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Anne Gilchrist, Tennyson and a little dash of Walt Whitman

Anne Gilchrist’s Letters

Photograph - Anne Gilchrist’s Letters

“Anne Gilchrist is a silent and subtle ball-breaker in literary history. She is a crucial and unrecognised broker between the private and public space of female expression, a woman who embraced professional and poetic struggle and won quiet, important victories for the literary reputations of three men: Walt Whitman, William Blake and her husband, Alexander Gilchrist. Her ‘A Woman’s Estimate of Walt Whitman’ is one of the frankest pieces of immediate criticism in the nineteenth century.” (Dent and Whittaker,  p.125)

The limited correspondence that exists in the Research Centre from Gilchrist to Tennyson suggests, perhaps unfairly, a more star-struck approach to the literary lions than the assessment above.

Anne Gilchrist (1828-1885) and her husband, Alexander, shared many friends with the Tennysons.  They were next-door neighbours of the Carlyles in Chelsea, with whom Tennyson had a close relationship.  When her husband died from scarlet fever before completing his biography of Blake, Anne Gilchrist worked with the Rossetti brothers to organise, edit and publish the biography.  Dante Gabriel Rossetti had met Tennyson in 1855 at the Brownings’ London lodgings and was commissioned by Tennyson’s publisher Edward Moxon to illustrate a few of Tennyson’s poems for the 1857 illustrated edition (see www.lincstothepast.com/exhibitions/tennyson/tennyson-in-art/ ).

There are four letters from Anne Gilchrist to Alfred Tennyson in the Tennyson Research Centre – please follow the link below.

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Last updated: 14 March 2013

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