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Walt Whitman to Richard Watson Gilder, 24 May 1885

My dear Watson Gilder

I am in about my usual general health (which is nothing to brag of) but my locomotion is worse—had a fall a month ago & turned my ankle in, & at my age one dont recover from such things—Have no thought of coming to New York—If I did so, I should willingly give your friend the sittings for portrait.

Walt Whitman

Were the artist to visit Philadelphia I would sit to him here in my own room—good place north-light—as many times as he wishes.1

Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909) was the assistant editor of Scribner's Monthly from 1870 to 1881 and editor of its successor, The Century, from 1881 until his death. Whitman had met Gilder for the first time in 1877 at John H. Johnston's (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: New York University Press, 1955], 482). Whitman attended a reception and tea given by Gilder after William Cullen Bryant's funeral on June 14; see "A Poet's Recreation" in the New York Tribune, July 4, 1878. Whitman considered Gilder one of the "always sane men in the general madness" of "that New York art delirium" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, August 5, 1888). For more about Gilder, see Susan L. Roberson, "Gilder, Richard Watson (1844–1909)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. Since Gilder's letter to Whitman is not extant, it is not possible to determine who the artist was. Perhaps it was John White Alexander. See the letter from Whitman to Alexander, February 20, 1886. [back]
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