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Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 5 April 1884

My Dearest Friend:

Those few words of yours to Herby1 "tasted good" to us2—few, but enough, seeing that we can fill out between the lines with what you have given us of yourself forever & always in your books—& that is how I comfort myself for having so few letters. But I turn many wistful thoughts toward America, and were not I & mine bound here by unseverable ties, did we not seem to grow & belong here as by a kind of natural destiny that has to be fulfilled very cheerfully, could I make America my home for the sake of being near you in body as I am in heart & soul—but Time has good things in store for us sooner or later, I doubt not. I could hardly express to you how welcome is the thought of death to me—not in the sense of any discontent with life—but as life with fresh energies & wider horizon & hand in hand again with those that are gone on first.

Herby found the little bit of gray cloth very useful—but one day save him an old suit. Your figure in the picture is, I think, a fair suggestion of one aspect of you; but not, could not of course be, an adequate portrait. He will never rest till he has done his best to achieve that. As soon as he can afford it (for it is a very slow business indeed for a young artist to make money in England, though when he does begin he is better paid than in America) he means to run over to see you. He says he should like always to spend his winters in New York. I say how very highly I prize that last slip you sent me, "A backward glance on my own road"?3 It both corroborates & explains much that I feel very deeply.—If you are seeing Mrs. Whitman,4 please say her letter was a pleasure & that I shall write again before very long. I feel as if this letter would never find you—be sure & let us know your whereabouts.

Remembrance & love.

Good-bye, dear Walt. Anne Gilchrist.

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. 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]
  • 2. Anne Gilchrist is likely referencing Whitman's letter to her son, February 12, 1884. [back]
  • 3. "A Backward Glance on My Own Road," The Critic, 4 (5 January 1884), 1–2. [back]
  • 4. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Walt's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. For more information on Louisa, 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]
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