Rosa Peckham’s Sketch of Sarah Helen Whitman

For this entry, we unfortunately don’t have the actual image, yet? We only know of an existing drawing by Whitman’s friend, the Providence artist Rosa Peckham Danielson, that could very well be the last rendering of Sarah Helen Whitman made before her death in 1878.

In 1874, Rosa traveled to Europe to study art, and during her trip she met a friend of her friend, the English Poe biographer, John Henry Ingram, who was already well acquainted with Whitman through an intense letter correspondence. Rosa made a sketch of Whitman from memory for Ingram, in which he describes in a September 1874 letter to Whitman: “She [Rosa] very kindly sketched me a portrait of you, & although in ‘a dim religious light,’ I feel is something like you.”

I’ve been searching among Ingram’s collected papers at various institutions for this sketch, if it ever even survived. We don’t exactly know what happened to it and there seems to be no mention of it again after this letter. Regardless, this would be an interesting piece to lay one’s eyes on, for it was done by a professional from memory, and may very well depict an older version of Sarah Helen Whitman.