Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 14 July [1871]

Date: July 14, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00299

Source: The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:127–128. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad

107 North Portland av.
July 14.1

Dear friend,

There is nothing special to write about, yet I will send you a line. I wrote to Nelly between two & three weeks ago2—with a line to you and Charles Eldridge—which I suppose came all right at the time. I have been having a comfortable time, absolutely doing nothing, sleeping a good deal, eating & drinking what suits me, and going out a few hours a day, a good part of the time on the water. Mother has had an attack of illness, somewhat severe, the last few days—& I have been sort of nurse & doctor—(as none of my sisters are home at present)—result is that Mother is very much better this morning—

John Burroughs3 has called on me—looking well.

I must tell you that the Westminster4 for July has for the 2d article of the number a long article of 33 or 4 pages, headed

"The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman"

and capped with the names of the three last issued books—rather quiet in tone, but essentially very favorable & appreciative—undertakes to define the character of democratic art & poetic literature, as discriminated from aristocratic—quotes freely from all my books—will please you, I think.

Wednesday's brush in N. Y. you have seen in the papers5—in five sixths of the city, it was curiously almost unfelt, every thing went on the same—30 or 40 killed and a hundred wounded—yet it all falls very languidly on our people—we have supped full of horror of late years—the Policemen looked & behaved splendidly—I have been looking on them & been with them much, & am refreshed by their presence—it is something new—in some respects they afford the most encouraging sign I have got—brown, bearded, worn, resolute, American-looking men, dusty & sweaty—looked like veterans—the stock here even in these cities is in the main magnificent—the heads either shysters, villains or impotents—Love to Nelly, Charles Eldridge & Jeannie—



1. This letter is endorsed, "Answ'd July 16 | 71." Its envelope bears the address, "Wm. D. O'Connor, | Treasury Department, | Light House Bureau, | Washington, | D.C." It is postmarked, "New York | (?) | 14 | 1:30 PM." [back]

2. For this letter, see Whitman's June 29, 1871 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor. [back]

3. Burroughs was one of Walt Whitman's staunchest defenders in print during this period; see his "More about Nature and the Poets," Appleton's Journal, 4 (September 10, 1870), 314–316, and Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 58. Burroughs issued the expanded second edition of his Notes in 1871. [back]

4. An unsigned article by Edward Dowden (a professor of English literature at the University of Dublin; see also Whitman's August 22, 1871 letter to Dowden) in the Westminster Review, 96 (July 1871), 33–68. A few weeks later Whitman was still pleased with the review; he wrote positively about it in his July 26, 1871 letter to William D. O'Connor and in his July 28, 1871 letter to William Michael Rossetti. [back]

5. With the headline "War at Our Doors," the New York World reported: "The ides of March have come and gone. In spite of the efforts of the clergy, the municipal authorities, and all good citizens, New York has been disgraced by a street fight in 1871 over the merits of an Irish battle fought and won in 1690." The journal devoted two full pages (in an eight-page issue) to the incident, and announced that 45 had been killed and 105 wounded. Whitman also wrote of the incident in his July 14, 1871 letter to Peter Doyle. [back]


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