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Walt Whitman to Herbert Gilchrist, 30–31 December 1881

Dear friend

Down here for a few days2 I thought you would like to get news right from the midst of people & scenes you loved so well—I came down yesterday amid sousing rain & cloudy weather—but this forenoon it is sunshiny & delightful—I have just returned from a two hours ramble in the old woods—wintry & bare, & yet lots of holly & laurel—& I only wish I could send you some cedary branches thick with the china-blue little plums, so pretty amid the green tufts—

The Staffords are all well—Mrs S is much as usual, looks in good condition—I heard her singing this morning at her work in the kitchen before I was up—George has been well, & is so—Ed & Debby & Harry & Mont & Van & Ruth & little George all right—Jo Browning ditto—Jo & D had some company here to supper last evening—Harry is away at the RR office at Clementon (Narrow Gauge)—likes it—is home only at long intervals—Ed tends the store, & the nag Ned3 looks as well as ever—it is now nearly 12—& we are going to have chicken for dinner—My morning paper has just come from Phila: & I will knock off & read it—

Dec 31—Saturday noon—Well this is the last day of the year, & it has grown freezing cold—Mr S is out at the wood-pile chopping away—I hear the sound of his axe as I write—Mont went off early, he goes over to Clementon and works at telegraphy, learning & assisting Harry—comes home quite late—Ed is busy with customers in the store—Ruth is in the kitchen making mince pies for New Year's—Mrs S is just sitting down a spell in the old rocking chair, reading to-day's Phila: Ledger—the acc't of the Guiteau trial4—(I don't know whether you read it or not, but of all the strange things of this strange century, I am not sure but that trial is the strangest)—

We had a flurry of snow last evening, & it looks wintry enough to-day, but the sun is out, & I take my walks in the woods. Hienikin was here yesterday—Wesley Stafford & his wife (Lizzie Hyder you know) have just drove up—they are very comfortable at the old place by the pond, & Lizzie is reconciled & happy—

Herb, I thought you would just like to hear all the small news & gossip & so I have written it—O how shocking I felt at the sad sad sudden death of the dear one5—was a long time before I realized it as true—hope your dear mother—to whom I send best love—is beginning to feel something like herself again—tell her I rec'd hers of Dec 14, & will write before long6—All here speak of you with love, & send affectionate remembrances—My best love to Giddy7

Walt Whitman


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Herbert H Gilchrist | Keats' Corner 12 Well Road | Hampstead | London | N W | England. It is postmarked: Haddonfield | Jan | 2 | N.J.; London, N.W. | C M | Ja 14 | 82. [back]
  • 2. Whitman stayed with the Staffords until January 9 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). Herbert replied to this letter on January 15, 1882. [back]
  • 3. The name of Ed's "nag." [back]
  • 4. The trial of Charles J. Guiteau, the assassinator of President Garfield. [back]
  • 5. Beatrice Gilchrist. [back]
  • 6. Whitman did not write to Anne Gilchrist until July 22, 1882. She, however, wrote on January 29, 1882: "Your letter to Herby was a real talk with you. I dont know why I punish myself by writing to you so seldom now, for indeed to be near you, even in that way would do me good—often & often do I wish we were back in America near you" (The Letters of Anne Gilchrist and Walt Whitman, ed. Thomas B. Harned [New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1918], 205). [back]
  • 7. Herbert's sister, Grace. [back]
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