Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor, 5 September [1873]

Date: September 5, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00311

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), 2:239–240. 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, Kathryn Kruger, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad

Friday afternoon, Sept. 5.1

Dear friend,

I still remain here in Camden, & in a condition not much different—alternating constantly between the bad spells, & then hours, & sometimes days, not so bad. I suppose you rec'd the little Philadelphia paper I sent a week since—Dr. Grier here is confident my principal trouble is cerebral anæmia (blood not properly going to the brain to nourish it)—says it arises from a long continued excessive emotional action generally2—& thinks it so has arisen in my case—does not think writing, or study, or ordinary brain action has been the cause—it has been long a-coming & will probably be long a-going—thinks I will get well however.

He thinks it has been coming on for many years, says I need rest, rest for a long time & social exhilaration—(The paralysis, according to him, is only an incident, or result, & not the cause-disease)—Since I have been here I have followed Dr. Drinkard's advice—taken no medicine, & lived very prudently—(I still quite thoroughly believe in Dr. Drinkard)—

Charles Eldridge called upon me on his way back—his visit was a great treat, & was only too short—I rec'd a letter from him a few days since—all goes on as usual in Washington matters we are interested in—I have a substitute3 working for me at my desk, and he seems to give satisfaction—When I shall be able to go to work again, if ever, is as indefinite now as it has been for over seven months—

I have rec'd a letter from John Burroughs. He has bought some land at Esopus, on the Hudson, west bank, some 80 miles from New York, & is going to build him a house & home there forthwith.

I get out some—went over to Philadelphia yesterday—go sometimes to the Mercantile Library Reading Room, as it is very pleasant there for a change—or rather for a place to go to & rest—though the atmosphere of a reading room soon weighs on me, & I feel like retreating—Yesterday took a ride up in the Market st. cars to West Philadelphia—& was caught in a violent shower coming home in the evening, & nicely soaked—Soon as I got home it stopt, and we had a splendid moonlight evening—It is bright & clear to-day, & rather hot—It is socially here an utter blank to me—my cynical dread of being bored by any one is now completely gratified with a vengeance—I look long & long at my mother's miniature, & at my sister Mat's—I have very good one's of each—& O the wish if I could only be with them—

Nelly, this has grown to be a perturbed sort of letter—& had better be torn up—but I will let it go.



1. This letter is endorsed, "Ans'd." Its envelope bears the address, "Mrs. E. M. O'Connor | care of Dr. W. F. Channing | Newport, R. I." Its postmark is indecipherable. [back]

2. In his September 5, 1873 letter to Peter Doyle, Whitman omitted this part of Grier's diagnosis. [back]

3. Whitman refers here to Walter Godey. [back]


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