Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William D. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 9 May [1882]

Date: May 9, 1882

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00014

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y. 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.

Editorial notes: The annotation, "should be 1882 see envelope," is in an unknown hand. The annotation, "see notes March 29 1889," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, and Nicole Gray

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Washington, D.C.,
May 9, 1881.

Dear Walt:

Yours of the 7th came duly, and I am very glad to get the outline of the facts in the Osgood matter. I mean to use them, for they make the case worse for Osgood & Co. than before, inasmuch as they show that the book was published at their solicitation, and with a knowledge of its character, and a distinct understanding that there was to be no excision. If you had not accepted their proposal to abandon the publication, you would have the best grounds for a suit against them for damages. I intend to excoriate them for their shameful part in this shameful transaction.

I am at work on my Tribune letter, which I hope will prove satisfactory. The composition is difficult for several reasons, brevity being necessary to ensure publication, and tact and adroitness being requisite also, in view of the general prejudice and bedevilment of the public on all sexual questions. Nothing is more melancholy than the horrible omni-prevalent sophistication of people in these matters.

I am glad you are to have an article in the North American, and only wish it were to be longer. Anything from you in exposition of these poems will be valuable, but a careful, powerful, dignified, elaborately reasoned paper from your pen would be an immense light and service. I read again last night what you wrote on this subject in your letter to Emerson in the second edition. It is magnificent, both in matter and manner, and might well be reprinted.

When such a thing is done as the State Attorney has done, it is time to make roaring war. I mean to open the cannonade anyway, and it will go hard if abroad, at least, we don't hear the response of rifled ordnance from the batteries we planted. I charged John Burroughs before sailing to make it his business to fire the British heart on every occasion. I only wish I were not tied up as I am with this weary office, and work monstrous and endless, as it is.

Take care of your health all you can. The season is dangerous—a late spring, mutable and treacherous. But the bland weather is near at hand.

—I shall hardly need the raison d'etre of your article for mine. The outrage is sufficient excuse for the ventilation. I only hope I can say what I want to, and get printed.

W. D. O'Connor.
Walt Whitman.


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