Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 25 April 1888

Date: April 25, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00712

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), 4:166. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Braden Krien, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

April 25 towards noon1

A pleasant day out & I am feeling better than for two weeks past—Drove down yesterday three or four miles to Gloucester, on the Delaware below here, to a fine old public house close to the river, where I had four hours & a good dinner of planked shad & champagne2—had a good view of the picturesque sight of the great boat, 20 black men rowing rhythmically, paying out the big seine—making a circuit in the river, (here quite a bay)—enjoyed all & was driven back to Camden ab't sundown—So you see I get out & have fun yet—but it is a dwindling business—

I enclose an old note from Kennedy.3 Mrs Louise C Moulton4 was here day before yesterday—two English travelers a couple of hours later—Did I acknowledge & thank you for your good letter of a week ago?—Last evn'g came a little eng: from one of J.F. Millet's5 pictures—a present from Felix Adler6 of N Y—Best love & remembrances to you both—

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 May 16/88." It is addressed: Wm D. O'Connor | 1015 O Street | Washington | D.C. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Apr 25 | 4 30 PM | 88; Washington, Rec'd | Apr | 25 | 11 PM | 1888 | 5. [back]

2. William J. "Billy" Thompson (1848–1911), known as "The Duke of Gloucester" and "The Statesman," was a friend of Whitman's who operated a hotel, race track, and amusement park on the beach overlooking the Delaware River at Gloucester, New Jersey. His shad and champagne dinners for Whitman were something of a tradition. See William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896), 15–16. [back]

3. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and the Boston Transcript; he also published biographies of Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [London: Alexander Gardener, 1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Ellen Louise Chandler Moulton (1835–1908) was an American poet and critic who published several collections of verse and prose, as well as regular contributions to the New York Tribune and Boston Herald. [back]

5. Jean-François Millet (1814–1875) was a French realist painter and founder of the Barbizon School. He is noted for his depictions of peasant farmers. [back]

6. Felix Adler (1851–1933) was a German American professor of political and social ethics. During his tenure at Cornell University and later Columbia, he founded the New York Society of Ethical Culture (1877) and the National Child Labor Committee (1904). His philosophy sought to unite theists, atheists, agnostics, and deists under the same moral social actions, and argued that morality should be considered independently from religion. For more on Adler, see Horace Friess, Felix Adler and Ethical Culture: Memories and Studies, ed. Fannia Weingartner (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981). See also Adler's and Whitman's conversation at a dinner on April 1, 1888, when Whitman told Adler that the poems in Leaves of Grass "are really only Millet in another form—they are the Millet that Walt Whitman has succeeded in putting into words" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, April 1, 1888). [back]


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