Skip to main content

Mary Grace Thomas to Walt Whitman, 30 July 1886

 loc_vm.00425_large.jpg My dear Mr Whitman,

I send you Alys'2 circular letter and will you please mail it to Miss Nicholson after you have read it. Alys must be having a delightful time, besides going through a most interesting experience. I am spending my summer among the Blue Ridge mountains in a place that belongs jointly to my mother and my aunt Mrs Pearsall Smith.3 The country is beautiful, and it is always quite cool.

I don't know whether you remember a young man whom you met at my Uncles several times Tom Worthington by name.  loc_vm.00426_large.jpg Alys he and I came over to see you once last winter. Both he and I want you to know that we are engaged to be married.4 I still intend to continue my course at Bryn Mawr College which will be three years longer and then I shall most likely be married. My brother Bond, who is engaged to Miss Edith Carpenter5 one of Mariechen's6 Smith College friends expects to be married on the 13th of October, and he and Edith intend to live in Millville New Jersey.

I hope, Mr. Whitman that you have not been sick this summer, but I have been afraid that these last few hot days have been hard for you; if you ever have time I wish you would let me know how you are, but this I shan't expect  loc_vm.00427_large.jpg you to do, because I know how over run you are with letters, so I shall have to wait till I come to Philadelphia next October and find out for my self. Tom Worthington is spending the summer with us and he wishes to be remembered to you, he is just at this moment writing a letter to the Nation on the labor question which has been on his mind for some time.

Hoping again that you are better

I am, very sincerely your friend Mary Grace Thomas. Blue Ridge Summit Franklin Co Pa.  loc_vm.00428_large.jpg  loc_vm.00423_large.jpg  loc_vm.00424_large.jpg

Mary Grace Thomas was the niece of Robert Pearsall Smith and the sister of the influential American suffragist (and President of Bryn Mawr College) Martha Carey Thomas.


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Mr Walt Whitman | Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: [illegible] | JUL | [illegible] | 1886 | PA.; CAMD[illegible] | JU[illegible] | [illegible] | 4PM | 1886 | REC'[illegible]. [back]
  • 2. Alys Pearsall Smith (1867–1951) was a social activist and the wife of philosopher Bertrand Russell. Smith was the daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, a Quaker religious leader, evangelist, map publisher, and friend of Whitman. [back]
  • 3. Hannah Whitall Smith was the wife of Robert Pearsall Smith, and mother of Mary and Alys. [back]
  • 4. The couple had three children but in 1896 Worthington divorced her—a scandal in the orthodox Quaker family. [back]
  • 5. Edith Carpenter (1863–1902) was a writer and social activist who would marry Grace Thomas's brother Bond Thomas. She committed suicide in 1902. [back]
  • 6. Mariechen was the family nickname for Alys Smith's sister, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945), who was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1862–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
Back to top