Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John Boyle O'Reilly to Walt Whitman, 5 March 1885

Date: March 5, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03469

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 July 25 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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The Pilot Editorial Rooms.

March 5th 1885:

Dear Mr. Whitman,

I am delighted to hear from you1—& that you are well. The books came all right: I enclose check for them—

Phil. Bagenal2 writes me from London that he has lost your picture by an accident to his house—fire, I presume; & he wants another copy, with your autograph addressed to him. (You remember that I introduced Bagenal to you; he wrote article about you in The Gentleman's Magazine;3 & he was an old friend of Standish O'Grady,4 &c. His name is O. H. Bagenal. He is now, by the way, doing well: assistant editor of the St. James Gazette, & private Sec. of the Earl of Dunraven—

When sending the photo. for him, I wish you would send one to me also with your autograph, & one to Dr. Kelly.5 It will gratify him exceedingly. I enclose the price of the photographs.

Good bye. Love to you—
John Boyle O'Reilly

Walt Whitman

John Boyle O'Reilly (1844–1890) was a fervent Irish patriot who joined the British Army in order to sabotage it. He was arrested and sentenced to be hanged in 1866. Later the decree was altered, and O'Reilly was sent to Australia, where he escaped on an American whaler in 1869. In 1876 he became the coeditor of the Boston Pilot, a position which he held until his death in 1890. See William G. Schofield, Seek for a Hero: The Story of John Boyle O'Reilly (New York: Kennedy, 1956). For more on O'Reilly, see also the letter from Whitman to James R. Osgood of May 8, 1881.


1. Whitman's letter appears to be lost. [back]

2. Philip Henry Bagenal (1850–1927) was an Anglo-Irish author, known mostly for his The American Irish and Their Influence on Irish Politics (1882). [back]

3. O'Reilly appears to mistake Bagenal for the author of O'Grady's piece on Whitman from 1875. [back]

4. Standish James O'Grady (1846–1928), a lawyer and later a celebrated Irish poet, published (under the pseudonym Arthur Clive) "Walt Whitman: the Poet of Joy," the Gentleman's Magazine, 15 (December 1875), 704–716, in which he concluded that Walt Whitman "is the noblest literary product of modern times, and his influence is invigorating and refining beyond expression." See Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1934), 180–182, and Hugh Art O'Grady, Standish James O'Grady—The Man & the Writer (Dublin: Talbot Press, 1929). See also Joann P. Krieg, chapter 8, "Dublin," Walt Whitman and the Irish (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000), 190–231. [back]

5. Dr. Michael F. Kelly (1856–1916) was a New England doctor of children's diseases as well as an Irish-American activist and scholar. He was a well-known public speaker and published poetry in the Catholic Boston Pilot alongside John Boyle O'Reilly. [back]


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