Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Ellen O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 13 March 1888

Date: March 13, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02951

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: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock



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Walt Whitman1
Camden,
New Jersey,
March 13. 1888.

Thanks for card.2 I will send paper to Dr. Bucke.3 Since March 1st William4 has been treated every A. M. at 7 with "massage," to-day was the thirteenth treatment.5 He is very hopeful of benefit from it. As yet no change. To-day cold very.

Love from W. & N.


Correspondent:
Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Whitman's staunchest defenders. Whitman dined with the O'Connors frequently during his Washington years. Though Whitman and William O'Connor would temporarily break off their friendship in late 1872 over Reconstruction policies with regard to emancipated black citizens, Ellen would remain friendly with Whitman. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see Dashae E. Lott, "William Douglas O'Connor," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. This postal card is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden, | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Washington | Mar 13 | 8PM | 88 | D.C.; Camden, N.J. | Mar 14 | 1PM | 1888 | Rec'd. [back]

2. Whitman had sent a postal card to O'Connor on March 10, 1888[back]

3. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. 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]

5. The "treatment" to which O'Connor refers is also mentioned in a second postal card, intended as a postscript to this one, that she also sent to Whitman on March 13, 1888. [back]


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