Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Fred B. Vaughan to Walt Whitman, 9 April 1860

Date: April 9, 1860

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00570

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "Fred Vaughan," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Heidi Bean, Nick Krauter, Kevin McMullen, and Stephanie Blalock

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New York1
April 9th

How is this, Walt? I have written to you twice2 since I heard from you. Why don't you answer?3 How about them proof sheets?4 I have not seen any of them yet. Come, Walt, remember I take a deep interest in all that concerns you and must naturally be anxious to hear from you. Mrs Cooper and Robert5 keep asking me every evening "if I have heard from Walt yet." and if you do not write to me soon I am afraid I shall be under the painful necessity of telling a lie to keep up your reputation.—

There is nothing new here.—The weather was disgusting both yesterday and today wet, muddy and chilly.—Did you see the Sunday Courier6 of April first? It contains an article on "Yankee Bards and New York Critics."—Get it if you can there, if not let me know & I will send it to you. It gives a good description of the Bohemian Club at Pfaffs7 in which you are set down as the grand master of ceremonies. Our folks have shifted me once more. I am now back again in my old position at 168 Broadway, behind the desk.8—So please address me here.—Mrs. Cooper and Robert send their love and best wishes.—Write soon and do not forget those sheets.

Your friend,

Fred Vaughan was a young Irish stage driver with whom Whitman had an intense relationship during the late 1850's. For discussion of Vaughan's relationship with Whitman, see Jonathan Ned Katz, Love Stories: Sex between Men before Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 123–132; Charley Shively, Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working-Class Camerados (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1987), 36–50; Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price, Re-Scripting Walt Whitman: An Introduction to His Life and Work, "Chapter 4: Intimate Script and the New American Bible: "Calamus" and the Making of the 1860 Leaves of Grass."


1. This envelope is addressed: Walt Whitman | Care of Thayer & Eldridge | Publishers | Boston Mass. The New York postmark is entirely illegible. The envelope includes the printed address of the Manhattan Express Company's General Office (168 Broadway, N. Y.). Vaughan worked for the company in 1860. [back]

2. See the letters from Vaughan to Whitman dated March 21, 1860, and March 27, 1860. There are no known surviving letters from Whitman to Vaughan. Whitman did, however, write responses to some of the letters Vaughan sent during Whitman's Boston trip. Vaughan acknowledges receiving replies from Whitman in his letters to the poet of March 21, 1860, March 27, 1860, April 30, 1860, and May 21, 1860. Vaughan acknowledges the receipt of four letters: one received the morning of March 21st, one received after March 21st and before March 27th, one received after April 9th but before April 30th, and the last received on May 21, 1860, as Whitman was preparing to return to New York. [back]

3. In March 1860, Whitman traveled to Boston to meet with William W. Thayer and Charles W. Eldridge of the publishing firm Thayer and Eldridge. When Vaughan wrote this letter, Whitman was overseeing the printing of the third edition of Leaves of Grass, which would be published by the firm later that year. For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge, see "Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Whitman had offered to send Vaughan some of the early proof sheets from Leaves of Grass (1860). See Vaughan's letter to Whitman of March 21, 1860. Vaughan reminded Whitman of his promise in his letters to the poet of March 27, 1860 and April 9, 1860[back]

5. Robert "Bob" Cooper and Mrs. Cooper—possibly Robert's mother—were Vaughan's roommates after Vaughan left Whitman's Classon Avenue apartment. [back]

6. There are no known extant copies of the New York Sunday Courier for 1860. [back]

7. Pfaff's was a basement beer cellar located at 647 Broadway, where a group of American Bohemians—that included Whitman—gathered in the antebellum years. Charles Ignatius Pfaff (ca. 1819–1890) was the proprietor of this establishment, as well as other restaurants and, later, a hotel that were all referred to as "Pfaff's." For a history of Pfaff's, see Stephanie M. Blalock's open access, online edition, "GO TO PFAFF'S!": The History of a Restaurant and Lager Beer Saloon (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2014), which is published online at The Vault at Pfaff's: An Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York, Edward Whitley and Rob Weidman, ed. (Lehigh University). For more on Whitman and the American bohemians, see Joanna Levin and Edward Whitley, ed., Whitman Among the Bohemians (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014). [back]

8. The general office for Vaughan's employer—the Manhattan Express Company, Westcott Dodd & Co.—was 168 Broadway, New York. Previously, Vaughan had been working at one of the company's branch offices on Chambers St. (See Vaughan's letter to Whitman of March 9, 1860). [back]


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