Richard & Helena (around the time of their marriage)

Sometime in the winter of 1871-1872 Richard & Helena were introduced by Helen Hunt Jackson. Their subsequent courtship flourished in the heady milieu of concerts, art exhibits, lectures and literature. During this time, Mary Hallock Foote came to know Richard as well, admiring his lofty idealism right from the start. His faith in truth and beauty, his lovable personality and 'boyish good humor,' proved irresistible to many he encountered. But meeting Helena forever changed Gilder's life; she was the inspiration for his six love sonnets that soon appeared in Scribner's. In one, later titled 'Love's Jealousy,' Gilder shows his acceptance of Helena and Mary's [Molly's] love for one another. Gilder's jealousy is not of other men, 'nor of the maid who holds thee close, oh close!' but of the sky, the red rose and the breeze that win Helena's soul.

from- "Mary Hallock Foote, Author-Illustrator of the American West" by Dallies A. Miller



Dear Mrs. Hunt

I stop sewing on my wedding dress to write! Doesn't that seem as impossible to you as to me? And when I count only fourteen days between me & the dark unknown land - for every land is dark if it is unknown - light is behind beyond - wherever is the foot of the rainbow - it is too strange - How little after all is anything except experience - words & sighs & even works are quite powerless to tell us realities.

I have wanted to write to you ever since I read your lovely "congratulation." I think it is one of the most charming of your beautiful verses - but to me it is more touching than anything I have read or felt - it fills me with pain that you should be sad - & gladness that you should care so much for us. Thank you a thousand times. Think of my having you write about me three times. Isn't it an honor!

When you come North we will be installed at No 103 E 15th St. A house all to ourselves to be sure but having been made out of a coach house. Consists of 2 big rooms & a unused stable below! 4 stalls in front is a border of flowers which the barber who lives on the corner takes care of & he always waters. An objection as to size convenience etc worth that - hence the enclosed ditty composed by R.W.G.

That angel looks ill & worries me to death with eating & sleeping as if he were a goodsized [Java?] sparrow - I hope by a judicious course of nagging to reduce him to hygiene principles & the use of phosphates! Really our little place it is such a nice place & had - or rather is such a lovely studio that the traditional clam will be left high and dry - come & see us & lunch with us (I cant ask you to stay all night rules, the barber should I volunteer to take care of you - We propose to enjoy life - or perish.

I'm awfully frightened about the 3rd of June. Pray for us & think of us all day long but especially at midday - it is not natural to either us to be so public. It will be a hard day - for it begins like a child - birth a whole life.

Goodbye& love us always as you do now

I am still

Helena deKay

I. Two people once lived in a loft.
Whose names were Confucius & Kitty
And their friends with anxiety oft
Shook their heads and remarked "What a pity!"

And they asked them such questions as: "Can
You keep dry in a loft as it showers!"
The reply to which constantly ran:
"The barber takes care of the flowers!"

II. Then their friends became sad and perplexed
And they said "This is really alarming."
But the couple replied: "Why we're next
To the moon & the stars & its charming;

For although when the weather is hot
We pass a few tropical hours;
The toasting is quickly forgot
While the barber takes care of the flowers!

"Though we breakfast on marmalade tea,
And dine on whatever is handy
Keeping house is no trouble, for we
Can live nicely on lemons and candy.

Though absent are camel's hair shawls,
And diamonds and horses & towers
Neath our loft are four beautiful stalls
And the barber takes care of the flowers."

May 1872


Richard & Helena (late in life)
Cecilia Beaux



the sunset window

Through the garden sunset-window
Shines the sky of rose;
Deep the melting red, and deeper
Lovelier it grows

Musically falls the fountain;
Twilight voices chime;
Visibly upon the cloud-lands
Tread the feet of Time.

Evening winds from down the valley
Stir the waters cool;
Break the dark, empurpled shadows
In the marble pool.

Rich against the high-walled grayness
The crimson lily grows,
And near, O near, one well-loved presence
Dream-like comes and goes

-Richard Watson Gilder