Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Fred B. Vaughan to Walt Whitman, 21 May 1860

Date: May 21, 1860

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00573

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, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Heidi Bean, Kathryn Kruger, Nick Krauter, Kevin McMullen, and Stephanie Blalock

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New York1
May 21st 1860

Dear Walt,

I received your note this a.m.2 and I was very very much pleased to hear from you. I am right glad to hear your mission to Boston has terminated so successfully.3 I hope to God it may be not only a success as regards its typography, appearance and real worth, but also pecuniarily a success. For you know, "A well filled pocket, now & then, is relished by the best of men."4 Walt, I hope you will be home soon. I want to see you very much indeed. I have never thought more frequently about you than during the time you have been in Boston. Make it your business to call and see me as soon as you arrive in New York, and we can make an appointment to pass some hours together. As I have much, very much to talk to you about. Robt and Mrs. Cooper5 send their love,

Yours truly,

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 letter is addressed: Walt. Whitman | Care Thayer & Eldridge | Publishers | Boston Mass. It is postmarked: New York | May 21. 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. 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 this letter, and in his letters to Whitman of March 21, 1860, March 27, 1860, and April 30, 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 finishing his work 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. Vaughan plays here with the popular proverb "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men" (anonymous). [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]


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