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Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 24 January 1872

 loc_cb.00085.jpg Dear Friend,

I send you photographs of my eldest1 and youngest2 children I wish I had some worth sending of the other two. That of myself done in 1850 is a copy of a daguerrotype. The recent one was taken just a week or so before I broke down in my long illness & when I was struggling against a terrible sense of inward prostration, so it has not my natural expression, but I think you will like to have it rather than none, & the weather here is too gloomy for there to be any chance of a good one if I were to try again—Your few words lifted a heavy weight off me. Very few they are, dear friend: but knowing that I may give to every word you speak its fullest truest  loc_cb.00088.jpg meaning, the more I brood over them the sweeter do they taste. Still I am not as happy & content as I thought I should be if I could only know my words reached you & were welcome to you,—but restless, anxious impatient, looking so wistfully towards the letters each morning—above all longing, longing so for you to come—to come & see if you feel happy beside me: no more this painful struggle to put myself into words; but to let what I am & all my life speak to you. Only so can you judge whether I am indeed the woman capable of rising to the full height of great destiny, of justifying & fulfilling your grand thoughts of women. And see my faults flaws shortcomings too dear Friend. I feel a  loc_cb.00087.jpg an earnest wish you should do this so that there may be the broad unmovable foundation—rock of perfect truth & candour for our love. I do not fear.—I believe in a large all accepting because all comprehending love, a boundless faith in growth & development—in your judging "not as the judge judges but as the sunshine falling around me."3—To have you in the midst of us! we clustered round you shone upon, vivified, strengthened by your presence: surrounding you with an atmosphere of love & cheerful life.

When I wrote you in Nov.4 I was in lodgings in London having just accomplished the difficult task of finding a  loc_cb.00086.jpg house for us in London where rents are so high. And I have succeeded better than I anticipated for we find this a comfortable dear little home—small indeed but not so small as to interfere with health or comfort & at rent that I may safely undertake. My Husband5 was taken from us too young to be able to have made any provision for his children. I have a little of my own—about £80 a year: & for the rest depend upon my Mother6 whose only living child I am. And she by nature generous & self denying as well as prudent has never made anything but a pleasure of this & as long as she was able to see to her own affairs, was such a capital manager that she used to spare me about £150 out of an income of £350. But now though she retains her faculties in a wonderful degree for her years (just upon 86), she is no longer able  loc_cb.00034.jpg to do this & has put the management of the whole into my hands. And I, feeling that she needs and ought to have now, an easier scale of expenditure at Colne, have to manage a little more cleverly still to make a less sum serve for us. But I succeed capitally dear friend—do not want a better home, never get behind hand, & find it no hardship, but quite the contrary to have to spend a good deal of time & pains in domestic management. And then just to help me through at the right moment dear Per obtained in November a good opening in some large copper & iron mining & smelting works in South Wales at a salary upon which he can comfortably live  loc_cb.00035.jpg & he likes his work well—writes very cheerfully—lodges in a farm house in the midst of grand scenery, within a walk of the sea. So this enables me to give the girls7 a turn in education, for hitherto they have had hardly any teaching but mine. And I chose this part because there is a capital day school for them handy. And Herby8 walks in to the best drawing school in London, & is very diligent & happy at his work. His bent is so unmistakably strong. It was well I have had to be so busy this autumn & winter, dear Walt, for I suffered keenly, sometimes overwhelmingly, through the delay in my letters reaching you. What caused it? And when did you get the Sep.9 & Oct.10 letter & did you get the two copies that I, baffled & almost despairing sent of the Nov. one11?

O Good bye dear Friend Annie 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).


  • 1. Percy Carlyle Gilchrist (1851–1935) was a British chemist and metallurgist, and the son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist. Along with his cousin, Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, he developed the Thomas-Gilchrist process of producing steel from phosphoric pig iron during the late 1870s. See Marion Walker Alcaro, Walt Whitman's Mrs. G: A Biography of Anne Gilchrist (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1991), 252n28. [back]
  • 2. Grace "Giddy" Gilchrist (1859–1947) was the youngest child of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist. An aspiring singer, Grace trained as a contralto and married architect Albert Henry Frend in 1897, though the couple divorced twelve years later. Before her marriage to Frend, Grace became involved with playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950); an 1888 letter from Shaw to Grace's brother Herbert Gilchrist suggests that the Gilchrists may have disapproved of Shaw's relationship with Grace. [back]
  • 3. This line is from Whitman's poem, "By Blue Ontario's Shore." For more about the poem, see Kirsten Silva Gruesz, "By Blue Ontario's Shore (1856)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. See Gilchrist's letter to Whitman of November 27, 1871. [back]
  • 5. Alexander Gilchrist (1828–1861) was the biographer of William Blake and husband of Anne Gilchrist (1828–1895). [back]
  • 6. Henrietta Carwardine Burrows (1786–1875) was the mother of Anne Burrows Gilchrist. [back]
  • 7. Anne Gilchrist's daughters were Beatrice (1854–1881) and Grace (1859–1947). Whitman was fond of both girls, especially of Beatrice, whom he termed "the noble one." See the letter from Whitman to Harry Stafford of June 18–19, 1877. [back]
  • 8. 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). [back]
  • 9. See Gilchrist's letter to Whitman of September 3–6, 1871. [back]
  • 10. This letter has not been located. [back]
  • 11. Gilchrist may be referring to her letter to Whitman of November 27, 1871. [back]
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