Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Ellen M. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 14 November 1891

Date: November 14, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03017

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: Cristin Noonan, Stephanie Blalock, and Alex Ashland

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34 Benefit Sqr.
Providence R.I.
Nov. 14, 1891.

Dear Walt,

I am much relieved that you like the book,1 & think it all right. Somehow the color & the die did not strike me well, & I was, no doubt, over-critical. But you are a good judge, & it pleases me that you like it.

Of course you noticed that I cut out in your preface what was said of the children; it seemed to be, on the whole, better not to speak of the family, but only of William.2

I think some of them ought to be bound in some other color, or colors, what say you? These stories would bear it, I think & feel. If you have a sentiment about it, tell me, please.

I thank you for the papers, it is good to see your hand once more.

I am getting used to my new abode, & ought to get very well, for my cares are not heavy, & the people are kind.

Love to you always—& I hope you will enjoy much yet,—& that you are enjoying the fine weather.

Yours as ever—
Nelly O'Connor.

Good wishes to all friends, & love to you. If you see any notices of the book, will you send them to me?

Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Whitman's staunchest defenders. Before marrying William, Ellen Tarr was active in the antislavery and women's rights movements as a contributor to the Liberator and to a women's rights newspaper Una. 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, "O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. At the behest of Ellen O'Connor, Houghton, Mifflin & Company published a collection that included three of her late husband William Douglas O'Connor's stories and a preface by Whitman. Three Tales: The Ghost, The Brazen Android, The Carpenter was published in 1892. [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]


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