Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 31 March 1883

Date: March 31, 1883

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 3:336. 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.00487

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schoeberlein, Kirsten Clawson, Nima Najafi Kianfar, and Nicole Gray

1883 March 31 noon

My dear friend

I send you the second proofs—look over carefully for technicals, misspelling of names, & in the Italian text on Page 109 &c2—but make no changes or alterations. If we were to begin the setting of the copy de novo you should certainly be obeyed in every detail & minutest particular—& I know I should like the result well enough. But I like wonderfully well the whole presentations just as they appear here—& I know you will too, either right off, or soon as you get accustomed to them. Besides the matter itself, after being faithfully given as to text & with typographic cleanliness & propriety, makes remaining points not worth dwelling on. Taken together the Introductory Letter and the G[ood] G[ray] P[oet] are so tremendous & vehement, so beautiful & orbic in themselves—so fitting for the body of the volume (almost its heart & lungs)—so honest & subtle, as well as stupendous, a eulogy and dissertation, on L of G, & on certain primary & spinal literary laws—so assuring a pedestal for my future fame—& as here printed so satisfactory in their type, style & paragraphing &c. as they stand that any change in those particulars would be worse than unnecessary—would be fatuous3

I keep well—Write me often as you can—tell me all the news—your own movements as much as you can—

Did you get the parcel of books?4

Walt Whitman

Keep the proof two days after you get it if you wish5


1. This letter is endorsed: "Answ'd April 1/83." It is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | Care Dr. W F Channing | 93 Congdon Street | Providence | Rhode Island | p o box | 393. It is postmarked: Camden | Mar | 31 | 12 M | N.J.; Providence | Apr | 1 | (?) AM | (?). [back]

2. A series of quotations from Dante appear on this page of Bucke's book. [back]

3. Despite Whitman's praise, O'Connor, on April 1, felt "dreadfully at the prospect your letter opens, of my paragraphing being changed" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1915], 2:260). [back]

4. See the letter from Whitman to O'Connor of March 29, 1883[back]

5. The typesetting of Bucke's biography was completed on March 31 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). This was Whitman's book in every detail: he altered the proofs at will. On March 20, Bucke, whose role was simply to acquiesce in Whitman's changes, wrote: "I open and read these parcels of proof in fear and trembling (you must go as easy as you can, you are the terrible surgeon with the knife & saw and saw the patient). You left out my remarks on 'Children of Adam', I believe they were good but I acquiesce—your additions are excellent as they have been all through" (Feinberg Collection). On May 28 Bucke was pleased with the book he and Whitman had produced: "I believe it will do, and if it will the Editor will deserve more credit than the Author—I am really surprised at the tact and judgement you have displayed in putting my rough M. S. into shape and I am more than satisfied with all you have done" (Feinberg Collection). Bucke, however, may not have been quite so pleased with Whitman's high-handed treatment of his book as his letters to the poet indicate. For in a letter on August 19 to O'Connor, who on August 16 objected to "several omissions and commissions," Bucke wrote: "I do not care to go into these matters by letter but when you come [to Canada] I will make every thing clear to your comprehention" (The Library of Congress, Washington D.C.). [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.