Selected Criticism

Vaughan, Frederick B. [ca. 1837-1893]
Shively, Charley

Canadian born in 1837 of Irish parents, Frederick B. Vaughan lived with Walt Whitman while the poet finished his "Calamus" poems which their love helped shape. After hearing Emerson lecture, Vaughan wanted New York to erect a Fred-Walt statue "with an immense placard on our breasts, reading SINCERE FRIENDS!!!" (qtd. in Shively 39). In 1860 Whitman sent Vaughan galleys from Boston when the 1860 Leaves of Grass went to press. 

Bemoaning lover problems, Whitman in 1870 compared Vaughan with Peter Doyle, admonishing himself: "Remember Fred Vaughan" (Whitman 890). Vaughan confessed to Whitman: "Father used to tell me I was lazy. Mother denied it. . . . I used to tell your mother you was lazy and she denied it" (qtd. in Shively 49). Vaughan's drinking (frequently in Pfaff's) ended in what he called their "estrangement" (qtd. in Shively 49). 

In 1862 Vaughan married, and he eventually became the father of four children. Whitman left New York and seldom returned. After Vaughan visited Camden in 1890, Whitman told Traubel, "Yes: I have seen him off and on—but now, poor fellow, he is all wrecked from drink" (Traubel 399). Despite his estrangement from Whitman, Vaughan wrote a poem about Williamsburg Ferry (with echoes of "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry") which concludes: "From among all out of all Connected with all and yet distinct from all arises thee Dear Walt" (qtd. in Shively 49). 


Shively, Charley. Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working-Class Camerados. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine, 1987. 

Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden. Ed. Gertrude Traubel and William White. Vol. 6. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1982. 

Whitman, Walt. Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts. Ed. Edward F. Grier. Vol. 2. New York: New York UP, 1984.


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