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Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, September 1877

 loc_tb.00598.jpg Dearest Friend

I have had joyful news today; Percy's1 wife2 has a fine little boy—it was born on the 10th, and Norah got through well & is doing nicely—so I feel very happy—

Since then Per​ has gone to Paris where he is to read a paper before the "Iron and Steel Institute," on the Elimination of phosphorus from Iron"—which is also a little triumph of another kind for him—for the Council which accepted his paper is composed of eminent English Scientists & eminent foreign ones will hear it.—I need not tell  loc_tb.00599.jpg you it is indescribably lovely here now—no doubt Kirkwood3 is the same—the light so brilliant and yet soft—the rich autumn tints just beginning to appear—the temperature delicious—crisp & bracing yet genial—

The throng of people is gone—but a few of the pleasantest of the old set remain—& a few interesting new ones have come—among them Mrs. Dexter from Boston,4 who was a Miss Ticknor, daughter of the author of the book on Spanish literature5—she and her husband full of interesting talk—Also Mr Martin Brimms & his  loc_tb.00600.jpg wife6—a fine specimen of a leading Bostonian—Besides these also a Physician from Florida whom I much admire—with a beautiful firm tenor voice—very handsome & graceful too a true southerner I should say—(but of Scotch extraction).

Next week we go to Boston—

I went over the Lunatic Asylum7 here the other day & saw some strange sad sights—some figures crouched down in attitudes of such profound dejection I shall never forget them—some very bright & talkative. It is said to be the best managed in America. Dr. Earle,8 who is at the head, is a man of  loc_tb.00601.jpg splendid capacity for the post—a noble looking old man (uncle of those Miss Chases9 you met at our house)—

I can't settle to anything or think of any thing since I received Per's letter but the baby & Norah—

Love to you & to Mrs. Whitman10 & Hattie11 & Jessie.12

Good bye dear Friend. Anne Gilchrist.

Send me a line soon

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 the son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, the only of their four children who did not accompany their mother to Philadelphia in 1876 when she met Whitman, as Percy Gilchrist was newly married to Norah Fitzmaurice at the time. At about the same time, Percy Gilchrist collaborated with his cousin Sidney Gilchrist Thomas on refining the Bessemer process for the mass production of steel from 1875 to 1877. [back]
  • 2. Norah Gilchrist, née Fitzmaurice, was the wife of Anne Gilchrist's son Percy Carlyle Gilchrist. [back]
  • 3. This is a reference to the Stafford family's farm in Glendale, New Jersey, where Whitman spent a great deal of time in the late 1870s. He used various names to refer to the farm, including White Horse, Timber Creek, and Kirkwood. [back]
  • 4. Eliza Sullivan (Ticknor) Dexter (1833–1880) was the wife of William Sohier Dexter, a US lawyer. The couple had four children: Alice, George, Rose, and Phillip. Not much is known about Eliza Dexter's life. [back]
  • 5. George Ticknor (1791–1871) was an academic who specialized in Spanish literature. The book Gilchrist is referring to is probably History of Spanish Literature, Ticknor's best-known work. [back]
  • 6. As yet we have no information about these people. [back]
  • 7. Northampton State Hospital was a historic psychiatric hospital outside of Northampton, Massachusetts. The hospital building was constructed in 1856. It operated until 1993, and the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. [back]
  • 8. Dr. Pliny Earle (1809–1892) was an American physician and psychiatrist. Earle was appointed as the superintendent and physician-in-chief of Northampton State Hospital in 1864. Earle was also a founding member of the American Medical Association, the New York Academy of Medicine, and the New England Psychological Society. [back]
  • 9. As yet we have no information about these people. [back]
  • 10. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Whitman's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. Their son, Walter Orr Whitman, was born in 1875 but died the following year. A second son was stillborn. Whitman lived in Camden, New Jersey, with George and Louisa from 1873 until 1884, when George and Louisa moved to a farm outside of Camden and Whitman decided to stay in the city. Louisa and Whitman had a warm relationship during the poet's final decades. For more, see Karen Wolfe, "Whitman, Louisa Orr Haslam (Mrs. George) (1842–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 11. Mannahatta Whitman (1860–1886) was Walt Whitman's niece. She was the first daughter born to the poet's brother, Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890), and Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman (1836–1873). [back]
  • 12. Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the second and youngest daughter of Whitman's brother Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890) and Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873). [back]
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