Richard Watson Gilder

Richard Watson Gilder (February 8, 1844 – November 19, 1909) was an American poet and editor.

Life and career

Gilder was born on February 8, 1844[1] at Bordentown, New Jersey. He was the son of Jane (Nutt) Gilder and the Rev. William Henry Gilder, and educated at his father's seminary in Flushing, Queens. There he learned to set type and published the St. Thomas Register.[2] Gilder later studied law at Philadelphia.

During the American Civil War, he enlisted in the state's Emergency Volunteer Militia as a private in Landis' Philadelphia Battery at the time of the Robert E. Lee's 1863 invasion of Pennsylvania. After the Confederates were defeated in the Battle of Gettysburg, Gilder and his unit were mustered out in August. The death of his father, while serving as chaplain of the Fortieth New York Volunteers, obliged him to give up the study of the law.[2]

A little later, he became a reporter on the Newark (New Jersey) Advertiser, of which he was later editor. With Newton Crane, he founded the Newark Register. In 1870, he became editor of Hours at Home, a monthly magazine published by Scribner's. It merged with Scribner's Monthly, which was edited by J. G. Holland. Gilder became managing editor. When Holland died in 1881, Gilder became editor. In November 1881, the monthly was renamed as The Century Magazine, and Gilder remained its editor until his death.[2] Gilder's assistant editor at Century was Sophia Bledsoe Herrick.[3]

Gilder took an active interest in all public affairs, especially those which tend towards reform and good government, and was a member of many New York clubs. He was one of the founders of the Society of American Architects, of the Authors' Club, and of the International Copyright League. He was a founder of the Anti-Spoils League and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was a close friend of George MacDonald, Scottish poet, author, and preacher. They collaborated in various ventures such as MacDonald's American lecture tour in the 1870s. Gilder received the degree of LL.D. from Dickinson College in 1883.[4]

Gilder was a member of the Simplified Spelling Board. He was a leader in the organization of the Citizens' Union, a founder and the first president of the Kindergarten Association, and of the New York Association for the Blind. Gilder was chairman of the first Tenement House Commission in New York City. During his service on the commission, he arranged to be called whenever there was a fire in a tenement house, and at all hours of the night he risked his health and his life itself to see the perils besetting the dwellers of the tenements, in order to make wise recommendations as to legislation that would minimize these perils.[2]


On 3 June 1874, Gilder married a daughter of Commodore George Coleman De Kay, Helena de Kay Gilder (1846–1916).[2] Gilder met his wife, Helena de Kay Gilder, in May of 1872 while she was visiting the offices of Scribner's Monthly, where Richard Watson Gilder was at the time working as an editor. About a year and a half later, in February of 1874, Helena and Richard became engaged. Richard Watson Gilder and Helena de Kay Gilder are known to have kept a lengthy correspondence with each other via letter over the course of their marriage. Helena de Kay Gilder is also known to be the subject of love poems written by Richard Watson Gilder, and they partnered together on some of his books, with her working as the illustrator, such as in Two Worlds and Other Poems (1891). She was a talented painter and a founder of the Art Students League and Society of American Artists. She also modeled for, and was an unrequited love of, the painter Winslow Homer.[5] Gilder and de Kay were the models for the characters Thomas and Augusta Hudson in Wallace Stegner's Pulitzer-prize winning novel, Angle of Repose. Their son, Rodman de Kay Gilder (1877–1953), became an author and married Louise Comfort Tiffany, a daughter of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Their daughter, Rosamund Gilder, was a notable theater critic.[6] A celebrated plaster sculpture of the family by Augustus Saint-Gaudens is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[7]

Gilder's siblings were William Henry Gilder, an explorer; Jeannette Leonard Gilder, a journalist; and Joseph Benson Gilder, an editor.

Gilder died November 19, 1909.[8]

Selected works

  • The New Day (1875)
  • Lyrics and Other Poems (1885)
  • The Celestial Passion (1887)
  • Two Worlds and Other Poems (1891)
  • Five Books of Song (1894)
  • In Palestine, and Other Poems (1898)
  • Poems and Inscriptions (1901)
  • In the Heights (1905)
  • A Book of Music (1906)
  • Grover Cleveland: A Record of Friendship

Gilder's daughter, Rosamond Gilder, edited Letters of Richard Watson Gilder, published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1916.


  1. " The Magazine of Poetry and Literary Review, vol.1, pg.3
  2.  Homans, James E., ed. (1918). "Gilder, Richard Watson" . The Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: The Press Association Compilers, Inc.
  3. Hollis, C. Carroll (1979). "Sophia Bledsoe Herrick". In Flora, Joseph M. (ed.). Southern writers: a biographical dictionary. LSU Press. pp. 223–. ISBN 978-0-8071-0390-6. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
  4.  Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Gilder, William Henry" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
  5. "The Courtship of Winslow Homer," Magazine Antiques, Feb 2002. Retrieved 20 August 2010.
  6. "Rosamund Gilder - Oxford Reference". doi:10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095852332. Retrieved Apr 28, 2019.
  8. Author and Book Info .com - The Companion to Online and Offline Literature
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