Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Fred S. Ryman to Walt Whitman, 14 May 1889

Date: May 14, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05845

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.

Related item: Whitman crossed out this letter and used the back to write notes and instructions related to the binding of the limited pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass, published in 1889.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King and Stephanie Blalock

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May 14 1889

Dear Mr Whitman:—

I see that Mr. W. D. O'Connor1 is dead. Can you tell me the date & place of his birth & of his death also where I could get a sketch of his life.

Very sincerely yours
Fred S Ryman

42 Bradford St.

Frederick Shelley Ryman (1858–1930) was a Pennsylvania-born poet, book collector, and diarist. His poems frequently appeared in newspapers and magazines, and he was once lauded as "the Byron of America" and "Poet of the Catskills" (The Elmira Tidings 4.28 [May 17, 1885], 5). Ryman's forty-four volume diary, currently housed at the Massachusetts Historical Society, explicitly describes his intimacy with men and women between 1880 and 1929, and has been frequently referenced in studies on sexuality in the nineteenth century. John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman write that Ryman "espoused free-love doctrines, passionately loved the poetry of Walt Whitman, and championed women's rights and equal employment" (Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, Third edition [Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2012], 109).


1. 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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