Lilian Whiting, 1847-1942

[Mentioned in Pulpit and Press, p. 39]

Lilian Whiting, journalist, essayist, and poet, was captivated by Boston when as a girl of thirteen she visited it. She determined to live there when she was grown.

Miss Whiting was born in New York State, not far from Niagara Falls, of cultured parents. She was a descendant of Cotton Mather, and her father had worked on the framing of the constitution of Illinois. Once she said: "I do not remember learning to read. I was simply steeped, always and naturally as the sunshine, in the literary atmosphere of our quiet country home." Her mother did not send her to school, but had her taught by tutors.

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In St. Louis, Miss Whiting became acquainted with Dr. William T. Harris, a philosopher, who was "her first guide into the realm of systematic thinking." When he accepted Bronson Alcott's invitation to head the new School of Philosophy, which he had founded in Concord, Massachusetts, Miss Whiting's desire to go to Boston was strengthened; she wished to attend the school. Two of her articles on Margaret Fuller published in the Cincinnati Commercial led to her being employed by the paper and gave her experience to draw on when she applied and was made a reporter on the Boston Traveller. Two years later she became literary editor and held the post until 1890. In the meantime she attended the Concord School and heard Emerson's last lecture there on "Aristocracy." Boston inspired her immensely popular series of books "The World Beautiful." She wrote "Boston Letters," a weekly feature for western newspapers, and became editor in chief of the Boston Budget.

With her first trip to Europe, Miss Whiting's love for Boston was balanced by an equal love for Florence. There her friendship with the Brownings' son and his wife led to her books on the two poets. One of her treasured experiences was being shown by "Pen" the manuscript of his mother's "Aurora Leigh." Miss Whiting's last literary work, when she was over ninety, was the editing of material on the life of Rosa Bonheur.

Although interested in psychic phenomena, Miss Whiting maintained her lifelong affiliation with the Episcopal church. In a letter written toward the end of her life she said: "I know life goes ahead— not back. ... I know—in a deeper sense—that the way is to go ahead, —not back. It is God's way."

Signs of the Times
July 13, 1957

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