Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 29 March 1889

Date: March 29, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00667

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), 4:313–314. 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 29 '891

A long & good letter to-day f'm Stedman2—he also sends me the vols: so far pub'd of "American Literature."3 (I can see the effect of y'r talks with C)4—Also letter f'm John Burroughs5—they are all back to his own house at West Park6—& well—J B has another vol: being set up—Am anchor'd here as usual by the stove—Cooler but bright—


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, N.J. | Mar 29 | 8 PM | 89. [back]

2. Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908) was a man of diverse talents. He edited for a year the Mountain County Herald at Winsted, Connecticut, wrote "Honest Abe of the West," presumably Lincoln's first campaign song, and served as correspondent of the New York World from 1860 to 1862. In 1862 and 1863 he was a private secretary in the Attorney General's office until he entered the firm of Samuel Hallett and Company in September, 1863. The next year he opened his own brokerage office. He published many volumes of poems and was an indefatigable compiler of anthologies, among which were Poets of America, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885) and A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, 11 vols. (New York: C. L. Webster, 1889–90). For more, see Donald Yannella, "Stedman, Edmund Clarence (1833–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. See Stedman's letter to Whitman of March 27, 1889. [back]

4. "C" refers to Stedman. Why Whitman used the initial C, not E, is unknown. On March 2, when Traubel and Bucke visited him, O'Connor said: "I have had many talks with Stedman and have, I am confident, broken down most of his remaining prejudices against Walt" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, March 2, 1889). [back]

5. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a lifelong correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. On March 28, 1889, Burroughs mentioned his new book: "A collection of Indoor Essays; rather a piece of bookmaking—not much worth" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, March 29, 1889). [back]


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