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Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 27 January 1879

My Dearest Friend:

Are you never coming?1 I do long & long to see you. I am beginning to like New York better than I did and to have pleasant times. Had some friendly chats with Kate Hillard2 last week, & went with her to call on Mrs. Putman Jacobi,3 who has a little baby 3 weeks old & is still in her room, but has got through very nicely—She talks well, doesn't she? & has a face with plenty of individuality in it. Also we went together on Saturday again to one of Miss Booth's4 receptions, & there met Mrs. Croly,5 & had the best talk about you I have had this long while. I like her cordiality—we are going to her reception on Sunday & to one at Mrs. Bigelow's6 Wednesday. It is true there is not much that can be called social enjoyment at these crowded receptions, but they enable you to start many acquaintanceships, some of which turn out lasting good. We had some fine harp playing & a witty recital at Miss Booth's. Miss Selous is back in America. I should not wonder if she comes on here soon. Bee7 is living at the Dispensary now, instead of in the Hospital, & finds the comparatively outdoor life—& the freedom from being "whistled" for all hours of the day and night as she was there—a wonderful refreshment. That coloured lady, Mrs. Wiley, whom you met once at our house, is her fellow labourer & room mate at the Dispensary. Bee likes her much. I am not sure whether you know the Gilders?8 We spent a couple of hours delightfully with them yesterday afternoon. She has a very attractive face, a musical voice, & such a sweet smile. They are going to Europe for a four months' holiday this spring. I admire the simple, unconventional way in which they live. Herby9 is working away in the best spirits. He is going to paint that bowling alley subject on a large scale. Giddy10 is sitting by me with her nose in the French Dictionary, working away at a novel of Balzac's. I have had scarcely any letters from England lately!—and the papers bring none but dismal tidings; nevertheless I don't believe our sun is going down yet awhile—we shall emerge from this dark crisis the better, not the worse, because compelled to grapple with the evils that have caused it, instead of passively enduring them. Please give friendly remembrance from me to your brothers & sister. Have you been at Kirkwood lately, I wonder? I suppose Timber Creek is frozen over. Good-bye, dear Friend. Write soon, or better still Come!

A. Gilchrist.


  • 1. 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). [back]
  • 2. Katharine Hillard (1839–1915) was the translator of Dante's Banquet (1889) and the editor of An Abridgment by Katharine Hillard of the Secret Doctrine: A Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1907). A Brooklyn resident, she was a friend of Whitman's close friend, the women's rights activist Abby Price (see Whitman's September 9, 1873, letter to Price). According to a letter from Whitman's mother—Louisa Van Velsor Whitman—to Helen Price on November 26, 1872, the Prices expected that Arthur Price and Katharine Hillard would marry (Pierpont Morgan Library). Whitman had known Hillard's writings since 1871 and mentioned her in his June 23, 1873, letter to his friend, the former publisher and fellow clerk Charles Eldridge. Hillard and Whitman first met in person on February 28, 1876, and Whitman sent her a copy of Leaves of Grass on July 27, 1876 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). Writing to Whitman on September 13, 1871, Moncure D. Conway, who acted as Whitman's agent in England, quoted from a letter he had received from Katharine Hillard: "I have made a discovery since I have been here [in the Adirondacks], and that is, that I never half appreciated Walt Whitman's poetry till now, much as I fancied I enjoyed it. To me he is the only poet fit to be read in the mountains, the only one who can reach and level their lift, to use his own words, to pass and continue beyond." [back]
  • 3. Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi (1842–1906) was a physician, author, and one of the leading feminists of her day. She was the daughter of George Palmer Putnam of Wiley and Putnam, the New York publishing firm. [back]
  • 4. Mary Louise Booth (1831–1889) was the first editor of the New York-based Harper's Bazaar, one of the first fashion magazines of its time. Booth also translated around 40 works of French literature and wrote a history of New York. For more on Booth and the Bazaar, see Paula Bernat Bennett, "Subtle Subversion: Mary Louise Booth and Harper's Bazaar (1867–1889)," in Blue Pencils & Hidden Hands: Women Editing Periodicals, 1830–1910 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004), 225–247. [back]
  • 5. Jane Cunningham Croly (1829–1901) was a journalist, and was also the wife of David Goodman Croly, who had served as editor of the New York Daily Graphic. [back]
  • 6. Jane Tunis Poultney Bigelow (1829–1889) was the wife of John Bigelow, former American minister to France (1865–1866) and coeditor, with William Cullen Bryant, of the New York Evening Post. [back]
  • 7. After graduating from the Woman's Medical College of Philadelphia in March 1878, Beatrice Gilchrist became an intern at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston. Her twelve-month internship required her to spend three months at the outpatient dispensary. See Walt Whitman's Mrs. G: A Biography of Anne Gilchrist (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1991), 184–185, 190–191. [back]
  • 8. Helena de Kay Gilder (1846–1916), the wife of poet and editor Richard Watson Gilder, was a painter as well as the founder of the Society of American Artists and the Art Student's League. She worked closely with her husband, designing the text illustrations for all of his books of poetry. [back]
  • 9. 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]
  • 10. Grace Gilchrist Frend (1859–1947) was one of Anne Gilchrist's four children and Herbert's sister. She became a contralto. She was the author of "Walt Whitman as I Remember Him" (Bookman 72 [July 1927], 203–205). [back]
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