Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor, 4 January 1891

Date: January 4, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00745

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), 5:145. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King and Stephanie Blalock




Camden NJ1
Jan: 4 '91

Y'rs rec'd & glad to hear f'm you & ab't the book2—have sent word to Dr B[ucke]3—Matters going on much the same with me as of late—as I write sit in my den in 2d story—well on P M—might be much worse—God bless you—


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor 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 black citizens, Ellen would remain friendly with Whitman. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see Dashae 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 addressed: Mrs: O'Connor | 112 M Street N W | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jan 4 | 5 PM | 91. [back]

2. On January 2 Ellen O'Connor informed Whitman that Houghton, Mifflin & Company was planning to publish her late husband William D. O'Connor's story "The Brazen Android" in The Atlantic Monthly in April and May. They also planned to publish a collection that included three of O'Connor's stories and a preface by Whitman. Three Tales: The Ghost, The Brazen Android, The Carpenter was published the following year, in 1892. [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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