Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Herbert Gilchrist, 11 March 1891

Date: March 11, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: upa.00090

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: Cristin Noonan, Andrew David King, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Camden N J1
March 11 '91

Y'r letter2 came & is welcomed.3 I am poorly yet—nothing very new—Harry S4 was here yesterday—the folks are well as usual—Geo:5 is getting along well—Harry has not found any place yet—Did you get the March Lippincott?6 I am sitting in the old chair in my Mickle st. den writing this—fine weather—

Walt Whitman

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 | artist | Centreport | Suffolk Co: New York. It is postmarked: CAMDEN, N.J. | MAR 11 | 6 PM | 91; CENTREPORT | N. Y. | MAR [illegible] | SUFFOLK [illegible]. [back]

2. This letter has not been located. [back]

3. At the time of this letter, Herbert Gilchrist had settled on Long Island and was attempting unsuccessfully to support himself as an artist. As Harrison Smith Morris observes, "[H]is life was really a veiled tragedy. . . . In the end he snuffed out his career, like a comedian who hides his grief under a courageous smile" (Walt Whitman: A Brief Biography with Reminiscences [Cambridge, Massachussets: Harvard University Press, 1929], 83–84). [back]

4. Walt Whitman met the 18-year-old Harry Lamb Stafford (1858–1918) in 1876, beginning a relationship which was almost entirely overlooked by early Whitman scholarship, in part because Stafford's name appears nowhere in the first six volumes of Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden—though it does appear frequently in the last three volumes, which were published only in the 1990s. Whitman occasionally referred to Stafford as "My (adopted) son" (as in a December 13, 1876, letter to John H. Johnston), but the relationship between the two also had a romantic, erotic charge to it. In 1883, Harry married Eva Westcott. For further discussion of Stafford, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Stafford, Harry L. (b.1858)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. George Stafford (1827–1892) was the father of Harry Stafford, a young man whom Whitman befriended in 1876 in Camden. Harry's parents, George and Susan Stafford, were tenant farmers at White Horse Farm near Kirkwood, New Jersey, where Whitman visited them on several occasions. For more on Whitman and the Staffords, see David G. Miller, "Stafford, George and Susan M.," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. In March 1891, Lippincott's published "Old Age Echoes," a cycle of four poems including "Sounds of the Winter," "The Unexpress'd," "Sail Out for Good, Eidólon Yacht," and "After the Argument," accompanied by an extensive autobiographical note called "Some Personal and Old-Age Memoranda." Also appearing in that issue was a piece on Whitman by Horace Traubel. [back]


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