Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 12 April [1886]

Date: April 12, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00545

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), 4:24. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein and Kyle Barton

328 Mickle Street
April 12 p m

Dear friend

Rec'd yours last week & was glad as always to get letter from you2—Dr Bucke has been here—left this morning for N Y—sails Wednesday next for England—to stay two months—was with me Friday, Saturday & Sunday—we rode out every day—

He is pretty well—I am ab't the same as when I last wrote—am to read the "Death of Lincoln" lecture Thurs: afternoon next in the Phila: Chestnut St Opera House—the actors & journalists have tendered me a sort of benefit—Thomas Donaldson and Talcott Williams are the instigators of it all—(I am receiving great & opportune Kindnesses in my old days—& this is one of them)3

The printed slip on the other side I just cut out of my Phila: Press of this morning4—I am looking for your little book5—Good weather here—

Walt Whitman

William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. This letter is endorsed: Answ'd May 25/86. It is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | Life Saving Service | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Philadelphia, Pa. | Apr | 12 | 1886 | 7 PM | Transit; Washington, Rec'd | Apr | 12(?) | 12 PM | 1886 | 1. [back]

2. O'Connor, according to his notations on Whitman's letters, did not write to the poet between March 23 and May 25. Either O'Connor was in error or Whitman had a lapse of memory. [back]

3. On April 15 Whitman received $370 from Donaldson and $304 from Williams. In his Commonplace Book Whitman noted receiving an additional $13 at an unspecified date (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). The total, according to Whitman, was $687, but in Donaldson's book the amount is given as $692. The discrepancy apparently stems from the amount of Donaldson's share: he gave it as $375, Whitman as $370. Williams forwarded an additional $8 on June 11. Whitman read his lecture for the fourth time this year in Haddonfield, N.J., on May 18, "without pay, for the benefit of a new Church, building fund, at Collingswood" (Whitman's Commonplace Book). For an account of the sparsely attended lecture, see Walt Whitman Review, 9 (1963), 65–66. [back]

4. The item, pasted on the first page of the letter, includes the following: "'William D. O'Connor,' says the New York Commercial-Advertiser of a former Philadelphian, 'is one of the very few clever writers who do not write enough. The reason may be that, having a Government position in Washington, the salary of which supports him, he has not the need, and without the need the desire for composition is perhaps absent.' The same paper, saying that 'Carpenter' is the best of Mr. O'Connor's stories, adds: 'It is a story of which Walt Whitman is visibly the idealized hero, and it is singularly interesting and rememberable.'" [back]

5. O'Connor's Hamlet's Note-book. On January 21 O'Connor reported to Whitman that "the New York publishers have uniformly refused to publish my Baconian reply to R. G. White, even at my expense." On March 23 he said that the book was to be published by Houghton, Mifflin & Company. [back]


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