Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Bernard O'Dowd, 26 December 1890

Date: December 26, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: slv.00006

Source: State Library Victoria (Melbourne), AUS Repository: Manuscripts Collection. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Marie Ernster, Amanda J. Axley, Stephanie Blalock, and Paige Wilkinson

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328 Mickle Street n'r Delaware river
Camden New Jersey U S America1
Dec: 26 '90

Herewith are copies of my big book "Complete Works,"2 one for Jim Hartigan,3 one for Fred Woods4 and two for you (four altogether)—all paid for—& cannot pay for the expressage as it all uncertain here—& I sh'l only be too glad if the bundle reaches you safe5—yr's of Nov. 24th6 rec'd & welcomed with Mr Bury's7 letter with the 5 pound postal order—shall send a letter to you by mail also at once in duplicate of this—mean time my sympathy & love to you all dear friends men & women

Walt Whitman8

Bernard Patrick O'Dowd (1866–1953) was an Australian poet, lawyer, activist, and journalist. He and his wife, Evangeline Mina Fryer, began a weekly discussion club with secular and Whitmanesque inclinations called the Australeum. His letter of March 12, 1890, began a correspondence with Whitman that lasted until November 1, 1891, and assumed the character of a religious experience, always saluting Whitman with reverential appellations. For more, see Alan L. McLeod, "Whitman in Australia and New Zealand," J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. This letter is addressed: Bernard O'Dowd | Supreme Court Library | Melbourne | Victoria | via San Francisco | or otherwise. It is postmarked: Camden N.J. | DEC 2(?) | 1 30 PM | 90; Camd[en, N.J.] | DEC 27 | 130 P[M] | 90; [Camden, N.J. | DEC 27 | 130 PM | 90] | Philadelphia, P.A. | DEC 27 | 9 PM; Sa[n Francis]co, Cal. | [Jan] 2 | 1891 | F. D. | Melbourne | 91. [back]

2. Whitman's "big book" is a reference to his Complete Poems and Prose of Walt Whitman (1888). Whitman published the book himself—in an arrangement with the Philadephia publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. [back]

3. James (Jim) Hartigan was a plasterer and member of the Australeum discussion club. See A. L. McLeod, "Walt Whitman in Australia," Walt Whitman Review 7 (June 1961), 28n. [back]

4. Fred Woods was a member of the Australeum discussion club and later wrote Heavenly Thoughts (1932), a volume of poetry. See A. L. McLeod, "Walt Whitman in Australia," Walt Whitman Review 7 (June 1961), 28n. [back]

5. Whitman was uncertain about the delivery of the parcel. He expressed his concern about whether it and the letter had been delivered in his January 1–2, 1891, letter to O'Dowd. [back]

6. See O'Dowd's letter to Whitman of November 24, 1890. [back]

7. Thomas Bury, penname "Tom Touchstone," was a columnist for the Ballarat Courier (Victoria). See A. L. McLeod, "Walt Whitman in Australia," Walt Whitman Review 7 (June 1961), 28n. [back]

8. There is an indecipherable light pencil note on the envelope in an undetermined hand. [back]


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