Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor, 30 April 1890

Date: April 30, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00705

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), 5:44. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Ian Faith, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden1
Evn'g April 30 '90

Nothing very notable or different—The worst of the grip (its violence & strangling) seems to be past, but I feel its bad influence yet—y'r letters came safe & I thank you for them2—Dr B[ucke]3 is to come here in two weeks. God bless you—


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor (1830–1913) 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 African Americans, Ellen would remain friendly with Whitman. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. Three years after William O'Connor's death, Ellen married the Providence businessman Albert Calder. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see Dashae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]" and Lott's "O'Connor (Calder), Ellen ('Nelly') M. Tarr (1830–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Mrs: O'Connor | 1015 O Street N W | Washington D C. It is postmarked: Camden, N J. | Apr 30 | 8 PM | 90; Washington | May 1 | 11 30 AM | 90; [illegible] | 5 - 1 - [illegible] | 10 | N.Y.; Washington, D.C. | May 1 | 6 AM | 90. [back]

2. Ellen O'Connor, on April 27, 1890, described her low spirits in the year following her husband's death. [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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