Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to William Douglas O'Connor, 16 March 1865

Date: March 16, 1865

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00134

Source: Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature at the New York Public Library. The transcription presented here is derived from Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), 107-108. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, Kathryn Kruger, and April Lambert

Brooklyn, N. Y.,
March 16th 18651

Mr. W. D. O'Connor2
Dr. Sir,

I received this morning yours of March 14th3—I am deeply sensible of the interest you have taken for me and return my sincere and heartfelt thanks for it. The position—although very desirable in all respects is one that I am not in the least qualified to fill—it is an entirely different branch of the profession from that in which I have been engaged—My Engineering education and entire experience has been in the construction of work[s], such as laying out masonry, location and the general superintendance of building a piece of work—As a draughtsman I am totally deficient—my efforts in that direction being limited entirely to a rough pencil sketch to convey the idea of what is wanted to the workman—Therefore I am certain that I am not qualified and could not justify your generous recommendation of me for the appointment

Hoping sir, that I may some time personally thank you for the trouble you have taken and kindness shown me I am very respectfully

Yours Cdially Thos J. Whitman


1. This note may have arrived with a letter that has not been found. It is enclosed in an envelope inscribed by Whitman, "Note from Jeff enclosed to me for Mr. O'Connor, March 17, 1865." [back]

2. Journalist, author, and civil servant, Wiliam Douglas O'Connor (1832–89) gained lasting fame as the champion of Whitman. O'Connor's panegyric The Good Gray Poet: a Vindication (New York: Bunce and Huntington, 1866) helped define a new role for Whitman, a role which seems to have shaped in subtle but far-reaching ways the closing decades of the poet's career. See Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman's Champion: William Douglas O'Connor (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1978). [back]

3. O'Connor's letter of March 14, 1865, is not extant. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.