Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Charles W. Eldridge to Walt Whitman, 13 July 1889

Date: July 13, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02028

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: Kirby Little, Breanna Himschoot, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

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United States Internal Revenue,
San Francisco,
July 13th
, 1889.1

Dear Walt:—

You will see by the enclosed card that I have returned to the Internal Revenue service. I regretted to leave Los Angeles and the practice of law, but times got very hard there, and although I had some important cases and good fees on prospect I was unable to realize the cash proceeds; so I applied and got my present position—same that I held before.—I hope to resume practice in this state, some time in the future, when I have paid my debts and saved a little money.—I am now a citizen of California and hope to always remain such. I should not be contented to settle down in the East, again, I think.—

The death of William O'Connor2 though long anticipated, was a great shock when the news came.—What a wealth of intellectual enthusiasm and power was there extinguished, if it could be so:3 but I don't believe he or any of us can go out like a childs carlacue in the night.4 I have faith to believe that we shall all meet again on the other side of Jordan, & if we can only have such good times as we had of yore in Washington I shall be content. My mother is still living in Boston at the age of 75, well and hearty. Thank God—I have not seen her for two years, and more

I read with much emotion in the Philadelphia & Camden papers the account of your Seventieth Birthday dinner.5 I was especially touched by John Burroughs6 letter.—I am indebted to you for many papers—Always glad to get them.—Address me until further notice simply Internal Revenue Agent. San Francisco. Cal. I hope you are fairly comfortable—God bless you my old and long tried friend—

"With fond affection and recollection—
Ever yours
Charles W. Eldridge

Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903) was one half of the Boston-based abolitionist publishing firm Thayer and Eldridge, who issued the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. In December 1862, on his way to find his injured brother George in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Whitman stopped in Washington and encountered Eldridge, who had become a clerk in the office of the army paymaster, Major Lyman Hapgood. Eldridge eventually obtained a desk for Whitman in Hapgood's office. For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge, see David Breckenridge Donlon, "Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903)."


1. Whitman sent this letter to two of his closest friends and admirers, the naturalist John Burroughs and Canadian physician and psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke, including it as an enclosure with his letter to Burroughs and Bucke of July 19, 1889[back]

2. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. For Whitman's reaction to the news of the death of O'Connor, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, May 10, 1889[back]

4. Eldridge is echoing Whitman's line in "Song of Myself"—"I know I shall not pass like a child's carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night." [back]

5. For Whitman's seventieth birthday, Horace Traubel and a large committee planned a local celebration for the poet in Morgan's Hall in Camden, New Jersey. The committee included Henry (Harry) L. Bonsall, Geoffrey Buckwalter, and Thomas B. Harned. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, May 7, 1889. The day was celebrated with a testimonial dinner. Numerous authors and friends of the poet prepared and delivered addresses to mark the occasion. Whitman, who did not feel well at the time, arrived after the dinner to listen to the remarks. [back]

6. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a lifelong correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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