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Walt Whitman to Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, 27 July 1884

 loc.01340.001_large.jpg Dear friend

Your letters have been rec'd1 & Alys's2 also—& have given me comfort—So full of living buoyancy & youth—I see those qualities—or the tally of them—are the important matter, & then the circumstances & happenings may be whatever may chance—The son [—] a friend of mine [—] of the proprietor of the paper here asked me to "help him out" in yesterday's paper3—so I gave him the letter to print—I enclose you the slip—how well & off-hand it reads  loc.01340.002_large.jpg—I am living here in my den in Mickle Street the same as ever—A little episode—the 9-month-old baby grandson of Mrs. Lay (my housekeeper) was attacked with cholera infantum & brain trouble a week ago—the doctor insisted on a change of locale—they lived in hot close rooms—so the babe & mother & two other children are here the past week—& the babe (an exceptionally fine one), is out of danger—but it has been a close shave—the doctor comes twice a day—says it has been this house & back yard, (very nice & breezy—we have had a hammock swung there), that has done most of the curing—Are you interested in the episode? I have been much.4

Love to Alys, Logan & all— W W

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. These letters appear to be lost. [back]
  • 2. Alys Pearsall Smith (1867–1951) was a social activist and the wife of philosopher Bertrand Russell. Smith was the daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, a Quaker religious leader, evangelist, map publisher, and friend of Whitman. [back]
  • 3. Probably Harry Bonsall, the son of the owner of the Camden Daily Post. No article by Whitman, though, could be located in the newspaper. [back]
  • 4. The baby, Harry Lay, died on August 7 and was buried three days later (Whitman's Commonplace Book). During June and July Whitman was having his new "shanty" repaired. Peter Doyle called on June 4, Edward Carpenter was in Camden from June 18 to 20, and Whitman's brother Jeff and his two daughters arrived on June 20 (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
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