Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 9 December 1888

Date: December 9, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00721

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), 4:246. 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

PM Dec: 9 '881

Have had a bad week, but am now much better—over it for this time, indeed—'Twas added to other things (as I believe I told you) a bladder &c. trouble—& giving for a while more annoyance & pain than any thing—The two doctors have just been. Love to you and Nelly2—write, one of you, very soon—The Sunday Tribune, (N Y. to-day) has a short notice3

Walt Whitman

am now sitting alone in my big chair by the oak wood fire—comfortable—

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 Dec. 10/88." It is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | 1015 O Street | Washington D.C. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Dec 9 | 5 PM | (?). [back]

2. 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). [back]

3. A review of November Boughs(1888) appeared in the Tribune on December 9, 1888. [back]


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