Selected Criticism

Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)
Davey, Christina
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Philadelphia-born Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, a Quaker, was a political activist and an art historian and critic. She was well known in England for lectures on social reform (1885–1890) and in America for those on art criticism (1903–1904; 1909). As Mary Logan, she wrote most of her works about art, including Guide to the Italian Pictures at Hampton Court (1894) and "The New Art Criticism" (1895). She wrote travel books as Mary Berenson (1930; 1935; 1938). Ernest Samuels provides a useful list of many of Costelloe's works; however, Barbara Strachey should be consulted for more reliable biographical information.

Costelloe, daughter of Hannah Whitall and Robert Pearsall Smith, was educated at Smith and Harvard Annex (Radcliffe). She married Benjamin Francis Conn Costelloe in England (1885). Following the death of her first husband, Costelloe married Bernard Berenson in Italy (1900). Her friendship with Whitman began at Christmas time in 1882. He visited the Smith home in Germantown, Pennsylvania, at the invitation of Costelloe's father, who knew about his daughter's admiration for Whitman. Having read Leaves of Grass at Smith, Costelloe proclaimed herself a "Whitmanite" and eschewed social conventions and restrictions (Berenson 36). In 1889 Whitman praised Costelloe for pursuing activities outside her home and described her as "a true woman of the new aggressive type" (Traubel 188). In England, Costelloe helped promote interest in Whitman. Her article "Walt Whitman at Camden. By One who has been there" appeared in the 23 December 1886 Pall Mall Gazette, one of that periodical's series of works focusing on Whitman between late 1886 and mid-1887.

Costelloe became the poet's "staunchest living woman friend" (Correspondence 4:89).


Berenson, Mary. Mary Berenson: A Self-Portrait from Her Letters & Diaries. Ed. Barbara Strachey and Jayne Samuels. New York: Norton, 1983.

Samuels, Ernest. Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1979.

Strachey, Barbara. Remarkable Relations: The Story of the Pearsall Smith Family. London: Gollancz, 1980. Rpt. as Remarkable Relations: The Story of the Pearsall Smith Women. New York: Universe Books, 1982.

Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden. Ed. Sculley Bradley. Vol. 4. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1953.

Whitman, Walt. The Correspondence. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. 6 vols. New York: New York UP, 1961–1977.


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