Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: William D. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 9 December 1888

Date: December 9, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03374

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, "see notes Dec 9 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock



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Washington,
Dec. 9, 1888.1

Dear Walt:

I was very glad to hear from this morning and hope to be able to write you soon in extenso. I have been very sick and feeble for a month past, but am a little better. My eye got open at last, but is still bleary and bad. My present woe is a festered pen finger, sore as death, and preventing me writing. Altogether, I am pretty used up. Tell Traubel.2—I feel dejected at your illness, but am comforted to know you are better. The bladder trouble is worst to think of. It is one of my afflictions, though without pain.—I will try to write soon.

I deeply enjoyed your reminiscence of the elder Booth3 in November Boughs,4 and wish you had made it longer. He and Rachel5 were the only vast actors I ever saw.

Always affectionately
WD.O'C


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This postal card is addressed: Mr. Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden, New Jersey. It is postmarked: Washington | Dec 10 | 11PM | DC; Camden, N.J. | Dec | 11 | [illegible] | [illegible] | Rec'd. [back]

2. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. The chapter "The Old Bowery" in November Boughs reminisces about the British actor Junius Brutus Booth (1796–1852), who rose to fame performing Shakespeare in New York. He was also the father of Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth (1838–1865). [back]

4. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Rachel Felix (1821–1858), known simply as "Mademoiselle Rachel," was a French actor who joined the famous Comédie-Française theater in Paris when she was seventeen years old and quickly became celebrated, as much for her scandalous love life as for her brilliant acting. She has been called the first international theater star. O'Connor may have seen her on her tour of the United States in 1855. She was known for her remarkable ability to inhabit classical roles (in plays by Voltaire, Corneille, and Racine) as fully living women, conveying their passions with great conviction. For further information, see Rachel Brownstein, Tragic Muse: Rachel of the Comédie-Française (New York: Knopf, 1993). [back]


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