Title: William D. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 12 July 1883
Date: July 12, 1883
Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes Nov 18 1888," 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.05140
Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Stefan Schöberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Nicole Gray, and Elizabeth Lorang
July 12, 1883.
I have been so ill, and so burdened with the office charge, being scarcely able to hold my head up, that I have too long kept your Critic article, which I return. It is splendid. What other American poet has earned, or will ever earn, the proud distinction of having an article upon him, like Dr. Popoff's, suppressed by the knout-empire!
Did you note how the N. Y. Post (same as the Nation) in itemizing the article, took out its essential features. Contemptible wretches.
There was a vile review of Bucke's book in the Nation of July 26. I did not see it until this week, and have sent a reply—quiet but scathing—which I hope may get into print.
As for Mathilde Blind's (Blinnd, they pronounce it, as rhyming to dinned,) report of George Eliot's attitude toward L. of G., it is a precious war-weapon, when you consider the immense estimation in which George Eliot is held, especially by the enemy (an undue estimation, though she certainly was a woman of genius). It is high jinks for us when she, whom they are even ranking with Shakespeare, should put L. of G. among the few modern books she read, and declare that she found it "good for her soul!" This must be wormwood to some of our moral literary ghosts—ghosts, indeed, since they have, if you'll believe them, got rid of their bodies before death—who are always retching over L. of G., and purring like cats over Adam Bede and Middlemarch. A careful advertisement ought to be prepared for McKay, giving a few of the best opinions on L. of G., with this prominent among them. The effect would be considerable. How poor Sidney Lanier would wince over this testimony! He had a savage (and silly) attack on you in his lectures, coupled with sky falutin eulogy of George Eliot. To see his idol prostrate in worship before his bete noir, would have been a stinger. But, rest his soul! he's dead, and gone where he knows what an ass he made of himself.
I have just read Specimen Days, and seen the splendid compliment you pay me. To be remembered in connection with Ossian and on an Ossianic night, is the highest tribute possible.
The book is all sweet and sane and immortal. When I get well (I am slowly mending) I am going to read it carefully and slowly—not, as now, with a weak and whirling head. I noticed on page 317 what seemed a plate breakage—NOTES LEFT OVEP—"ovep" for "over."
Apropos of corrections, I wish, if Bucke's book comes to a second edition, that you would substitute something else for the fac simile piece about Garfield's assassination. First, because, despite the poor fellow's horrible death, he does not deserve such commemoration. Garfield was a bad fellow. I knew him well. He was one of the worst types of an intriguing politician—personally and politically base. His death has canonized him, although the glamor is fading. Any knowing politician, who will be confidential with you, will tell you that Dorsey's allegations are strictly true. Three or four of them, I myself know to be true. A second reason for suppressing the piece, or relegating it to a back seat, is that the first line—"The sobbing of the bells"—is one of Edgar Poe's best-known verses, original with him too. You will find it in "The Bells."
I got the 25 copies from McKay, and will settle soon.
I have found that the "office editor" of the N. A. Review is named Metcalf. As ill luck would have it, he is away, as Rice is. I have an article there which I am anxious to get published, but fear they will reject it. Grant White had a dastardly mass of lies and perversions in the Atlantic in April anent of Mrs. Pott's publication of Bacon's Promus—a strong anti-Shakespere document—which hurt the book immensely, and my article is a reply in which I take Mr. White's hide off, and "hang the calf-skin on his recreant limbs." Although Rice welcomes both sides, the Shakespeare prejudice is so strong, that I am afraid of not getting a hearing, and I wanted to make things even by bringing a little influence to bear on the office editor, in Rice's absence.
I am glad you stand so well in Rice's favor, though I am surprised he should have rejected your Carlyle article, which seems to me so rich and grand.
I wrote to Montgomery by way of attaching him, and had a very cordial and friendly reply. He has lots of talent, but a vicious way of temporizing—qualifying his statements, which he ought to get over. His letter, too, gave me an unpleasant impression of pertness and conceit. I fear he is an ineradicable sophomore, but he is friendly to us, and we need friends.
I wrote to Sloane Kennedy, and had a fine reply. He is a good fellow.
Your Santa Fe letter is superb. It strikes a great chord. I have long looked with distrust on the Spanish boojum manufactured for us. After all, the true Spain—the real, essential Castilian spirit—is in Cervantes. Surely, it is not dark and cruel there. Apropos, here's a nice little fact. The Spanish Inquisition, according to the indictment of its deadliest enemy, its secretary, Llorente, destroyed in 400 years, 30,000 people. The whole Protestant world howls and roars, properly enough, over this dreadful record. Yes—but in the single reign of Henry the Eighth, Defender of the faith and typical Protestant, according to Lord Chief Justice Campbell, a Protestant and a Scotchman, there were 72,000 people who suffered bloody and violent deaths! It is funny that History shrieks over the 30,000 it took 400 years for the Inquisition to destroy, and is quite mum over the 72,000 who perished in the single reign of the English Bluebeard. "Give a dog a bad name."
(Don't forget to return my Times article sometime.)