Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Charles W. Eldridge, 17 November 1863

Date: November 17, 1863

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00215

Source: Oscar Lion Papers, 1914–1955, New York Public Library, New York, N.Y. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:185. 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, Tim Jackson, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson

Nov 17, 1863

Dear friend1

I suppose Nelly has received a letter from me posting you up of my doings, &c. Any letters that come to me, up to Saturday next, please send on here. After that, do not send any, as I shall return Monday or Tuesday next. The weather here the last three days is very unpleasant, sloppy & thick. I was at the opera last night, Trovatore2—very, very good singing & acting—

I feel to devote myself more to the work of my life, which is making poems. I must bring out Drum Taps. I must be continually bringing out poems—now is the hey day. I shall range along the high plateau of my life & capacity for a few years now, & then swiftly descend. The life here in the cities, & the objects, &c of most, seem to me very flippant & shallow somehow since I returned this time—

My New York boys are good, too good—if I staid here a month longer I should be killed with kindness—The great recompense of my journey here is to see my mother so well, & so bravely sailing on amid many troubles & discouragements like a noble old ship—My brother Andrew is bound for another world—he is here the greater part of the time—

Charley, I think sometimes to be a woman is greater than to be a man—is more eligible to greatness, not the ostensible article, but the real one. Dear comrade, I send you my love, & to William & Nelly, & remember me to Major [Hapgood]3



1. Charles W. Eldridge was one half of the Boston based abolitionist publishing firm Thayer and Eldridge, who put out the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. In December 1862, on his way to find his injured brother George in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Walt Whitman stopped in Washington and encountered Eldridge, who had become a clerk in the office of the army paymaster and eventually obtained a desk for Whitman in the office of Major Lyman Hapgood, the army paymaster. For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge see "Thayer, William Wilde [1829–1896] and Charles W. Eldridge [1837–1903]." See Whitman's letter from October 11–15, 1863[back]

2. Il Trovatore was performed at the Academy of Music on November 16, 1863, with a cast that included Medori, Mazzoleni, and Fernando Bellini. [back]

3. Ellen M. O'Connor wrote on November 21, 1863, that Eldridge "got your letter, & was delighted with it, he said it was worthy to be set in a gold frame—to which Wm. & I assented most heartily." [back]


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