Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William F. Channing to Walt Whitman, 24 September 1868

Date: September 24, 1868

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01257

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: Kenneth M. Price, Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Beverley Rilett, and Stefan Schöberlein

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Providence R. I.
Sept 24– 1868.–

Walt Whitman Esq.
Dear Sir,

Mrs. O'Connor1 writes Mrs. Channing2 that you are in New York—I write you, on a forlorn hope, to offer you our best welcome if any thing should induce you to turn Eastward. We have to offer entertainment, not brillieant , but quiet & unconstrained. You would find some few persons here whom I think you would like to meet. To balance this on the other side is all New York! All for which I can really answer is the sincere desire to see you here in a home-like way– I think we have a home that is worth something, & that we gladly open to you.

Will you not visit us?

Yrs truly
Wm. F. Channing

William F. Channing (1820–1901), son of William Ellery Channing, and also Ellen O'Connor's brother-in-law, was by training a doctor, but devoted most of his life to scientific experiments. With Moses G. Farmer, he perfected the first fire-alarm system. He was the author of Notes on the Medical Applications of Electricity (Boston: Daniel Davis, Jr., and Joseph M. Wightman, 1849). Ellen O'Connor visited him frequently in Providence, Rhode Island, and Whitman stayed at his home in October, 1868.


1. Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Walt Whitman's staunchest defenders. Walt may have mentioned a potential visit by Nelly and her daughter during his May visit to Brooklyn, though whether a visit came near this time is not known from his or Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letters. Walt Whitman dined with the O'Connors frequently during his Washington years, and he spoke often in his letters of their daughter Jean (called "Jenny" or "Jeannie"). Though Whitman and William O'Connor would break off their friendship in late 1872 over a disagreement about Reconstruction policies and the role of emancipated slaves, Nelly would remain friendly with Whitman. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)." [back]

2. Ellen M. O'Connor's sister, Mary Jane "Jeannie" (Tarr) Channing (1828–1897). Walt Whitman visited often with Mary Jane and her husband Dr. William Ellery Channing during his October 1868 visit to Providence, Rhode Island. [back]


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