Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 18 March 1889

Date: March 18, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00661

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 The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:303–304. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Alex Ashland, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
Evn'g March 18 '891

Sunny mild March day—Dr B[ucke]2 leaves at 8—will be due home in London ab't noon to-morrow—The practical outset of the meter3 enterprise collapsed4 at the last moment for the want of capital investors5

N[elly]'s6 card came this mn'g—I am easier to-day—Hope the cold in the head is "petering out"—


W W


Correspondent:
William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). 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).

Notes:

1. This postal card is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | 1015 O Street N W | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Mar 18 | 8 PM | 89; Washington, Rec'd | Mar 19 | 7 AM | 89 | 5. [back]

2. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]

4. For details of the "collapse," see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, March 18, 1889; and Friday, March 22, 1889[back]

5. Whitman may be referring to the March 13, 1889, letter he received from Ellen O'Connor. [back]

6. Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Whitman's staunchest defenders. Whitman dined with the O'Connors frequently during his Washington years. Though Whitman and William O'Connor would temporarily break off their friendship in late 1872 over Reconstruction policies with regard to emancipated black citizens, Ellen would remain friendly with Whitman. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see Dashae E. Lott, "William Douglas O'Connor," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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