Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Herbert Gilchrist, 14 September 1886

Date: September 14, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: upa.00083

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, 1842–1957, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania. 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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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328 Mickle Street
Camden New Jersey U S America1
Sept. 14 '86—

Yours rec'd—The anecdote ab't Sir E T at Washington is substantially correct.2 (He knew who the lady was). You are all wrong in your literary estimate of Dr. B3—but I am glad you refused the letters for publication—They were strictly private4

Walt Whitman

Don't forget my circular specifying all the English subscribers—love & thanks to W M R5

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).


1. This postal card is addressed: Herbert H Gilchrist | 12 Well Road | Hampstead | London England. It is postmarked: CAMDEN | SEP | 14 | 4 30 PM | 1886 | N.J. [back]

2. Sir Edward Thornton (1817–1906) was the English envoy at Washington from 1867 to 1881. According to the anecdote, Sir Edward, upon observing an intoxicated lady surrounded by jeering people in the streets of Washington, descended from his carriage and escorted her home (Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist, Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings [1887], 233). [back]

3. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. See the letter from Whitman to Herbert Gilchrist of August 23, 1886[back]

5. This postscript was added, in red ink, at the top of the postal card. W M R is William Michael Rossetti, the editor of the first British edition of Whitman's work and brother of the poets Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti. For more, see Sherwood Smith, "Rossetti, William Michael [1829–1915]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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