Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Mary Whitall Smith, 8 September 1885

Date: September 8, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: loc.06097

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:320. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, and Kyle Barton

Sept. 8 '851

Just a line any how, dear Mary, to follow up the good wishes & invocations of my last, & to try the new address upon an envelope—As I write I am sitting here by the open window in the little room down stairs—a fine bright cool noon—have rec'd quite a mail this forenoon—in it your good letter of Aug. 28—(yesterday Alys's circular arrived to me, at last)—

I do not go out much—the effect of the sunstroke shocks still lingering upon me, & probably will continue ("the ground already too well prepared," the doctor says)—have not written any for two months or over—But I am afraid I am falling into an unnecessarily sombre vein—which I ought not to, for I don't feel it, & there is nothing to warrant it—

I shall be looking for Alys now before long—& you, dear friend, must make it up in frequent letters—

Walt Whitman

I have sent the pictures for Toynbee Hall to Rev. Mr Barnett—Mrs. Gilchrist's address is 12 Well Road, Hampstead—You might take this letter, & read her as the latest—As I finish, Mrs. D[avis] brings in (presents from friends) a dish of grapes, & a great bunch of radiant yellow flowers mingled with "snow on the mountain"—

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. Whitman wrote to Mary Smith on August 8, 1885. Her letter to the poet on August 28 is apparently lost. For Toynbee Hall, see the letter from Whitman to Smith of July 20, 1885[back]


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