Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor, 3 February [1874]

Date: February 3, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00326

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), 2:271–272. 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

431 Stevens st.
cor West.
Camden, N. Jersey,
Tuesday noon, Feb. 3.1

Dear Nelly,

I sent you the Weekly Graphic No. 2 yesterday—wish you to take an opportunity, when convenient, & loan it to those two dear ladies, Mrs. Johnson & her sister mentioned in my article2—& please give them my best remembrances. Dear Nelly, how are you getting along, this winter?—We have just had a snow storm here—cold & while, as I look out, and the sleigh-bells occasionally jingling by—I am sitting here alone in the parlor by the heater, as I write. I am alone most of the time, (to all intents & purposes.)

I feel that I am better, in the main—yet still have daily & nightly bad spells in the head, & my leg most of the time disabled as ever. In fact not much different from the same old story—(yet certainly a good streak, or vein, of encouragement, & feeling of encouragement—maintaining itself—accumulating—never more than temporarily leaving me.) I even begin to think about coming back to Washington & trying it again.

Nelly, I sent a P.O. check for $50 to Charley last Friday to pay my young man3—haven't rec'd any word from Charley yet, up to this present writing4—hope it came safe—may hear from him, this afternoon or tomorrow. Charley is always so prompt in responding. I hear regularly from Peter Doyle—he is well & hearty, works hard for poor pay, on the Balt & Potomac RR., works nights a great deal. He writes me regularly every week. I have been waiting ever since I wrote,5 to get the photos. of my nieces, (my dear sister Mat's girls,) returned from New York, & send them to you—but have not yet got them. Shall write for them. My "song of the redwood tree," in last Harpers is copied a little, & abused & sneered at in the newspaper criticisms, a good deal, (from what I glean)—of course, that last makes me feel very bad—I expect to have another piece in February6 Harpers—(but am not certain)—"prayer of Columbus"—as I see it now I shouldn't wonder if I have unconsciously put a sort of biographical dash in it—Nelly dear, write oftener—put in all the gossip & items that will be next best to seeing you—do you see Dr. Drinkard—I sent Garaphelia Howard7 a paper, the Graphic8 that has my picture—how is she? Is she married? Give her my love—Poor, good Mr. Dille9—yet amid all its sombreness & terror how blessed to die "by touch ethereal," painless, instantaneous—Nelly, death has become to me a familiar thing—Yet, as I sit here writing, I do not feel a particle less of life in me, than ever.

God bless, you, dear, dear Nelly.


1. This letter is endorsed, "Ans'd." Its envelope bears the address, "Mrs. E. M. O'Connor, | 1015 O street | near 11th N. W. | Washington, | D.C." It is postmarked: "Camden | Feb | 3 | N.J." [back]

2. Whitman refers here to Nancy M. Johnson and her sister, referenced in Whitman's January 16, 1874 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor. [back]

3. Whitman refers here to Walter Godey, Whitman's substitute at the U.S. Attorney General's Office. [back]

4. Charles Eldridge wrote later in the week; Whitman confirmed receipt of Eldridge's letter in a February 6, 1874 letter to Peter Doyle. [back]

5. Whitman mentioned these photographs in his December 29, 1873 letter to Charles W. Eldridge. [back]

6. Whitman meant the March issue, in which "Prayer of Columbus" appeared. [back]

7. Whitman probably refers here to the "Miss Howard" mentioned in his January 6, 1865 letter to William O'Connor. [back]

8. The New York Daily Graphic of November 25, 1873. [back]

9. Israel Dille was a clerk in the Internal Revenue Bureau, whose death was mentioned in Whitman's January 16, 1874 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor. [back]


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