Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Fred B. Vaughan to Walt Whitman, [1872]

Date: [1872]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01971

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, Zachary King, Kathryn Kruger, John Schwaninger, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Stephanie Blalock, and Marie Ernster

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Dinner hour. I loafing in a Lumber Yard at foot of 35th, [Sr.?]. Under the shadow of a pile of lumber and setting on a lower pile—

Opposite and close to me at the pier head a Barque In the fore rigging flapping lazily in the summer breeze are a few sailors clothes From the galley pipe between the main & foremast issues a cloud of smoke.—One of the men in blue shirt and bare footed has just come from aloft where he has been loosening the Mainsail which seems to be wet. He has now gone below I Suppose to his dinner—

On the opposite side of the river WmsBgh. between The Ever plying ferryboats, the tugs, the Harlem Boats. And mingled with the splash of the paddle wheels, the murmur of the sailors at dinner.—the lazy flap of the sails, the screech of the steam whistle of the tugs the laugh and wrangle of the boys on swimming comes a remembrance of thee dear Walt With WmsBgh & Brooklyn, with the ferries and the vessels with the Lumber piles and the docks

From among all out of all Connected with all and yet distinct from all arises thee Dear Walt—Walt my life has turned out a poor miserable failure. I am not a drunkard nor a teetotaler2—I am neither honest or dishonest I have my family in Brooklyn and am supporting them—I never stole robbed, cheated nor defrauded, any person out of anything, and yet I feel that I have not been honest to myself—my family nor my friends

One Oclock, the Barque is laden with coal and the carts have come The old old Poem Walt. The cart backs up, the bucket comes up full and goes down Empty. The men argue and swear. The wind blows the coal dust over man & beast and now it reaches me.

Fred Vaughan3

Atlantic and 2d door above
Classon4 ave Brooklyn

Will Peck5 please deliver this pass seen as it is important and oblige 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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Porttand Ave | near Myrtle Ave | Brooklyn. Vaughan may have sent this letter as an enclosure in his August 11, 1874, letter to Whitman. [back]

2. Vaughan refers to drinking rum in his November 16, 1874, letter to Whitman, offering the following timeline to describe his experience, "Rum More trouble—More Rum—Estrangement from you. More Rum.—Good intentions, sobriety Misunderstanding and more Rum." [back]

3. Below Vaughan's closing and signature are a series of addresses and mathematical calculations that Vaughan has written and then crossed out. The notes bear the date of "Aug 11." [back]

4. In the mid- to late-1850s, Vaughan lived with Whitman at the Whitman family's Classon Avenue home. [back]

5. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]


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