Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 26 May 1886

Date: May 26, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00032

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:28. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein and Kyle Barton

328 Mickle Street
Camden New Jersey1
Thursday noon
May 26 '86

Dear friend

Your letter came yesterday—also the liquorice powder—I have no doubt the powder will be good for me.2 I have already begun it—I am as well as usual with me—up, and at my window, as now—get out with the horse & wagon every afternoon but shall not to-day—nothing new in my affairs—get along quite comfortably—have some visitors—a canny Scotchman, a literary man, but a good jovial fellow, elderly with a humorous turn, & much reminiscence, has been in this forenoon to see me—I like to have him—It is a raw, dark, rainy day—I wish I could have you here to eat a bite of dinner with me, & chat for the afternoon—Several of my friends have had your little book,3 lent them by me—Scovel (with his lawyer's head)4 said to me after reading it, "there can be no doubt of it"—i e that B[acon] is the true author—

W. W.

William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. 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).


1. This letter is endorsed: Answ'd August 17,/86. It is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | Life Saving Service | Washington | D C. It is postmarked: Camden | May | 2(?) | 3 PM | 188(?) | N.J. [back]

2. On May 25, 1886, O'Connor sent the powder for Whitman's constipation, and reported, "My special trouble now is what they call schlerosis—an induration of the lower part of the spinal cord, a bequest of the inflammation caused by the nervous prostration." [back]

3. Hamlet's Note-book (1886), which argued that Sir Francis Bacon had written the plays attributed to Shakespeare. [back]

4. James Matlack Scovel (1833–1904) began to practice law in Camden in 1856. During the Civil War, he was in the New Jersey legislature and became a colonel in 1863. He campaigned actively for Horace Greeley in 1872, and was a special agent for the U.S. Treasury during Chester Arthur's administration. In the 1870s, Whitman frequently went to Scovel's home for Sunday breakfast (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). For a description of these breakfasts, see Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada, ed. William Sloane Kennedy (Boston: Small, Maynard, 1904), 59–60. For Scovel, see George R. Prowell's The History of Camden County, New Jersey (Philadelphia: L. J. Richards, 1886). [back]


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