Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 19 February 1883

Date: February 19, 1883

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00475

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), 3:325–326. 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

noon Feb. 19 '83

Dear friend

You will get a copious shower (Dr B[ucke] and me together) of these pestering messages. I have been looking through the G[ood] G[ray] P[oet] as Dr B sent it in his copy, & it comes to my soul over the dozen years more eloquent & beautiful than ever—seems to me, (as a passionate shooting shaft launched into those times, & indeed fitting to the whole situation then & since)—it deserves to stand just as it is—two passages in the last page only might be left out, & I should so suggest.2 Seems to me all that is wanted is a brief preparatory ¶ dated present time, distinctly confirming your faith &c. that it is without diminution (it couldn't have "increase")3Tomorrow & next day the printers will be waiting for the copy. It is intended to put the copy, whole book, in hand in force, & have it out soon—Send to me here—

I am pretty well this ending winter. Yes I rec'd the big Powell Ethnology4 & have made more than one courageous attack on it (thought I acknowledged it)—The air here (human & other) all nervous from the pouring crowds of big disasters, floods, mine cavings, deaths, wrecks, big casualties from every quarter—

W. W.


1. This letter is endorsed: "Answ'd Feb 20/83." It is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | Life Saving Service Bureau | Treasury | Washington D C. It is postmarked: Philadelphia | Pa. | Feb 19 83 | (?); Washington, Recd. | Feb | 20 | 4 30 AM | 1883 | 2. [back]

2. In his reply on February 20 O'Connor stated that although he wanted to delete the passages mentioned, he was in a "dilemma," since they were singled out for censure by his critics when the pamphlet appeared in 1866. For this reason he thought no deletions should be made (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [Boston: Small, Maynard, 1906], 1:351). [back]

3. O'Connor, who had Olympian contempt for brevity, added more than a paragraph—a letter of twenty-five pages. [back]

4. Perhaps an unidentified work by Frederick York Powell (1850–1904), Froude's successor at Oxford, who wrote an eulogistic letter to Whitman on November 1, 1884 (Charles E. Feinberg Collection; Traubel, 1:356–357). [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.