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Fred B. Vaughan to Walt Whitman, 27 March 1860


Walt, I received your kind letter2 the day after you mailed it, and immediately wrote you again. But finding some trouble in procuring a stamp I sent it down to Frank Moran3" to have him mail it for me. It appears Frank was taken ill that day, and oblidged​ to go home; and has not been out of the house since.—I did not find it out until today.—But of course my letter to you was not mailed, and now I have once more to reply to yours.—

I am glad you like Boston Walt, you know I have said much to you in praise both of the city and its people.—It is true the first is quite crooked, but it is generally clean, and the latter, though a little too straight-laced for such free thinkers as you and I, are a very hospitable, friendly, lot of folks.—You tell me Mr. Emmerson4 (one m to many I guess?) came to see you and was very kind.5—I heard him lecture in Dr Chapins6 church on Friday evening last, on the subject of manners,7 and though very much pleased with the matter, I did not at all like his delivery.  loc_vm.00779.jpg It appeared to me to be strained, and there was a certain hesitation in his speech and occasional repetition of words, that did not affect the hearer very well.—

But, Walt, when I looked upon the man, & thought that it was but a very few days before that he had been so kind and attentive to you, I assure you I did not think much of his bad delivery, but on the contrary my heart warmed towards him very much. I think he has that in him which makes men capable of strong friendships.—This theme he also touched on, and said that a man whose heart was filled with a warm, ever enduring not to be shaken by anything Friendship was one to be set on one side apart from other men, and almost to be worshipped as a saint.—There Walt, how do you like that? What do you think of them setting you & myself, and one or two others we know up in some public place, with an immense placard on our breasts, reading Sincere Freinds​ !!! Good doctrine that but I think the theory preferable to the practice.—I am glad very glad Walt to hear you are succeeding so well with your book.8—I hope you will not  loc_vm.00780.jpgforget the promise you made of sending me on some of the first proof sheets you have.9—I am quite anxious to see them.—

There is nothing new here Walt. Everything remains about the same. I suppose of course you see the New York papers every day. Our streets are just about as dirty as ever, but the dirt is not allowed to remain long in one place, this March wind picks it up and scatters it with a perfect looseness in your eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. It penetrates to the house, covering the floor the furniture and even the beds in a manner not at all agreeable to persons who have any idea of cleanliness.—Monuments erected in mud to the honour of the street inspector have to be regularly wet down, or like riches, and birds they take to themselves wings and fly away.10—I have an idea that "There is a better time coming" But so far have been unable to find any one who could satisfactorily fix the date. Robert is drinking Tea, Mrs Cooper is moving around the room as usual, ready to wait upon Bob even before he needs it.11 They both join me in wishes for the best success to you, and Mrs Cooper says if you will make love to her you had  loc_vm.00781.jpgbetter do so personally the next time you call, as she cannot put much faith in a profession made in a letter to an outside party

Write me a good long letter Walt as I am anxious to hear from you.

Yours, Fred  loc_vm.00776.jpg Fred Vaughan  loc_vm.00777.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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | Care of Thayer & Eldridge | 116 Washington St. Boston. It is postmarked: New York | [illegible]AR | [illegible]8. The envelope includes the printed address of the Manhattan Express Company's General Office (168 Broadway, N. Y.). Vaughan worked for the company in 1860. [back]
  • 2. 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 21, 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]
  • 3. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
  • 4. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) was an American poet, essayist, and leader among the Transcendentalists. In his famous letter to Walt Whitman of July 21, 1855, Emerson wrote of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, "I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start." For more on Emerson, see Jerome Loving, "Emerson, Ralph Waldo [1809–1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 5. Vaughan is likely referring to Whitman's meeting with Emerson in Boston. On March 29, 1860, Whitman wrote to his friend, the social reformer, Abby H. Price: "Emerson called upon me immediately, treated me with the greatest courtesy—kept possession of me all day—gave me a bully dinner." According to Whitman's recollections written twenty years later, Emerson also attempted to persuade him not to publish the "Enfans d'Adam" poems in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. The date of the meeting was probably March 17, 1860, since on that day Emerson obtained reading privileges for "W. Whitman" at the Boston Athenaeum library; see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 237–238. [back]
  • 6. Edwin Hubbel Chapin (1814–1880) was a widely popular Universalist minister, author, lecturer, and social reformer who belonged to the Fourth Universalist Society in New York City. [back]
  • 7. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1809–1882) delivered a March 23, 1860, lecture on "Manners" in New York City. For more on Emerson's life and his relationship with Whitman, see Jerome Loving, "Emerson, Ralph Waldo [1809–1882]" Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 8. Charley Shively writes that "Whitman went to Boston in the spring of 1860 to proofread and put the final touches on the third edition of Leaves of Grass." See Calamus Lovers: Walt Whitman's Working-Class Camerados (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1987), 40. [back]
  • 9. Whitman had offered to send Vaughan some of the early proof sheets from Leaves of Grass (1860). See Vaughan's letter to Whitman of March 21, 1860. Vaughan reminded Whitman of his promise in his letters to the poet of March 27, 1860 and April 9, 1860. [back]
  • 10. Vaughan is referencing the Bible; see Proverbs, Chapter 23, Verse 5. [back]
  • 11. Robert "Bob" Cooper and Mrs. Cooper—possibly Robert's mother—were Vaughan's roommates after Vaughan left Whitman's Classon Avenue apartment. [back]
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