Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Bernard O'Dowd, 27 December 1890

Date: December 27, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: slv.00007

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

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



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Camden New Jersey U S America
Dec: 27 '90

Dear Friend B O'D,

The books, in a bundle, (four complete works)1 have just gone in Adams's Express, Wells, Fargo & Co: f'm San Fr, a bundle in brown envelope, (16 inches square, 4 inches thick, y'r address on) to Melbourne, I have pay'd the expressage throughout—Look out for them in due time & if worth while inquire there at the main Adams Wells, Fargo & Co Express office—of course I sh'l be a little anxious till I hear they have arrived for certain—nothing perhaps notable or new ab't self—I sent papers with report of Ingersoll's2 address3 here (in Phila) wh' I hope have reached you before this time—It was a fine success—big hall filled full—$869.45 clear'd above expenses & paid to me—(I will send you the printed speech in little book now being printed in N Y)4—I keep fairly—appetite fair—a quite hearty breakfast at 9 to-day, a meat chop, some oatmeal & cup of tea—the grip on me yet and bladder trouble—am writing a little—spirits easy—heavy snow storm & cold these days all over hereabout—but I keep a stout oakwood fire—& read & write & while away the time imprisoned here in my room—hope you get the papers I send—often think of you there more than you know—(my favorite notion is to entwine the working folk of right sort all round the globe, all lands—that is the foundation of L of G, they are banded together in spirit and interest essentially all the earth) My respects & love to you & wife5 & Fred6 & Jim7 & Ada8 & Ted9 & Mr & Mrs Fryer10 & others unspecified—as I finish I hear f'm the express office—the bundle is paid thro' [illegible] to you & I sh'll want to hear f'm it


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. Whitman often referred to Complete Poems & Prose (1888) as his "big book." The volume was published by the poet himself in an arrangement with publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions, and Frederick Oldach bound the volume, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]

2. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]

3. On October 21, 1890 at Horticultural Hall in Philadelphia, Robert Ingersoll delivered a lecture in honor of Walt Whitman titled Liberty in Literature. Testimonial to Walt Whitman. Whitman recorded in his Commonplace Book that the lecture was "a noble, (very eulogistic to WW & L of G) eloquent speech, well responded to by the audience" and the speech itself was published in New York by the Truth Seeker Company in 1890 (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]). Following the lecture event, Horace Traubel went to Canada with Bucke. [back]

4. Ingersoll's Liberty in Literature. Testimonial to Walt Whitman, an address he delivered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 21, 1890, was published in New York by the Truth Seeker Company in 1890. [back]

5. Evangeline (Eva) Mina Fryer was the wife of Bernard O'Dowd. On September 1, 1890, O'Dowd reported the birth of a son, Montaigne Eric Whitman. See also A. L. McLeod, "Walt Whitman in Australia," Walt Whitman Review 7 (June 1961), 30n. [back]

6. 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]

7. 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]

8. Ada Fryer was the sister of Eva Fryer O'Dowd, Bernard O'Dowd's wife. [back]

9. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

10. Mr. and Mrs. Fryer were Bernard O'Dowd's in-laws. John Robbins Fryer (1826–1912) was a carpenter and conductor of the Melbourne Secular Lyceum. Jane Trump Fryer (1832–1917) was often considered a "political and religious radical," who was also a teacher in the Lyceum. For more on the Fryers, see Frank Bongiorno, "Fryer, Jane (1832–1917)," Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplemental Volume, Online Version, 2006. [back]


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