Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Herbert H. Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 29 April 1883

Date: April 29, 1883

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05696

Source: 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), 213–214. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Alex Kinnaman, Natalie O'Neal, and Nicole Gray

Keats Corner
Well Road, Hampstead, London, England
April 29th, '83.

My Dear Walt:

Your card to hand last night, with its sad account of dear Mrs. Stafford's health; but what the doctor says is cheering. I wonder, though, what the doctor would call good weather—mild spring, I suppose.

Very glad, my dear old Walt, to see your strong familiar handwriting again; it does one good, it's so individual that it is next to seeing you. Right glad to hear of your good health—had an idea that you were not so well again this winter. John Burroughs was very violent against my intaglio; on the other hand, Alma Tadema—our great painter here—liked it very much. I take violent criticism pretty philosophically, now that I see how unreliable it nearly always is. John Burroughs has got a fixed idea about your personality, and that is that the top of your head is a foot high and any portrait that doesn't develop the "dome" is no portrait.—Curious what eyes a man may have for everything except a picture. I finished lately a life-size portrait of James Simmons, J.P., a hunting (fox) squire of the old school—such a fine old fellow. My portrait represents him standing firmly, in a scarlet hunting-coat well stained with many a wet chase, his great whip tucked under his arm whilst buttoning on his left glove, white buckskin trousers in shade relieving the scarlet coat, black velvet hunting cap, dark rich blue background to qualify and cool the scarlet. I wish you could see it. Then I have painted a subject "The Good Gray Poet's Gift." I have long meant to build up something of you from my studies, adding colour. You play a prominent part in this picture—seated at table bending over a nosegay of flowers, poetizing, before presenting them to mother. I am standing up bending over the tea-pot, with the kettle, filling it up; opposite you sits Giddy; out of the window a pretty view of Cannon place, Hampstead. Mater thinks it a pretty picture and a good likeness of you, just as you used to sit at tea with us at 1729 N. 22nd St. Now I am going out for a stroll on Hampstead Heath. Have just come in from a long ramble over the Heaths—a lovely soft spring day, innumerable birds in full song. I think J. B. is right when he says that your birds are more plaintive than ours—it's nature's way of compensating us for a loss of sunshine: what would England be without the merry lark, the very embodiment of cheeriness. Are not the Carlyle & Emerson letters interesting? It seems to me to be one of the most beautiful and pathetic things in literature, C's fondness for E. But all Englishmen, I must tell you, are not grumblers like Carlyle; he stands quite alone in that quality—look at Darwin!

I should be grateful for another postcard.

With all love,
Herb. Gilchrist.


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