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Walt Whitman to Mary Whitall Smith, 8 August 1885

 loc.01347.001_large.jpg Dear friend1

Your third letter ab't the Tennyson visit arrived today—& has already been re-read with eager interest2—as was the Toynbee Hall one also. I now anticipate the one ab't your meeting Mrs. Gilchrist.—Thanks, dear girl, for the past & thanks for those to come—Since you left we've had over three weeks of extremely hot weather—it affected me badly, caused some fits, unconsciousness, falling &c—I can't go out, which is quite a cross—but no doubt in due time things will return to their usual routine. I am sitting here down stairs by the window in the little front room, writing this—Mrs. Davis has just brought me a beautiful perfect middling sized sun flower—it looks like a curious golden face turning toward me from its jar on the window sill—Fine day this for the Grant funeral show in New York which is going on as I write3—O I nearly forgot to mention the cyclone & destruction, brief but terrible, of last Monday4—they did not touch these premises—but came very near.  loc.01347.002_large.jpg Well, Mary, dear girl, I am making out a stupid letter—but I was determined to write something—Affectionate remembrances to Alys, the Father and Mother, Logan, and to Mr C5

Walt Whitman  loc.01347.003_large.jpg  loc.01347.004_large.jpg

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. This letter is addressed: Miss Mary Whitall Smith | by R Pearsall Smith | Care J S Morgan & Co: | Bankers | London | England. It is postmarked: [illegible] | PAID; LONDON | 7; LONDON. E. C. | L | AU2085 | AA. [back]
  • 2. The Smiths went to see Tennyson with a letter of introduction from Whitman; see Mary Whitall Smith's letter on July 25. [back]
  • 3. The General died on July 23. [back]
  • 4. Whitman cited the cyclone in his Commonplace Book on August 3 (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 5. Benjamin F. C. Costelloe, Mary's future husband, called on Whitman with her on September 11, 1884 (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
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