Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 11 March [1883]

Date: March 11, 1883

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00480

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), 3:330. 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, Kirsten Clawson, Nima Najafi Kianfar, and Nicole Gray

Sunday Evng March 111

I send you the proofs of the Introductory Letter. If you return them (send to me) by Wednesday Evng's mail from Washington—(or even Thursday's)—it will be time enough.

Every thing seems moving on—not unfavorably at any rate—I am well as usual—


I wish you would in your next tell me ab't my dear friends Nelly and Jeannie2


1. This letter is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | Life Saving Service | Treasury | Washington D C. It is postmarked: Camden | Mar | 11 | 6 PM | N.J.; Washington, Recd. | Mar | 12 | 7 AM | 188(?) | (?). [back]

2. On March 10 O'Connor informed Whitman that he was leaving Washington for Providence, R. I., because of the illness of his daughter. It is an interesting sidelight on the relations of O'Connor and Whitman that after the resumption of their correspondence in 1882 almost a year passed before O'Connor referred to his family or Whitman inquired about Mrs. O'Connor and Jeannie. Until the quarrel Whitman was on intimate terms with the family; in fact, Mrs. O'Connor continued to write to him for four years after the estrangement. Despite Jeannie's critical illness the poet referred to her only in this letter and in his letter to O'Connor of March 14, 1883. O'Connor mentioned her death on May 23 (Oscar Lion Collection, New York Public Library). In 1888 Whitman observed: "Jeannie's death was the tragedy of their history—and a tragedy in my history, too. Too much must not be said of that or the like of that—it gets down in you where words do not go." Horace Traubel reported that Whitman's "eyes were full of tears" (With Walt Whitman in Camden [New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1915], 2:261). Yet Whitman apparently did not write to O'Connor about her death or record it in his Commonplace Book (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]


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