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Walt Whitman to Katharine Hillard, 15 February 1876

 loc.02311.001_large.jpg Dear Miss Hillard:

I have received your letter, & am pleased at the prospect of meeting you at Mr. and Mrs. Lesley's2—say on the 28th, at bet. 12 and 1. (Should I not feel well enough to get over, I will send you a note, & you must then come & see me here. It is easily findable & reachable from Philadelphia.)

Walt Whitman  loc.02311.002_large.jpg  loc.02311.003_large.jpg  loc.02311.004_large.jpg

Katharine Hillard (1839–1915) was the translator of Dante's Banquet (1889) and the editor of An Abridgment by Katharine Hillard of the Secret Doctrine: A Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1907). A Brooklyn resident, she was a friend of Whitman's close friend, the women's rights activist Abby Price (see Whitman's September 9, 1873, letter to Price). According to a letter from Whitman's mother—Louisa Van Velsor Whitman—to Helen Price on November 26, 1872, the Prices expected that Arthur Price and Katharine Hillard would marry (Pierpont Morgan Library). Whitman had known Hillard's writings since 1871 and mentioned her in his June 23, 1873, letter to his friend, the former publisher and fellow clerk Charles Eldridge. Hillard and Whitman first met in person on February 28, 1876, and Whitman sent her a copy of Leaves of Grass on July 27, 1876 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). Writing to Whitman on September 13, 1871, Moncure D. Conway, who acted as Whitman's agent in England, quoted from a letter he had received from Katharine Hillard: "I have made a discovery since I have been here [in the Adirondacks], and that is, that I never half appreciated Walt Whitman's poetry till now, much as I fancied I enjoyed it. To me he is the only poet fit to be read in the mountains, the only one who can reach and level their lift, to use his own words, to pass and continue beyond."


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Miss Kate Hillard, | 186 Remsen street, | Brooklyn, | New York. It is postmarked: Camden | Feb 15 | N.J. | Brooklyn | FEB | 16 | [illegible] AM | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. Professor John Peter Lesley (1819–1903) of the University of Pennsylvania was appointed state geologist in 1874. He was also secretary of the American Philosophical Society from 1858 to 1885. In 1849, Lesley married Susan Inches Lyman (1823–1904), the daughter of Judge Joseph Lyman (1767–1847) of Northampton, Mass. His daughters were Margaret White Lesley Bush-Brown and Mary Lesley Ames (both mentioned in Whitman's February 29, 1876, letter to his friend Ellen O'Connor). The English writer Anne Gilchrist spoke glowingly of the "delightful family circle" of the Lesleys (Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist, Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (1887), 228–229). [back]
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