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Alys W. Smith to Walt Whitman, 13 June 1890

 loc_jc.00059_large.jpg Insert with notes June 21 1890 Dear Mr. Whitman—

I simply hated to take leave of you. My visits to you this winter have been such a pleasure to me & it is one of my greatest regrets in leaving America that I must leave you behind. If only Camden were a  loc_jc.00060_large.jpg little near London! I hoped that perhaps I could get over to see you once again, but I was kept too busy with the graduation just at the last. I hope you saw the account of it all in the Ledger.

We have been at sea nearly a week, & we hope to reach Southampton on Sunday.  loc_jc.00061_large.jpg I can hardly realize that I shall see all my dear family so soon. The voyage has been rough & uneventful, except for three icebergs & two whales!

I do hope you will keep well this summer thro' all the hot weather, dear Mr. Whitman.

You must send us an occasional postal card to let us know how  loc_jc.00062_large.jpg you are. I shall be quite proud to be able to give all your London friends the latest news of you.

Please give my love to Mrs. Davis,2 & keep a great deal for yourself, my dear, dear friend.

Yours most affectionately Alys W. Smith

Alyssa ("Alys") Whitall Pearsall Smith (1867–1951) was born in Philadelphia and became a Quaker relief organizer. She attended Bryn Mawr College and was a graduate of the class of 1890. She and her family lived in Britain for two years during her childhood and again beginning in 1888. She married the philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1894; the couple later separated, and they divorced in 1921. Smith also served as the chair of a society committee that set up the "Mothers and Babies Welcome" (the St Pancras School for Mothers) in London in 1907; this health center, dedicated to reducing the infant mortality rate, provided a range of medical and educational services for women. Smith was the daughter of Robert Pearsall and Hannah Whitall Smith, and she was the sister of Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945), the political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend."


  • 1. The SS Eider was a German ocean liner built in 1884 and capable of carrying over 1200 passengers. It was lost in 1892 in a spectacular shipwreck off the Isle of Wight, England; all passengers and the entire crew were miraculously rescued. [back]
  • 2. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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