Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 4 August 1888

Date: August 4, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00725

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), 4:195–196. 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




Camden
Saturday noon
Aug: 4 '881

Your dear letter came this morning, enclosing Dr Channing's2 (herewith returned)3 Thank you & Dr. C. & dear Grace4 & Stedman5 & all—all the movements are certainly roseate toward me & I feel thankful & responsive—& all the confirmatory possible—

I am still kept in my room, hoping each day to get firmer & stronger & get out—but no such day comes yet—or even the indication of it—& to-day Saturday a fearful hot & oppressive baker & prostrater, the worst to my feelings, as I sit here, of any yet—there is no set back, so far—but if a long spell of hot unhealthy August weather sets in "the second time of that man will be worse than the first"—

The November Boughs6 (did I tell you?) is all done in copy—The printing office is now all diverged on a Harrison and Morton book,7 hurry is up—will take them a week—my Boughs will be at least two months before published—possibly longer—I remain in good spirits—It seems to be grow[ing] hotter & melter—


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 endorsed: "Answ'd Aug 31/88." It is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | Life Saving Service | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Aug 4 | 8 PM | 88; Washington, Rec'd | Aug 5 | 7 AM | 88 | 1. [back]

2. William F. Channing (1820–1901), son of William Ellery Channing, and also Ellen O'Connor's brother-in-law, was by training a doctor, but devoted most of his life to scientific experiments. With Moses G. Farmer, he perfected the first fire-alarm system. He was the author of Notes on the Medical Applications of Electricity (Boston: Daniel Davis, Jr., and Joseph M. Wightman, 1849). Ellen O'Connor visited him frequently in Providence, Rhode Island, and Whitman stayed at his home in October, 1868. [back]

3. On August 3, 1888 O'Connor mentioned that Grace Channing's calendar (see Whitman's August 30, 1888, letter to Charles W. Eldridge) had been sent to Stedman, who was to arrange for publication (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, August 6, 1888). On the same day O'Connor wrote to thank Stedman for his assistance in the projected work. On September 21 Stedman informed Traubel that three firms had rejected publication of the calendar (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, September 22, 1888). [back]

4. Grace Ellery Channing (1862–1937) was a writer and editor. She was the niece of William D. O'Connor. In 1894 she married artist Charles Walter Stetson, soon after his divorce from Channing's lifelong friend, writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman. After her initial refusal to ever read Whitman's work, Channing became enthralled by the poet's words and, in 1887, had the idea of creating an illustrated calendar with excerpts from Leaves of Grass. The illustrations would be made by Walter Stetson. The project was never realized. For more on the calendar project, see see Joann Krieg, "Grace Ellery Channing and the Whitman Calendar," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 12, no. 4 (1995), 252–256. In 1899, Channing published her own volume of Whitman-inspired poetry titled Sea-Drift in 1899. [back]

5. 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]

6. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Whitman is probably referring to Reverend G. L. Harney's The Lives of Benjamin Harrison, and Levi P. Morton (1888). [back]


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