UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Biography

Richard Watson Gilder, 1844-1909

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 1844.02.08
Place of Birth: Bordentown, NJ
Date of Death: 1909.11.18
Place of Death: New York, NY

Identity:

Richard Watson Gilder was a poet and editor. He was the son of Rev. William Henry Gilder (1812-1864) of Flushing, Long Island, and the brother of the Arctic explorer, William Henry Gilder. In 1874 he married the artist Helena De Kay, a grand-daughter of Joseph Rodman Drake.

Life:

Gilder, the 'garden poet', was the managing editor of Scribner's Monthly from 1870 and editor-in-chief of The Century Magazine (as Scribner's was renamed) from 1881. Prior to this he worked for the Daily Advertiser in Newark, New Jersey, and founded the Newark Morning Register with Newton Crane. In 1869 he became the editor of Hours at Home. He made trips to Europe in 1879-80, 1895 and 1900.

Gilder was one of the founder members of the Free Art League, International Copyright League and Authors Club. In 1894 he was appointed Chairman of the New York Tenement House Commission. He was also a prominent member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, Council of the National Civil Service Reform League and Citizens Union of New York City. His published volumes of poetry include Five Books of Song (1894), In Palestine and other Poems (1898), Poems and Inscriptions (1901), and in the Heights (1905).

Gilder and his wife had a home in western Massachusetts, at Four Brooks Farm in Tyringham. They also had a residence in Manhattan, and were well known for their Friday soirees where they played host to New York's cultured elite. Their circle included artists, writers, and musicians such as Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, Grover Cleveland, Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Cecilia Beaux. Edmund Gosse introduced Gilder to Robert Browning, Algernon Charles Swinburne and Austin Dobson. Cecilia Beaux's portrait of Gilder presents an image of a man of some elegance and refinement (1902-03; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution).

Bibliography:

The Annual Register, London, 1909, p. 141; Smith, Herbert F., Richard Watson Gilder, London, 1970; National Portrait Gallery website at www.npg.si.edu (accessed 30 April 2004); Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911, at 9.1911encyclopedia.org (accessed 30 April 2004).