Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gilchrist, Anne

GILCHRIST, ANNE (1828–1885), miscellaneous writer, daughter of John Parker Burrows, solicitor, by his wife Henrietta (Carwardine), was born at 7 Gower Street, London, 25 Feb. 1828. Her father died in 1839. At the age of five she was sent to a school in Highgate kept by the Misses Cahusac. When ten years old she fell into an uncovered well, and was saved by her brother, John T. Burrows (d. 1849), who held her by the hair until help came. She describes her sensations in ‘Lost in the Wood’ in ‘Magnet Stories’ (1861). Her thoughts were early turned to religious questions, her tendency to liberal opinions being combined with a tenderness for the prejudices of others. A thoughtful letter, written in 1849, upon this subject is given in her ‘Life’ (p. 25). On 4 Feb. 1851 she married Alexander Gilchrist [q. v.], living with him at Guildford and Chelsea. The marriage was a very happy one, and she shared her husband's tastes, criticised his writings, and wrote to his dictation. Her first article, ‘Our Poor Relation,’ appeared in ‘Household Words’ in 1857, and was favourably noticed by Dickens.

In 1861 she nursed her family (two boys, two girls, and her husband) through an attack of scarlet fever, of which her husband died. In 1862 she settled at Shottermill, near Haslemere, Surrey, and completed her husband's ‘Life of Blake.’ Her study of Blake won for her the friendship of the Rossetti family, and she had a lifelong correspondence with Mr. W. M. Rossetti. The reading of Rossetti's ‘Selections of Walt Whitman’ led her to a study of Whitman's poetry. The result appeared in ‘A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman,’ published in the American ‘Radical’ in 1869. Another essay upon the same subject, called ‘A Confession of Faith,’ was written in 1883. A letter to D. G. Rossetti upon his poems, especially his ‘Jenny,’ written in 1870 (Life, p. 197), gives an interesting statement of her views upon poetry.

In August 1876 she went to the United States, returning in June 1879. In Philadelphia she translated Victor Hugo's ‘Légende des Siècles,’ and while at Northampton, Mass., wrote ‘Three Glimpses of a New England Village,’ published in ‘Blackwood's Magazine’ in 1884. After returning to England she edited a second edition of the ‘Life of Blake,’ and in 1882 began her ‘Life of Mary Lamb’ (published in 1883), clearing up some errors and bringing out with true sympathy the lovable characters of Lamb and his sister. She contributed notices of Mary M. Betham and William Blake to this dictionary in 1884. She lived after her return from America at Hampstead, and was at work upon a study of Carlyle when she died 29 Nov. 1885. Her children were Percy C., Beatrice, Herbert H., and Grace. The ‘Life and Writings’ published by her son in 1887 contains several essays in which she gives expression to her religious beliefs. Mr. William Rossetti in a prefatory notice says that she had an ‘eminently speaking face, of which the eyes, full, dark, liquid, and extremely vivacious,’ were the marked feature. She had, he remarks, strong sense, great cordiality without false sentiment, and a high self-respect which excluded any undue deference to conventional distinctions. She was a good talker and listener, and discharged her domestic duties thoroughly, while finding time for intellectual activity.

[Life and Writings of Anne Gilchrist, by H. H. Gilchrist (1887); personal knowledge.]

H. H. G.