Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 18 January 1888

Date: January 18, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00693

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), 4:143. 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, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

Jan: 18 '881

Nothing very new with me. Storms, snow & cold weather. I send the Harvard Monthly2— when thro' send to Dr Bucke.3 I am pottering along—certainly no worse in my late physical ailments—rather better possibly—the wind is sighing & singing & piping around the house as I write.

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 Jan. 27/88." It is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | Life Saving Service | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jan (?) | 6 PM | 88; Washington, Rec'd | Jan | 19 | 7 AM | 1888 | 4. [back]

2. The January issue of the Harvard Monthly included Charles T. Sempers' article "Walt Whitman and His Philosophy" (149–165). On March 3, 1888, Sempers invited Walt Whitman to address the Harvard Signet Society. On the following day, in a personal communication, he informed the poet that "Prof. Wm James would like you to be his guest," and that he was making a study of Walt Whitman's poetry under an unnamed English instructor. [back]

3. 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]


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