Skip to main content

Herbert Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 30 September 1884

 loc.02189.001_large.jpg Dear old Walt,

I dont seem to have heard from you for a long while. In a letter I had from Mrs Sd2—she mentioned that you were prevented from coming to Glendale the day fixed but wld​ come the following. How I should like to see you all again—the first picture that I sell for a decent sum I shall come—Just now I was engaged upon a picture of "Juliet" life size, "Juliet comes over the balcony and takes her last look at her husband," Oh God, I have an ill divining soul".... I believe that the picture will make my name as an artist, a few months will show!

Mother3 is staying away, change  loc.02189.002_large.jpg will do her good, has been writing pretty hard of late, something about you, sent it to the Nineteenth Century. An article of hers is coming out in the November Blackwood "Three Glimpses of a New England Village: editor kept it a year so it was a very pleasant surprize to all of us—its acceptance.

You dont seem to have been busy with your pen this summer. You must come over and draw a final inspiration from dear grimy, glorious, immense old London. Fleet Street will give you a new sensation I warrant you, if you want one, that is; for there is only one London all foreigners friendly and otherwise are agreed upon that; there  loc.02189.003_large.jpg may be better cities but there are none the least like it. Your poems are gaining ground a little here I think; sort of standard works... We have had a smart skirmish with our publisher. Made him jump I fancy—but they—publishers—are a damned set of thieves.

Dined out in Hampstead the other night with young Bigelow—the exministers son—of the dashing fashionable order; with more aplomb than most New Yorkers. Young B. is rather anti democratic I should fear, remarked that Mathew Arnold was not a gentleman, on being asked why—because he dined out in Chicago in a shooting jacket.


Mr. and Mrs Joseph Pennell4 spent a couple of evenings with us a few weeks since, nice genuine people: homely, but homliness illumined with depth of feeling and sincerity of aim, altogether a remarkable and interesting Philadelphian.

Tell me about yourself when you write.

Yours affectionately, Herbert H Gilchrist. Walt Whitman.  loc.02189.005_large.jpg  loc.02189.006_large.jpg

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 letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden (Post Office) | New Jersey | United States America. The envelope is endorsed: from Herbert Gilchrist | Sept '84. It is postmarked: LONDON [illegible] | H 12-[illegible] | OC 1[illegible] | 84; PAID | B | ALL; NEW YORK | OCT | 12; CAMDEN, N.J. | OCT | 13 | 7 AM | 1884 | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. Susan (1833–1910) and George Stafford (1827–1892) were the parents of Whitman's young friend, Harry Stafford. Whitman often visited the family at their farm at Timber Creek in Laurel Springs (near Glendale), New Jersey, and was sometimes accompanied by Herbert Gilchrist; in the 1880s, the Staffords sold the farm and moved to nearby Glendale. For more, 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]
  • 3. Anne Burrows Gilchrist (1828–1885) was the author of one of the first significant pieces of criticism on Leaves of Grass, titled "A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman (From Late Letters by an English Lady to W. M. Rossetti)," The Radical 7 (May 1870), 345–59. Gilchrist's long correspondence with Whitman indicates that she had fallen in love with the poet after reading his work; when the pair met in 1876 when she moved to Philadelphia, Whitman never fully returned her affection, although their friendship deepened after that meeting. For more information on their relationship, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Anne Burrows (1828–1885)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Joseph Pennell (1857–1926) was an American author and etcher. He and his wife Elizabeth Robins were friends of Whitman in Camden. [back]
Back to top