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Walt Whitman to Anne Gilchrist, 17 March 1876

Dearest friend,1

To your good & comforting letter of Feb. 25th2 I at once answer, at least with a few lines. I have already to–day written (answering one just rec'd from him) a pretty long letter to Mr Rossetti3, & requested him to loan it to you for perusal. In that I have described my situation fully & candidly.

My new edition is printed & ready. On receipt of your letter I have mailed you a set, two vols., which you ought to have rec'd by this time. I wish you to send me word soon as they arrive.

My health I am encouraged to think is perhaps a shade better—certainly as well as any time of late. I even already vaguely contemplate plans, (they may never be fulfilled, but yet again they may,) of changes, journeys—even of coming to London, of seeing you, of visiting my friends, &c.

My dearest friend, I do not approve your American trans–settlement4—I see so many things here, you have yet no idea of—the American social & almost every other kind of crudeness, meagreness, (at least in appearance)—Don't do any thing toward such a move, nor resolve on it, nor indeed make any move at all in it, without further advice from me. If I should get well enough to voyage, we will talk about it yet in London—You must not be uneasy about me—dear friend, I get along much better than you suppose. As to my literary situation here, my rejection by the coteries—& my poverty, (which is the least of my troubles)—I am not sure but I enjoy them all. Besides, as to the latter, I am not in want. Best love to you, & to your children.

Walt Whitman


  • 1. 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]
  • 2. Gilchrist continued to ignore the obvious: Walt Whitman wanted her (and her passion) three thousand miles away. On January 18, 1876, she informed him that she was sailing for America on August 30, 1876. On February 25, 1876, she was ecstatic: "Soon, very soon I come, my darling. . . . this is the last spring we shall be assunder—O I passionately believe there are years in store for us— . . . Hold out but a little longer for me, my Walt." Gilchrist wrote again, on March 11, 1876, after she had seen some of Whitman's poems in the London Daily News. [back]
  • 3. 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). [back]
  • 4. In her reply on March 30, 1876, Gilchrist refused Walt Whitman's advice: "I can't exactly obey that, for it has been my settled steady purpose (resting on a deep strong faith) ever since 1869." After reading Two Rivulets, she could not curb her ardor, writing on April 21, 1876: "sweetest deepest greatest experience of my life—what I was made for, surely I was made as the soil in which the precious seed of your thoughts & emotions should be planted—they to fulfil themselves in me, that I might by & bye blossom into beauty & bring forth rich fruits—immortal fruits." Gilchrist sent birthday greetings on May 18, 1876. [back]
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