Skip to main content

William Michael Rossetti to Walt Whitman, 25 August 1885

Dear Whitman,

You will believe that I received with pride and warm feeling the love which you sent me in a letter to Gilchrist,1 now published in the Athenaeum; and that I reciprocate your love with reverential affection.2

That movement for a few English people to express in a practical form the feeling which they entertain towards you has not as yet taken any extended development—nothing I believe having been done outside a few general paragraphs in journals. Gilchrist will now be taking steps in a more detailed and direct way: from him and his mother3 you will no doubt hear many particulars from time to time.

The sums which have as yet come into my hands as Treasurer are £22.2.6. I beg to forward this amount in the within form—being

  • 1. 3 Post-Office orders which will be made good to you upon your signing them, and presenting them at Camden—and
  • 2. A Brank-draft which, as I am advised, you can get cashed in Camden or Philadelphia.
The draft comes from Charles Aldrich,4 of Webster City, Iowa, who had an interview with you some months ago, and wrote me several interesting details about it. Indeed Mr. Aldrich's letter was the immediate incentive and opportunity for Mrs. Gilchrist and the rest of us to bestir ourselves, and see who among us would honour himself by associating his name in this small way with yours.

I enclose a little list of names, and remain, like so many others who have hearts to feel and ears to hear,

Your lifelong debtor, W. M. Rossetti

William Michael Rossetti (1829–1915), brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti, was an English editor and a champion of Whitman's work. In 1868, Rossetti edited Whitman's Poems, selected from the 1867 Leaves of Grass. Whitman referred to Rossetti's edition as a "horrible dismemberment of my book" in his August 12, 1871, letter to Frederick S. Ellis. Nonetheless, the edition provided a major boost to Whitman's reputation, and Rossetti would remain a staunch supporter for the rest of Whitman's life, drawing in subscribers to the 1876 Leaves of Grass and fundraising for Whitman in England. For more on Whitman's relationship with Rossetti, see Sherwood Smith, "Rossetti, William Michael (1829–1915)," 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. Whitman's letter to Herbert Gilchrist from August 1, 1885, detailing the poet's attitude toward the "free will offering" of financial support from his admirers, was reprinted in the London Athenaeum of August 22, 1885, as well as the New York Times a few days later. [back]
  • 3. 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). [back]
  • 4. Charles Aldrich (1828–1908) was an ornithologist, a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, an infantry captain in the Civil War, and founder of the Iowa Historical Department. He was also an avid autograph collector, especially of Whitman's. He was so eager that the poet termed him "a very hungry man . . . never satisfied—is always crying for more and more" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, August 20, 1889). Aldrich visited Whitman at his Camden home numerous times, and he served as a conduit between the poet and William Michael Rossetti in England, who edited the first British edition of Whitman's work. For more information, see Ed Folsom, "The Mystical Ornithologist and the Iowa Tufthunter: Two Unpublished Whitman Letters and Some Identifications," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 1 (1983), 18–29. [back]
Back to top