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Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 5 August 1884

Dearest Friend:

The notion one is going to write a nice long letter is fatal to writing at all. And so I mean to scribble something, somehow, a little oftener & make up in quantity for quality! For after all the great thing, the thing one wants, is to meet—if not in the flesh—then in the spirit. A word will do it. I am getting on—my heart is in my work—& though I have been long about it, it won't be long—but I think & hope it will be strong. Quite a sprinkling of American friends—some new ones this spring—among them Mr. & Mrs. Pennell1 from Philadelphia—whom you know—we like them well—hope to see them again & again. Also Miss Keyse (her sister married Emerson's son) from Concord, and the Lesleys—Mary Lesley has married & gone to the West—St. Paul—has just got a little son.2

How does the "little shanty" answer, I wonder? Herby3 has been painting some charming little bits in an old terraced garden here. I do wish you could hear Giddy4 sing now; I am sure her voice would "go to the right spot," as you used to say. Good-bye, dearest friend. Love from all & most from

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. Joseph Pennell (1857–1926) was an American etcher and lithographer, who produced a number of books in collaboration with his wife, Elizabeth Robins Pennell (1855–1936), an American writer; the Pennells lived mostly in London, where they were friends of James McNeill Whistler, whose biography they wrote. Pennell created several of the illustrations for Richard Maurice Bucke's Walt Whitman (1883). [back]
  • 2. "Miss Keyse" is Alicia Mulliken Keyes (1855–1924), an artist from Concord, Massachusetts, who went to Europe in 1884 to broaden her knowledge of art; she was the sister of Annie Shepherd Keyes, who married Edward Waldo Emerson in 1874. Mary Lesley Ames (1855–1921) was a social welfare activist and charity worker. She had married Charles Wilberforce Ames, a publisher from Minnesota, in 1883 and had given birth to a son named Theodore. Lesley Ames's father was Professor John Peter Lesley (1819–1903), a state geologist at the University of Pennsylvania and secretary of the American Philosophical Society from 1858 to 1885. [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. 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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