Title: William D. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 3 January 1888
Date: January 3, 1888
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.03323
Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock
January 3, 1888.
A Happy New Year!
I send you the article on Mrs Gilchrist's book from the Nation, for which I have never ceased hunting, and which I found where it had no business to be. You will observe that the holy Father sprinkles us with an aspergillus full of ice water. The cold impudence of that Nation surpasses.
Sometime when you are sending you can return me the article for my collection.
I have for some time wanted to write to you, but have been strangely ill, and only just able to walk through the office duties. I keep up my spirits as well as I can, but find it all pretty depressing.
The article by the wretch named Willard1 in the American Magazine filled me with indignation. What a beast a man must be who comes to you with a letter of introduction, and goes off to caricature and lampoon you in a magazine!
I hope you have read "King Solomon's Mines."2 It is immense. I have read it forty times, I do believe. The battle chapters let one into the spirit of Homer as the translations cannot do. I wish somebody would rightly review it for the benefit of the Boston school.
I see the little pieces you send forth. "Yonnondio" is beautiful.3 The Boston Advertiser, which also has for you an aspergil of ice-water, copied it, which is an act of tribute.—I think your term, "Shakespeare-Bacon,"4 will stick to Verulam.5 Donnelly6 is, I guess, in England, getting out his English edition. I have not heard from him since October, and await his movements on tiptoe.
I hope you are keeping reasonably well. Au revoir.
William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889].
1. O'Connor is likely referring to Cyrus Field Willard (1858–1942), an American journalist, political activist, and theosophist. In the December 1887 edition of The American Magazine, Willard dramatizes an interview he conducted with Whitman. Willard's depiction of Whitman is as a venerated but paralyzed man, whose speech is overwrought with contractions and elided syllables. Willard ends by appropriating Whitman's free verse and form in an improvised, perhaps satirical, poem entitled "America's Greeting to Walt." For the published interview, see Cyrus Williard, "A Chat With The Good Gray Poet." [back]
2. British adventure writer H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines (1885), the first novel in English about "deepest" Africa, was a best seller. [back]
4. Whitman's short poem, "Shakspere-Bacon’s Cipher," was published in The Cosmopolitan, October 1887. [back]
5. Francis Bacon (1561–1626) was the 1st Baron Verulam. [back]
6. Ignatius Loyola Donnelly (1831–1901) was a politician and writer, well known for his notions of Atlantis as an antediluvian civilization and for his belief that Shakespeare's plays had been written by Francis Bacon, an idea he argued in his book The Great Cryptogram, published in 1888. [back]