MAX CAVITCH NNE BURROWS GILCHRIST WAS INTRODUCED TO WALT WHITMAN'S POETRY IN 1869 by her friend William Michael Rossetti, and the effect was galvanic. She read him first in Rossetti's own expurgated Poems of Walt Whitman (1868) and subsequently in the complete 1867 edition of Leaves of Grass, which Rossetti gave her. Her letters to Rossetti on Whitman so impressed him with their fervorous insight that he urged her to publish them as a counteractive to the squeamishness, outrage, and plain misunderstanding that so widely characterized the poet's early reception. Gilchrist's "A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman" appeared in the Boston Radical in 1870, and in 1871, with Rossetti's help, she initiated a correspondence with the poet himself. Widowed with four children, Gilchrist had discovered in Whitman's poetry the object of her desire, and she not only wanted him to know it, she wanted him. After five years of intimations, Gilchrist took action in 1876, announcing her imminent move across the Atlantic to be near him. Whitman, of course, balked at first ("I do not approve your American trans-settlement").1 But, upon finding her behavior less than predatory, he warmed to her presence just as she quickly adjusted her
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Jan 8, 2005
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