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Anne Gilchrist to Walt Whitman, 26 October 1884

Dear Walt:

I don't suppose the enclosed will give you nearly so much pleasure as it gives me. But Villiers Stanford1 is, I think, the best composer England has produced since the days of Purcell & Blow, and your words will be sent home to hundreds & thousands who had not before seen them. How lovely the words read as themes for great music!

I have been staying with old friends who have a house you would enjoy—it stands all alone on the top of a heath-clad hill, with miles of coppice (young woods) below it, and spread out beyond is a rich valley with more wooded hills jutting out into it—and you see the storms a long way off travelling up from the sea, and you can wander for miles & miles through the woods or over the breezy hill—or, as you sit at your window, feel yourself in the very heart of a great, beautiful solitude. Very kind, warm friends, too, they are, who leave you as free as a bird to do what you like. I have had all the papers, dear friend, & have enjoyed them.

Now I am in the heart of the "Black Country," as we call it—black with the smoke of thousands of foundries & works of all kinds—staying with Percy & his wife. Percy2 is having a very arduous time here starting some Steel Works—& what with his men being inexperienced & times bad & the machinery not yet perfectly adjusted, he seems harassed night & day—for these things have to be kept going all night too—but I hope he will get into smoother waters soon. The little son is rosy & bright & healthy—goes to school now, which, being an only child, he enjoys mightily for the sake of the companionship of other boys.

Love from us all, dear friend. A. Gilchrist.

Grace3 & Herby4 well & busy when I left.

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. Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924) was a composor and conductor from Dublin, Ireland. [back]
  • 2. Percy Carlyle Gilchrist (1851–1935) was a British chemist and metallurgist, and the son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist. Along with his cousin, Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, he developed the Thomas-Gilchrist process of producing steel from phosphoric pig iron during the late 1870s. See Marion Walker Alcaro, Walt Whitman's Mrs. G: A Biography of Anne Gilchrist (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1991), 252n28. [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. 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]
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