Walt Whitman on Marriage On this day in 1871 Walt Whitman declined an offer of marriage from Mrs. Anne Gilchrist, a literary critic who had heard "the voice of my mate" in Leaves of Grass. Whitman's usual response to such offers was philosophical-"It's better than getting medals from a king or pensions from Congress"-but the middle-aged Mrs. Gilchrist still felt "young enough to bear thee children, my darling," and had threatened to move to America.
"Anne and Walt met in the hotel where the Gilchrists were staying until they found a house. For both, the meeting had an unexpected outcome. If Walt had been uneasy about meeting the woman who had wooed him for six years, his fears vanished when he met Anne Gilchrist. He was instantly taken with the charming Englishwoman and her attractive children, and felt wonderfully comfortable with them. For Anne, the encounter was both a blow and a revelation. From their first handclasp, it was clear that, although the poet was genuinely glad to see her, the responding fervor that she had hoped for was not there and never would be. It was the end of her romantic fantasy, but the beginning of a loving friendship that lasted all their lives."