Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Ellen M. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 2 January 1891

Date: January 2, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08244

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: Celeste Gutentag, Brooke Cox, Stephanie Blalock, and Breanna Himschoot

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112 M St. N.W.1
Jan. 2d 1891

Dear Walt,

At last I have heard from Houghton, Mifflin & Co.,2 & they propose to print "The Brazen Android"3 in the Atlantic Monthly for next April & May, as it is too long for one number; & then to issue the volume next fall, as they say it is a Christmas book really, three (3) of the stories being distinctly x mas stories.

That is a first rate plan, as the story will make the way for the volume. I got the letter the last day of the year, & felt that it was the best New Year's gift that I could have had. I am very closely confined to the office, & get no days nor hours off; but think of you; & hope that you are happy. I wish you a happy new year, & with love always

Your friend
Nelly O'Conner.

I mean to write to Dr. Bucke4 as soon as I can & tell him the good news.

Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor (1830–1913) 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 African Americans, Ellen would remain friendly with Whitman. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. Three years after William O'Connor's death, Ellen married the Providence businessman Albert Calder. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see Dashae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]" and Lott's "O'Connor (Calder), Ellen ('Nelly') M. Tarr (1830–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. Whitman included this letter as an enclosure in his January 3, 1891, letter to the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke.  [back]

2. O'Connor hoped to publish a collection of fiction by her late husband, William D. O'Connor, a friend and defender of Whitman. [back]

3. First written in 1862 but not published until 1891, William D. O'Connor's story "The Brazen Android" appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in two installments: Part 1, vol. 67, no. 402, April 1891, pp. 433–454; Part 2, vol. 67, no. 403, May 1891, pp. 577–599. The story also appeared in the collection Three Tales: The Ghost, The Brazen Android, The Carpenter (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1892), for which Whitman wrote the Preface (which he later included in Good-Bye My Fancy [Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891], 51–53). [back]

4. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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