Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Fred B. Vaughan to Walt Whitman, 11 August 1874

Date: August 11, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01969

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, Kevin McMullen, John Schwaninger, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Stephanie Blalock, Marie Ernster, Noelle Bates, and Amanda J. Axley

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Aug 11/74


I enclose you one of the very many letters I write to you1—I think I have written to you at least once a week for the past four years—sometimes I write long letters, sometimes short one's. But so you know my dear friend they are all real to me—and I often keep them months before I destroy them.—

Many and many a mile have I rode on a Locomotive while in charge of a Freight-train and had you by my side in conversation—which to me was as really a presence as in years gone by on the box of a Broadway Stage—or a Sleep and lounge on the deck of a Fulton Ferry Boat—

Walt in all your Sorrow that has been made public, I have sorrowed with you—Most especially in the death of Dear Mother,2 and your own illness3

If you can Dear Walt write to me and acknowledge the receipt of this—If you cannot, I shall still keep writing, in my own way

As Ever & always:—
Fred B. Vaughan

Care Leviness & Weeber
164 Fulton St.

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. Vaughan sent an additional letter he had written to the poet as an enclosure. Vaughan could be referring to a letter he wrote in pencil that bears the date of August 11 on the verso. [back]

2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. In January 1873, Whitman suffered a paralytic stroke while living in Washington, D.C. A few months later, his mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) passed away. After his mother's death, Whitman moved to Camden, New Jersey, where he lived with his brother George Whitman and George's family at 431 Stevens Street. [back]


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