Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James L. Sill to Walt Whitman, 9 May 1889

Date: May 9, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03714

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 notes: The annotations, "letter f'm J. L. Sill Death of Wm O'Connor May 9 '89.," and "to be treasured," are in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Kirby Little, Caterina Bernardini, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Thursday Morning.
May 9, 1889.1

Dear Walt Whitman:

Our good friend William D. O'Connor2 died this morning about 2 o'clock.

I doubt not that you will have been informed by his friends, or by the press, but as it was my lot to be closely associated with him for several months before he was forced to keep to the house, and as he often talked of you (I know from your books that you loved him, and I know that he loved you), I am impelled to write you the sad intelligence of the morning.

He seemed hopeful through the last weeks of his illness, but did not fear the End. He had often said to me that his greatest fear was years of bedridden lingering—such as sometimes accompanies maladies kindred to his. Often he quoted: "Come quickly, O beautiful Death!" and now that it has come we cannot wish him back to that shattered tenement of clay.

Peace to his ashes!

I have not seen you, Walt Whitman, but it is not necessary to see you in order to know you, and I send you my love

Your friend,
James L. Sill

Washington, D. C.

As yet we have no information about this correspondent.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Washington, D C. | May 9 | 130PM | 89; Camden, N.J. | May | 10 | 6AM | 1889 | Rec'd. [back]

2. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. 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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