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Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 23 October 1871

 loc_cb.00067.jpg Dear Friend.

I wrote you a letter the 6th September1 & would fain know whether it has reached your hand. If it have not, I will write its contents again quickly to you—if it have, I will wait your time with courage with patience for an answer; but spare me the needless suffering of uncertainty on this point & let me have one line, one word of assurance that I am no longer hidden from you by a thick cloud—I from thee—not thou from me: for I that have never set eyes upon thee, all the Atlantic flowing between us yet cleave closer than those that stand nearest & dearest around thee—love thee day & night:—last thoughts first thoughts, my soul's passionate yearning toward thy divine Soul, every hour, every  loc_cb.000110.jpg deed and thought—my love for my children, my hopes aspirations for them all taking new shape new height through this great love My Soul has staked all upon it. In dull dark moods when I cannot as it were see thee, still, still always a dumb blind yearning towards thee—still it comforts me to touch, to press to me the beloved books—like a child holding some hand in the dark—it knows not whose—but knows it is enough—knows it is a dear strong, comforting hand. Do not say I am forward, or that I lack pride because I tell this love to thee who have never sought or made sign of desiring to seek me. Oh for  loc_cb.00069.jpg all that this love is my pride my glory. Source of sufferings and joys that cannot put themselves into words—Besides it is not true thou has not sought or loved me. For when I read the divine poems I feel all folded round in thy love: I feel often as if thou wast pleading as passionately for the love of the woman that can understand thee—that I know not how to bear the yearning answering tenderness that fills my breast. I know that a woman may without hurt to her pride—without stain or blame tell her love  loc_cb.00068.jpg to thee. I feel for a certainty that she may. Try me for this life my darling—see if I cannot so live, so grow, so learn, so love that when I die you will say—"This woman has grown to be a very part of me. My soul must have her loving companionship everywhere & in all things. I alone & she alone are not complete identities—it is I and her together in a new divine perfect union that form the one complete identity."

I am yet young enough to bear thee children my darling if God should so bless me. And would yield my life for this cause with serene joy if it were so appointed, if that were the price for thy having a "perfect child"—knowing my darlings would all be safe & happy in thy loving care—planted down in America.


Let me have a few words directly dear Friend. I shall get them by the middle of November. I shall have to go to London about then or a bit later—to find a house for us—I only came to the old home here from which I have been absent nearly four years to wind up matters & prepare for a move, for there is nothing to be had in the way of educational advantages here—it has been a beautiful survey for the children, but it is not what  loc_cb.00023.jpg they want now. But we leave with regret for it is one of the sweetest wildest spots in England though only 40 miles from London.

good bye dear friend, Anne Gilchrist

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).


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