Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, [9 July 1882]

Date: July 9, 1882

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00459

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), 3:296–297. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schoeberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, and Nicole Gray

Sunday noon

Yours rec'd—yes indeed it is a cheering & very important victory2—most important coming just at this nick of time—vivifies Rees Welsh much (as I saw yesterday) & gives an absolute cement to what perhaps was not so entirely set as I could have wished—though as I get along with them, & versed, I am well satisfied with R W & Co. and my prospect with them—Though Thursday & Friday last were pretty dark, big clouds, big enemies on the horizon, some bad letters sent them threats from the "Society," they did not flinch but went on getting out the new edition as fast as possible—Now of course they feel entrenched & good heart3—The printing is done at Sherman & Co's. cor 7th & Cherry, the best printing office in Philadelphia. My L of G plates having been sent on there from Rand & Avery's, Boston—& I shall begin on "Specimen Days" there in about a week—

I havn't emerged from the house to-day, (it is July heat, oppressive)—but I shouldn't wonder if the L of G. officially ordered to pass unmolested through the mails was itemized generally over the land everywhere to-day, as the Telegraphic Associated Press chargé here in Phila told me yesterday afternoon he intended to send it generally—the Phila: Press here is very friendly—it has three short pieces in to-day, a first-rate acc't of the P O Dept. decision & commending it editorially—Talcott Williams4 on the P[ress] is an ardent friend—

William, I wish you would get an authentic copy of the P. O. letter order & send me soon, if you can—When you see Col. Ingersoll say he dont know how deeply he has served me, & at a time when it told best—



1. This letter is endorsed: "Answ'd July 10/82 | [Answ'd July] 12 [82]." It is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | Life Saving Service Bureau | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Camden | Jul | 9 | 7 PM | N.J.; Washington, D.C. | Jul | 10 | 5 AM | 1882 | Recd. [back]

2. On July 7 O'Connor wrote jubilantly: "The Boston Postmaster's action on Chainey's lecture is reversed and disapproved! Furthermore in the letter to Tobey, the Postmaster General takes the ground that your book must pass unmolested through the mails—that a book, generally accepted by the public, admitted into libraries, and accepted by the literary class, cannot be brought under the operation of the statutes respecting taboo matter. This is cheering. We owe this victory to the tact, bonhomie, energy and gallantry of Ingersoll, who put the case to the Department in the best manner possible" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.). [back]

3. On July 5 Rees Welsh & Co. wrote to Whitman: "Much to our surprise are threatened with an action. Please call at your earliest convenience and we will talk over it." [back]

4. Talcott Williams (1849–1928), a journalist, worked for the New York Sun and World, and became an editorial writer on the Springfield Republican in 1879. He joined the staff of the Philadelphia Press in 1881. In 1912 he became director of the School of Journalism at Columbia University. See also Elizabeth Dunbar's Talcott Williams: Gentleman of the Fourth Estate (1936) and Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (Boston: Small, Maynard, 1906), 1:202. The Philadelphia Press vigorously supported the poet against the Boston censorship both in its news columns and in its editorials. A front-page story on July 15 quoted at length the defense of Leaves of Grass offered by the Reverend James Morrow, "a prominent Methodist."For more information on Talcott Williams, see Philip W. Leon, "Williams, Talcott (1849–1928)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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