Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor, 5 September [1873]

Date: September 5, 1873

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:239–240. 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.00311

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

Friday afternoon, Sept. 5.1

Dear friend,

I still remain here in Camden, & in a condition not much different—alternating constantly between the bad spells, & then hours, & sometimes days, not so bad. I suppose you rec'd the little Philadelphia paper I sent a week since—Dr. Grier here is confident my principal trouble is cerebral anæmia (blood not properly going to the brain to nourish it)—says it arises from a long continued excessive emotional action generally2—& thinks it so has arisen in my case—does not think writing, or study, or ordinary brain action has been the cause—it has been long a-coming & will probably be long a-going—thinks I will get well however.

He thinks it has been coming on for many years, says I need rest, rest for a long time & social exhilaration—(The paralysis, according to him, is only an incident, or result, & not the cause-disease)—Since I have been here I have followed Dr. Drinkard's advice—taken no medicine, & lived very prudently—(I still quite thoroughly believe in Dr. Drinkard)—

Charles Eldridge called upon me on his way back—his visit was a great treat, & was only too short—I rec'd a letter from him a few days since—all goes on as usual in Washington matters we are interested in—I have a substitute3 working for me at my desk, and he seems to give satisfaction—When I shall be able to go to work again, if ever, is as indefinite now as it has been for over seven months—

I have rec'd a letter from John Burroughs. He has bought some land at Esopus, on the Hudson, west bank, some 80 miles from New York, & is going to build him a house & home there forthwith.

I get out some—went over to Philadelphia yesterday—go sometimes to the Mercantile Library Reading Room, as it is very pleasant there for a change—or rather for a place to go to & rest—though the atmosphere of a reading room soon weighs on me, & I feel like retreating—Yesterday took a ride up in the Market st. cars to West Philadelphia—& was caught in a violent shower coming home in the evening, & nicely soaked—Soon as I got home it stopt, and we had a splendid moonlight evening—It is bright & clear to-day, & rather hot—It is socially here an utter blank to me—my cynical dread of being bored by any one is now completely gratified with a vengeance—I look long & long at my mother's miniature, & at my sister Mat's—I have very good one's of each—& O the wish if I could only be with them—

Nelly, this has grown to be a perturbed sort of letter—& had better be torn up—but I will let it go.



1. This letter is endorsed, "Ans'd." Its envelope bears the address, "Mrs. E. M. O'Connor | care of Dr. W. F. Channing | Newport, R. I." Its postmark is indecipherable. [back]

2. In his September 5, 1873 letter to Peter Doyle, Whitman omitted this part of Grier's diagnosis. [back]

3. Whitman refers here to Walter Godey. [back]


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