Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William D. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 13 June 1888

Date: June 13, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00035

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y. The transcription presented here is derived from With Walt Whitman in Camden, ed. Horace Traubel (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953), 4:499–500. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

Washington, D.C.,
June 13, 1888.

My dear Walt:

I see in the papers, with agitation and alarm, the reports about your illness, which, however, are so vague that I can hope they are exaggerations, and that you are no worse than when you sent me the postal card of the 18th of May.1 You were bad enough then, God knows, and I felt downcast at your condition, though trusting that it was no more than an ill turn, which would pass. I would have written to you earlier, but have had several hideous days myself, and been unfit to write.

One paper speaks of Mr. Bucke2 as being with you. I hope this is Doctor Bucke, and that he may have come down to you from Canada.3

I wait anxiously to hear how you are. If I were not so badly crippled—especially the last few days—I would try to come and hear for myself. But I should be in the way, considering my condition.

If Doctor Bucke is with you, I hope he will pencil me a word, if he can.

Hurriedly, but with fervent hopes and wishes, always affectionately
W.D. O'Connor.

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. See Whitman's May 18, 1888, postal card to O'Connor. [back]

2. 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]

3. Bucke had come to Camden on June 3, 1888. See Whitman's June 14, 1888, letter to O'Connor. [back]


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