Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Justus F. Boyd to Walt Whitman, 18 September 1864

Date: September 18, 1864

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00171

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 Drum Beats: Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers, ed. Charley Shively (San Francisco, California: Gay Sunshine Press, 1989), 114. 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, Janel Cayer, Kathryn Kruger, and Nick Krauter

Mr Whitman Dear Sir

I1 once more take my pen in hand to write a few lines to you And if I dont get an answer to this I shall never write again. I have never recd a line from you since I left Washington I am at present attending the Commercial College here in Detroit. It is a good institution if I can judge by the Book Keepers here in the City that have been through the course I have been here about five weeks now and think it will take about four or five weeks longer. I think I can keep Books in any business that may be brought on the carpet Now Mr Whitman if you could get me a situation as Book Keeper or Clerk in the Paymaster department or some other good place if you will I will pay you any price your a mind to ask. Detroit is a very pleaseant City They have two or three Theaters going now I was to one of them last evening they Played The Country Cousin Miss Laura Keenns Company from N.Y. City have been here for the last week last night was the last night I persume you have seen her lots of times No more until I receive a letter from you. Yours Truly

I have my Photograph when I receive yours I will send you Give my respects to Mrs. O'Connor.2 Jay


1. Justus F. Boyd was a soldier in the 6th Michigan Cavalry. Whitman wrote the following entry on Boyd in a notebook that he kept shortly after his appointment to the Christian Commission, January 20, 1863 ("Walt Whitman Soldier's," Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #99, sheets 1098–1133): "Corp. Justus F. Boyd bed 22 co. D 6th Michigan cavalry been in five months, four sick, affection of kidneys and pleurisy—wants some paper and envelope and something to read gave him 12 sheets paper, & 12 envelopes & three of them franked by Sumner." [back]

2. For a time Whitman lived with William D. and Ellen M. O'Connor, who, with Charles W. Eldridge and later John Burroughs, were to be his close associates during the early Washington years. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of Harrington, an abolition novel published by Thayer & Eldridge in 1860. He had been an assistant editor of the Saturday Evening Post before he went to Washington. O'Connor was an intelligent man who deserved something better than the various governmental clerical posts he was to hold until his death. The humdrum of clerkship, however, was relieved by the presence of Whitman whom he was to love and venerate—and defend with a single-minded fanaticism and an outpouring of vituperation and eulogy that have seldom been equaled, most notably in his pamphlet, "The Good Gray Poet." He was the first, and in many ways the most important, of the adulators who divided people arbitrarily into two categories: those who were for and those who were against Walt Whitman. The poet praised O'Connor in the preface to a posthumous collection of his tales: "He was a born sample here in the 19th century of the flower and symbol of olden time first-class knighthood. Thrice blessed be his memory!" (Complete Prose Works [New York, D. Appleton, 1910] pp. 513). For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors see O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889][back]


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