Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Ellen M. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 8 March 1889

Date: March 8, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00057

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 (1906–1998), ed. Horace Traubel (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953), 4:309. 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, Caterina Bernardini, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock




March 8, 1889, 5 o'clock P.M.

Dear Walt.

I have not been able to write you again for William1 has been and is very ill. On the 6th, Wednesday, he had five of those epileptic seizures, the last four from 5 P. M. to 9.30, going from one to another without recovering consciousness. He has not been up since, and is very weak and sick, and his mind is not clear yet. Will send word again as soon as I can.

With love
Nelly O'C.


Correspondent:
Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Whitman's staunchest defenders. Whitman dined with the O'Connors frequently during his Washington years. Though Whitman and William O'Connor would temporarily break off their friendship in late 1872 over Reconstruction policies with regard to emancipated black citizens, Ellen would remain friendly with Whitman. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see Dashae E. Lott, "William Douglas O'Connor," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). 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). [back]


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