Title: William D. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 29 May 1882
Date: May 29, 1882
Editorial notes: The annotation, "May 29 '82," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes Dec 11th 1910," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.03043
Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, and Nicole Gray
May 29, 1882.
I got your cordial letter of the 25th. Congratulations and approval, personal and from the press, are pouring in upon me, but I shall get nothing worth so much as your heartful "God bless you," flashing from the finale of your postscript. Next best, is your admiration of my lightnings. It fills me with measureless content to know that what I have written is not merely a success with the public, but with you.
I had given the letter up and was taken aback by its appearance. Of course, I was delighted, for my article puts the matter just in the shape I wanted it to appear—gives us the ground to fight from—a base for operations. It cost me immense labor, for I had to be very guarded and very bold at once, blending composure with fury, and was anxious not to lay myself open to the disingenuous enemy. I am satisfied. Let Oliver Stevens and Osgood get over this if they can. It will stick.
It is probably the beginning of a fight and we will comport ourselves according to events. Let Stevens or Marston dare to reply! I will exterminate them. After the affair has gone its full length, some of us—perhaps I—will have the grand closing word, solemn as life, copious as the tempest, in the North American Review. Mr. Rice will give us a hearing.
The moment I get John Burroughs' address abroad, I will mail him a copy of the Tribune, which I have reserved for him. I think John will be delighted with my sword-play. Besides, I want him to know the facts, so that he can fire up the literati abroad.
I wish the article I wrote for Bucke could appear, because a part of it was devoted to the recent critiques on your new edition, and every sentence was a blister. I wrote one in particular on the Rev. Higginson, which I was going to add when Bucke sent me the proof, and which will make Higginson wish he was in another and a better world. I have not yet found out from Bucke why his book is delayed.
I earnestly hope the matter will bear fruit in your getting another publisher. If there is one publisher in this country who has the least sense, he will take advantage of the conspicuity the District Attorney has given you, and come forward with an offer to publish.
—I had written thus far when your letter of the 28th came, containing the article of the Rev. Chadwick in the Sunday Tribune, which I had not seen. Of course I shall answer this clerical blackguard, who has the audacity to accuse me of wilfully and consciously lying, and I shall do my best to answer him with blasting effect, but I am truly sorry to have to turn aside to the discussion of veracity with such a fly as this. The harm I foresaw from your equivocal statement in the Critic and The N. A. Review, and of which I warned you, has come in this letter of Chadwick's. I feared that the enemy would make this use of your language. "Howandiver," as Father Tom says, we must endeavor to turn the disaster to the best advantage, and make something by the operation.
I shall certainly try to weave in all the memoranda you send me.
I had a comforting letter, with yours, from Whitelaw Reid, very cordial and friendly, and evidently pleased with me, and the poignant and perfumed little note of thanks I sent him after the appearance of my letter. He says: "I took great pleasure in printing your letter, because it was so cleverly done, and because besides, I could not help having some sympathy with it." I was glad to get this letter, for the assurance of innings at the Tribune office which it gives me.
I had a splendid letter from Mr. Walter P. Phillips, the head of the Associated Press here, ranking you among "the greatest of living men" and thanking me, although a stranger, for the "taste, eloquence and strength" of my defence. It is very consoling, and shows a real gentleman. Doubtless we shall hear much more.
If we can only send Chadwick to the moon in fragments! My task is to do this, and thoroughly, the first time. No after claps. If I fail, his abominable letter will give us trouble.
W. D. O'Connor.