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Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 30 March 1876


Yesterday was a day for me dearest Friend—In the morning your letter, strong cheerful reassuring—dear letter. In the afternoon the books, I dont​ know how to settle down my thoughts calmly enough to write, nor how to lay down the books (with delicate yet serviceable exterior, with inscription making me so proud so joyous)

But there are a few things I want to say to you at  loc.02889.002_mflm.jpg once in regard to our coming to America. I will not act without "further advice from you"; but as to not resolving on it dear Friend I can't exactly obey that, for it has been my settled, steady purpose (resting on a deep strong faith) ever since 1869. Nor do I feel discouraged or surprised at what you say of American "crudeness," &c. (of which, in truth, one hears not a little in England.) I have not shut my eyes to the difficulties and trials  loc.02889.003_mflm.jpg & responsibilities (for the childrens​ sake) of the enterprise. I am not urged on by any discontent with old England or by any adverse circumstances here which I might hope to better there—my reasons, emotions, the sources of my strength and courage for the uprooting & transplanting—all are inclosed in those two volumes1 that lie before me on the table. That America has brought them forth makes me want to plant some, at least, of my children on her soil. I understand & believe in  loc.02889.004_mflm.jpg in & love her in & through them. They teach me to look beneath the surface & to get hints of the great future that is shaping itself out of the crude present & I believe we shall prove to be of the right sort to plant down there.—O to talk it all over with you dearest Friend here in London first; I feel as if that would really be—the joy the comfort of that. I cannot finish this today but send what I have written without delay that you may know of the safe arrival of the books.

With reverent grateful love from us all 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).


  • 1. During the centennial celebration of the U.S. in 1876, Whitman reissued the fifth edition of Leaves of Grass in the repackaged form of a "Centennial Edition" and "Author's Edition," with most copies personally signed by the poet. Two Rivulets was published as a companion volume to the book. Notable for its experimentations in form, typography, and printing convention, Whitman's two-volume set marks an important departure from previous publications of Leaves of Grass. For more information, see Frances E. Keuling-Stout, " Leaves of Grass, 1876, Author's Edition," "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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