Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 24 March 1889

Date: March 24, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00663

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), 4:310. 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, Caterina Bernardini, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
March 24 '891

Another beautiful sunny day. Rec'd a kind letter from T B Aldrich2 Boston—he buys the big book3 (sending $25 for it)4—Am feeling well (for me)—pass my whole time in the room & chair & bed—wonder I keep up & as good trim & spirits—but believe I do—no doctors now for over a month—No visitors to day—no mail—have flesh rubbing & massage daily—

Best love to you & N[elly]5
Walt Whitman


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 letter is addressed: Wm. D O'Connor | 1015 O Street N W | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Mar 24 | 5 PM | 8(?); Washington, Rec'd. | Mar (?) | 2 AM | 89 | 7. [back]

2. Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907) was associated with Henry Clapp's Saturday Press from 1858 until its final number in 1860; see Ferris Greenslet, the Life of Thomas Bailey Aldrich (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Co., 1908), 37–49. In 1865 Aldrich left New York and returned to Boston—to gentility and Longfellow. He was editor of the Atlantic Monthly from 1881 to 1890. For Aldrich's opinion of Whitman's poetry, see Greenslet, 138–139. [back]

3. Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), a volume Whitman often referred to as the "big book," was published by Philadelphia publisher David McKay in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, he made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound the book, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom's Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]

4. Aldrich acknowledged receipt of the book on March 25, 1889. Aldrich's check for $25 is in the Houghton Library. [back]

5. Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Whitman's staunchest defenders. Before marrying William, Ellen Tarr was active in the antislavery and women's rights movements as a contributor to the Liberator and to a women's rights newspaper Una. 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, "O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed. (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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