Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe to Walt Whitman, 14 March 1890

Date: March 14, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05015

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.

Related item: Whitman wrote his March 23, 1890, letter to the Canadian physican Richard Maurice Bucke on the back of this letter. See loc.07759.

Contributors to digital file: Ashlyn Stewart, Ian Faith, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, and Stephanie Blalock

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40 Grosvenor Road
Westminster Embankment S.W.
March 14th 1890.

Dear Mr Whitman,

Thy cheering card of March 2nd1 came today, just as I am starting off for the country with the babies.2 It is always cheering to hear from thee, thy messages bring a breath of fresh air. It is the best object lesson that any one could possibly have to read they description of thyself as in buoyant spirits. It always helps me to see thy handwriting and to read thy words.

I am very busy as usual. England is not like America "taking stock" and resting, it is on the contrary very active politically. I am sending the the "Review of Reviews,"3 that most interesting of journals. I wish thee would write a letter to the editor. He would be sure to print it. Women are taking their share here in all that it going on, but this means of course a great deal of work for those who are most interested in things. I have not time to send a longer letter now but I will write soon again.

With love
Thy friend
Mary Whitall Costelloe

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).


1. Costelloe is referring to Whitman's postal card of March 2, 1890[back]

2. Rachel Pearsall Conn Costelloe (1887–1940) was Mary's first daughter. Rachel ("Ray") eventually married Oliver Strachey (brother of biographer Lytton Strachey) and was a writer and women's suffrage activist who ran for a seat in the British parliament soon after women were granted the right to vote. Karin Stephen (née Catherine Elizabeth Costelloe) (1889–1953) was Mary's second daughter. She would become a British psychoanalyst and psychologist, and the wife of Adrian Stephen (psychoanalyst and prominent member of the Bloomsbury Group, and brother of Virginia Woolf). [back]

3. The Review of Reviews was a magazine begun by the reform journalist William Thomas Stead (1849–1912) in 1890 and published in Great Britain. It contained reviews and excerpts from other magazines and journals, as well as original pieces, many written by Stead himself. [back]


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