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Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe to Walt Whitman, 21 August 1888

 loc_sf.00076_large.jpg Dear Mr. Whitman,

I am delighted with a great rain storm which has just come up & has forced us to send the horses back to the stable, because it gaves​ me a chance of sending a note to thee by this mid week's post to thamk​ thee for thy postal card of Aug. 4th,1 with its good news of strength to stand "The hottest day of the season."

I wish we could import a little of our cool, not to say cold, weather to the other side of the Allantic​ . The newspapers all speak of it as the 'bleak weather of July & August' & we have all been really suffering with cold almost ever since we came up to Wales. Still we have so many out-of-door pursuits that we like it better than very hot weather. We have discovered a boat on the lake, & have found out that the water is not too cold for bathing, & we have put the tennis court in order, so that in the brief intervals between the showers, we have a great many things to do. This week, however, the 'children' have deserted us: They have all gone off to Cornwall to be with a party of young Quakers who always assemble at Falmouth for the month of August. So Papa2 & the baby3 & Frank4 & I are left to our own devices. I cannot say we have done anything that savours of marked originality so far, as Frank & I have spent nearly our whole time doing work on the markets commission. I am engaged in a fierce contest with this typewriter, but I think I shall soon have conquered it far enough to write a respectable letter. At present I have to spell every wordl​ laboriously though, so I cannot say anything, I am afraid, to interest thee. But at any rate I can send warmest love from Papa & myself & tell thee that we think&​ talk constantly of thee.

Thy loving friend, Mary Whitall Costelloe

The rain has just cleared away, so I shall drive with this to the post.


Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." For more information about Costelloe, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. See Whitman's postcard to Costelloe of August 4, 1888. [back]
  • 2. Robert Pearsall Smith (1827–1898) was a Quaker who became an evangelical minister associated with the "Holiness movement." He was also a writer and businessman. Whitman often stayed at his Philadelphia home, where the poet became friendly with the Smith children—Mary, Logan, and Alys. For more information about Smith, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Robert Pearsall (1827–1898)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Rachel Pearsall Conn Costelloe (1887–1940), known as Ray Strachey, was the first daughter of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe. She would later become a feminist writer and politician. [back]
  • 4. Benjamin Francis Conn ("Frank") Costelloe (1854–1899), Mary Costelloe's first husband, was an English barrister and Liberal Party politician. [back]
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