Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor, 4 December 1864

Date: December 4, 1864

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00194

Source: Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, Volume I: 1842–1867, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961), 243-244. 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, Kathryn Kruger, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson

December 4 18641

My dear friend

Your letter of November 30 came safe, & was truly welcome—if you have seen Mrs Howells2 she has told you that I intend returning to Washington this winter—I do not know how soon, but I shall come, almost certainly—Then Charles Eldridge is to be transferred to Boston—I am indeed sorry, on my own account, & yours & Williams, for he will be missed by us all, I believe more than he thinks for3

We are all well as usual. Mother remains well, & in pretty good spirits, better than I would have expected—My brother George still remains a prisoner—as near as we can judge he is at Columbia, S C—we have had no word from him4

About my book nothing particular to tell—I shall print it myself—also my new edition of Leaves of Grass—Most likely shall do it in the way we have talked of, namely by subscription—I feel that it is best for me to print my books myself, (notwithstanding some very good objections to that course, but the reasons in favor are far stronger)5

Dear Nelly, you & William have neither of you any idea how I daily & nightly bear you in mind & in love too—I did not know myself that you both had taken such deep root in my heart—few attachments wear & last through life, but ours must

Good bye, dear Nelly, & good bye, dear William, & God bless you both—



1. Draft fragment. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter from November 15, 1863[back]

3. Although Eldridge did not depart until January, Ellen O'Connor feared further changes in the little Washington group of Whitman admirers. On November 30, 1864, she wrote to Whitman: "Every evening we talk of you, & wish you were here, & almost every evening we read from Leaves of Grass, read & admire. I don't believe, dear Walt, that you have in all the world, two heartier lovers & appreciators than William & Charley." [back]

4. The last extant letter from George in 1864 is that of October 23, 1864.. [back]

5. On August 13, 1864, William O'Connor admitted "many misgivings about your plan of getting out the book yourself. I want it to have a large sale, as I think it well might, and I am afraid that this sort of private publication will keep it from being known or accessible to any considerable number of people." See also Whitman's letter to William D. O'Connor from May 12, 1867 (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:329–330). [back]


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