Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Fred Vaughan to Walt Whitman, 30 April 1860

Date: April 30, 1860

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00571

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.

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

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New York
April 30th 1860


I was very glad indeed to hear from you in answer to my last, and you know I could not but be gratified to find your business was progressing so favorably,—1

In accordance with not only your wishes, but my own I went to Brooklyn yesterday and saw your Mother.—I found her alone, Matt2 & Jeff3 out walking. Eddy4 at church, and George5 out somewhere's else I suppose. She did not remember me at first but as soon as she did she was very much pleased. I had a long talk, and settled the old $2.00 affair of Matts. I came away before she and Jeff returned. Walt, Mother says she feels first rate, is not at all sick, and I think she looks as well now as she did while I was living over there.—There is no news here Walt. The last fight, the Japenese Embassy, and the Charleston Democratic Convention, fill the papers to the exclusion of Every thing else.6—Dunn,7 the ex stage driver is in Boston with that Circus Co. I think he will call upon you as I gave him your address.—If you come on here this [week] Be sure and make it your business to call and see me. Do not neglect it please Walt, for I want to see you very much. Mrs. Cooper & Robert8 send their loves. Ever yours, In a Hurry! Fred.

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. Charley Shively writes that "Whitman went to Boston in the spring of 1860 to proofread and put the final touches on the third edition of Leaves of Grass." See Charley Shively Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working-Class Camerados. (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1987), 40. [back]

2. Martha Mitchell Whitman, also known as "Mattie," was the wife of Whitman's younger brother Thomas Jefferson Whitman. [back]

3. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890) was Walt's younger brother. [back]

4. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), Walt's youngest brother, was mentally and physically handicapped. [back]

5. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was Walt's younger brother. [back]

6. On April 16, 1860, in Farnborough, England, acknowledged American boxing champion John Carmel Heenan fought Tom Sayers, the British Champion, in the "World Championship." The fight was called by police before a knockout by either fighter. This fight would have been of particular interest to the crowd at Pfaff's as Heenan was newly married to Adah Isaacs Menken, a Pfaffian actress, writer, and admirer of Whitman. The Democratic National Convention opened on April 23, 1860, in Charleston, South Carolina. Northern and Southern Democrats were locked in a heated debate about whether or not to officially add a pro-slavery plank to the platform. By April 30, Northern Democrats had won the argument, but fifty Southern delegates stormed out in protest. Japan's first envoys to the United States—referred to as the Japanese Embassy—arrived in San Francisco in March 1860. Their progress cross-country was covered extensively in the press. The city-wide celebration for the embassy's arrival in New York would serve as the subject of Whitman's poem "The Errand-Bearers" (later "A Broadway Pageant"), published in The New York Times on June 27, 1860. [back]

7. This was possibly "Collins Dunne," whom Whitman lists as a Harvard Square driver on a piece of letterhead for Osgood and Company. See Daybooks and Notebooks, ed. William White (New York: New York University Press, 1978), 1: 238–239. [back]

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


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