1872, letter to Charles W. Eldridge. [back]

5. Ellen Louise Chandler Moulton (1835–1908), an American poet and critic, was staying with Philip Bourke Marston (to whom Whitman wrote on September 7, 1876), whose works she edited after his premature death in 1887. See Lilian Whiting, Louise Chandler Moulton, Poet and Friend (1910). [back]

6. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a lifelong correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Ursula, Burroughs's wife. [back]

8. 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), 252 n28. [back]

9. Professor John Peter Lesley (1819–1903) was appointed state geologist of University of Pennsylvania in 1874. He was also secretary of the American Philosophical Society from 1858 to 1885. In 1849, Lesley married Susan Inches Lyman (1823–1904), the daughter of Judge Joseph Lyman (1767–1847) of Northampton, Mass. His daughters were Margaret White Lesley Bush-Brown and Mary Lesley Ames (both mentioned in Whitman's February 29, 1876, letter to Ellen O'Connor). Anne Gilchrist spoke glowingly of the "delightful family circle" of the Lesleys (Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist, Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (1887), 228–229). [back]

10. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

11. Grace Gilchrist Frend (1859–1947) was one of Anne Gilchrist's four children and Herbert's sister. She became a contralto. She was the author of "Walt Whitman as I Remember Him" (Bookman 72 [July 1927], 203–205). [back]


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