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Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 28 August 1875

 loc_cb.00355.jpg My dearest Friend

Your letter came to me just when I most needed the comfort of it—when I was watching and tending my dear Mother as she gently, slowly, with but little suffering, sank to rest. There was no sick bed to sit by.—We got her up and out into the air and sunshine for an hour or two even the day before she died—No  loc_cb.00358.jpg disease, only the stomach could not do its work any longer & for the last three weeks she lived wholly on stimulants, suffering somewhat from sickness. She drew her last breath very gently, before daybreak on the 15th inst.​ , in her 90th year, which she had entered in Jan​ . She looked very beautiful in death, notwithstanding her great age—as well she might—tranquil sunset that it was of a beautiful day—a fulfilled life—joy & delight of her father in youth (who used to call her the apple of his eye) good wife, devoted, self-wise loc_cb.00359.jpgsacrificing, mother—patient, courageous sufferer through thirty years of chronic rheumatism (which however neutralized & ceased its pains the last few years) unsurpassed & indeed I think unsurpassable, in conscientiousness—in the strong sense of duty & perfect obedience to that highest sense—she is one of those who amply justify your large faith in women.

I do not need to tell you anything my dearest friend—you know all—I feel your strong comforting hand—I press it very close.

I had all my children with me at the funeral— loc_cb.00356.jpgO the comfort your dear letter was & is to me. Thinking over & over the few words you say of yourself—& what is said in the paper (so eagerly read—every word so welcome) I cannot help fancying that the return of the distressing sensations in the head must be caused by your having worked at the book—the "Two Rivulets"1 (I dearly love the title & the idea of bringing the Poems & Prose together so)—that you must be more patient with yourself and submit still to perfect rest—& that perhaps in regard to the stomach—you have not enough adapted your diet to the privation of exercise—that you must be more indulgent to the stomach too in the sense of giving it only the very easiest & simplest work to do.

Your own loving Annie.

My children join their love with mine.

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. Published as a "companion volume" to the 1876 Author's edition of Leaves of Grass, Two Rivulets consisted of an "intertwining of the author's characteristic verse, alternated throughout with prose," as one critic from the The New York Daily Tribune wrote on February 19, 1876 (4). For more information on Two Rivulets, see Frances E. Keuling-Stout, "Two Rivulets, Author's Edition [1876]" and "Preface to Two Rivulets [1876]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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