Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor, 24 February 1868

Date: February 24, 1868

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:20–21. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00279

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad




Washington,
February 24, 1868.1

Dear friend,

Your letter reached me this afternoon. I am very glad indeed you are coming home2—I already make calculations not only of resuming our old talks & good times, but of the much news you will have to tell—also of seeing little Jenny again—dear child, be sure she is not left out of account—Is Mrs. Channing3 with you then? I send my friendliest remembrances & good wishes. And to my ever dear friends, Mrs. Price & family—you know how much I think of them, & estimate them always, with love & thanks—

It is between two & three o'clock p. m.—We have had a snowy day—as I look out of my window the ground is white in every direction—William4 has a bad cold, has not been down to work to-day, but has just come down town, & is this moment sitting by my desk, reading the extra Evening Star—the fight between Congress & the President, about Secretary of War,5 rages furiously—The House will doubtless order impeachment—& we are going to have exciting times generally—but I guess no appeal to arms—

I have heard lately from my dear mother—she is well as usual—Emma Price can tell you more directly about her, as I hear, (to my great pleasure) that she has called on mother once or twice lately.6 I am well as usual—have not yet rec'd a copy of my English re-print7—but hear that one is on the way—Mr. Swinburne, the poet, has sent me a handsome copy of his William Blake8 containing certain mention of me, which I will show you when you come. Hotten,9 the London publisher, has written me, very handsomely, offering a fee, on every copy—Rossetti, the editor, has also written me several letters, very satisfactory—I think you will like your apartments, after you get used to them—it is a fresh, sweet, new house10—that's a good deal—

And now, dear friend, God bless you & little one, & a safe & speedy return to friends & home.


Walt.


Notes:

1. This letter's envelope bears the address, "Mrs. E. M. O'Connor, | at house of Mrs. Price, | 279 East 55th street, | New York City." It is postmarked: "Washington D.C. | (?)." [back]

2. According to Walt Whitman's February 17, 1868 letter to Moncure D. Conway, Ellen O'Connor had been in Providence, R.I. [back]

3. Whitman refers to O'Connor's sister, Mary Jane Channing, also referenced in his September 11, 1864 letter to O'Connor. Whitman visited the Channings in Providence later in the year. [back]

4. William O'Connor had not been well for several weeks. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote to Walt Whitman on February 17, 1868: "i was in hopes mrs Oconor had returned for his sake. if he is not very well it would probably make him more comfortable." [back]

5. On February 22, 1868, President Johnson ordered the removal of Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War. The President had suspended Stanton on August 12, 1867. [back]

6. According to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letter of February 12(?), 1868, Emma Price had recently visited her during a snow storm. [back]

7. The English edition of Walt Whitman's poems was released on February 5, 1868; see William Michael Rossetti, Rossetti Papers (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1903), 297. [back]

8. Swinburne at the conclusion of William Blake: A Critical Essay (1868), 300–303, pointed out similarities between Walt Whitman and Blake, and praised "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," which he termed "the most sweet and sonorous nocturn ever chanted in the church of the world." Included in Songs before Sunrise (1871) was his famous lyric "To Walt Whitman in America." For the story of Swinburne's veneration of Walt Whitman and his later recantation, see Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1934), 103–121. [back]

9. In his February 18, 1868 letter to John Camden Hotten, Walt Whitman accepted Hotten's offer of "one shilling, (or 25 cents gold)" for each copy of the English edition sold. [back]

10. William Douglas and Ellen O'Connor were living in John and Ursula Burroughs' new home. [back]


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