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Fred B. Vaughan to Walt Whitman, 21 March 1860


Your letter in answer to my note came to hand this a.m.1 I was glad to hear from you, Walt, and hope you will continue to write often while you stay in Boston.2 It will be a good way for you to pass some leisure time as I do not doubt you will have plenty of it on your hands.

Walt, I am glad, very glad, you have got things fairly squared. I do not care so much about the style the book comes out in. I want to see it out and have no doubt the style, writing, &c. will be no disgrace to Boston. You know I have always had a very high opinion of the people of the City of Notions.3

I have not seen any of the folks up town, but they will undoubtedly be very glad of your success.

You are well off in Boston this weather, Walt. I cannot see across the streets. The dust is moving in a dense mass through the streets as dust in no other city but NY can move.—It is actually sickening4

I want you to look closely into the Municipal affairs of Boston, and comparing them with those of New York give me the conclusion you arrive at regarding their respective good and bad qualities.—

If you want to form the acquaintance of any Boston Stage men, get on one of those stages running to Charlestown Bridge, ov. Chelsea Ferry, & enquire for, Charley Hollis, or Ed Morgan5 mention my name, and introduce yourself as my friend.—

I am obliged to you for your kind offer of sending me a few of the sheets in advance of Publication,6 and hope you will not forget it.—

Bob.7 and I had quite a long walk together in Central Park8 last Sunday. We talked much of you, and in anticipation had some long, long strolls together in the Park this summer It is a noble place, and Boston can no longer point exultingly to their common9 as the finest park in America

By the way, what do you think of the common?

I must go out good bye Fred  loc_vm.00775_large.jpg

Fred Vaughan was a young Irish stage driver with whom Whitman had an intense relationship during the late 1850's. For discussion of Vaughan's relationship with Whitman, see Jonathan Ned Katz, Love Stories: Sex between Men before Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 123–132; Charley Shively, Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working-Class Camerados (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1987), 36–50; Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price, Re-Scripting Walt Whitman: An Introduction to His Life and Work, "Chapter 4: Intimate Script and the New American Bible: "Calamus" and the Making of the 1860 Leaves of Grass."


  • 1. There are no known surviving letters from Whitman to Vaughan. Whitman did, however, write responses to some of the letters Vaughan sent during Whitman's Boston trip. Vaughan acknowledges receiving replies from Whitman in this letter, and in his letters to Whitman of March 27, 1860, April 30, 1860, and May 21, 1860. Vaughan acknowledges the receipt of four letters: one received the morning of March 21st, one received after March 21st and before March 27th, one received after April 9th but before April 30th, and the last received on May 21, 1860, as Whitman was preparing to return to New York. [back]
  • 2. On February 10, 1860, Whitman received a letter from the Boston publishing firm of Thayer and Eldridge, offering to publish his poetry. The firm would publish Whitman's third edition of Leaves of Grass later that year. In March 1860, Whitman traveled to Boston to meet with the publishers and to oversee the printing of the edition. For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge, see "Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. The "City of Notions" is a common nickname for Boston that dates at least to the first half of the nineteenth-century. The term has multiple meanings that range from a view of Boston as a center for thought and ideas due to its historical and literary institutions to the suggestion that Boston earned the name because of the city's notion stores. For more information, see George Earle Shankle, American Nicknames: Their Origin and Significance (New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 1955), 52. See also "Introductory Remarks," The Boston Quarterly Review 1 (January, 1838): 1–8. [back]
  • 4. On March 22, 1860, the day after Vaughan wrote this letter, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle printed an article describing the March weather, noting that the "dust has swept down upon us . . . blinding, choking, and all-pervading" ("The Weather," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 22, 1860, 3.) [back]
  • 5. The Boston, Massachusetts 1860 City Directory lists Edward Morgan of 928 Washington Street as a "driver." Charles I. Hollis of 30 West Brookline Street is also listed as a "driver." The Boston Daily Atlas reported on December 26, 1853, that "Charles Hollis, omnibus driver, was charged with assaulting George Brown, another driver, with his whip. Hollis acknowledged the offence, and Justice Russell sentenced him to pay a fine of $30 and costs, and if the same be not paid within twenty-four hours, then to be imprisoned in the common jail for three months; also to give bonds in $200 to keep the peace and be of good behavior for the term of six months." On November 18, 1854, the Atlas reported that Charles Hollis "was held in $200 for trial" for "striking a man named Wilson with a whip." [back]
  • 6. In the letter Vaughan received from Whitman on the morning of March 21st, Whitman seems to have promised to send Vaughan some proof sheets from Leaves of Grass (1860), the book that Whitman was then seeing through the publication process in Boston. [back]
  • 7. Robert "Bob" Cooper was Vaughan's roommate after Vaughan moved out of Whitman's Classon Avenue apartment. [back]
  • 8. Central Park, an urban park in New York City, is located between the Upper West and Upper East sides of Manhattan. In 1857, landscape architects Frederick Law Olmstead (1822–1903) and Calvert Vaux (1824–1895) won a design contest with their plan for the park, and construction began that same year. Parts of the park opened to the public for the first time in 1858, with more areas opening in 1859. Additional acres of land were also purchased in 1859 near the northern end of the park, a section that was finished by 1860. The park was completed in 1876. [back]
  • 9. The Boston Common (also referred to as "the Common") in downtown Boston, Massachusetts, dates from 1634 and is the oldest city park in the United States. [back]
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