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Fred B. Vaughan to Walt Whitman, 30 April 1860

 loc_vm.00788.jpg Walt,

I was very glad indeed to hear from you in answer to my last,2 and you know I could not but be gratified to find your business was progressing so favorably,3

In accordance with not only your wishes, but my own I went to Brooklyn yesterday and saw your Mother.4—I found her alone, Matt5 & Jeff6 out walking. Eddy7 at church, and George8 out somewhere's else I suppose. She did not remember me at first but as soon as she did she was very much pleased. I had a long talk, and settled the old $2.00 affair of Matts. I came away before she and Jeff returned. Walt, Mother says she feels first rate, is not at all sick, and I think she looks as well now as she did while I was living over there9.—There is  loc_vm.00789.jpgno news here Walt. The last fight, the Japenese​ Embassy, and the Charleston Democratic Convention, fill the papers to the exclusion of Every thing else.10—Dunn,11 the ex stage driver is in Boston with that Circus Co. I think he will call upon you as I gave him your address.—If you come on here this Be sure and make it your business to call and see me. Do not neglect it please Walt, for I want to see you very much. Mrs. Cooper & Robert12 send their loves.

Ever yours, In a Hurry! Fred.  loc_vm.00786.jpg  loc_vm.00787.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 | Publishers | Boston Mass. It is postmarked: New York | Apr 30 | 1860. 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 his letters to the poet of March 21, 1860, March 27, 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. In March 1860, Whitman traveled to Boston to meet with William W. Thayer and Charles W. Eldridge of the publishing firm Thayer and Eldridge. When Vaughan wrote this letter, Whitman was overseeing the printing of the third edition of Leaves of Grass, which would be published by the firm later that year. 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]
  • 4. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 5. Martha Mitchell Whitman (d. 1873) known as "Mattie," was the wife of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother. She and Jeff had two daughters, Manahatta and Jessie Louisa. In 1868, Mattie and her daughters moved to St. Louis to join Jeff, who had moved there in 1867 to assume the position of Superintendent of Water Works. Mattie experienced a throat ailment that would lead to her death in 1873. For more information on Mattie, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Martha ("Mattie") Mitchell (1836–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 6. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized name. Whitman probably had his brother in mind when he praised the marvels of civil engineering in poems like "Passage to India." Though their correspondence slowed in the middle of their lives, the brothers were brought together again by the deaths of Jeff's wife Martha (known as Mattie) in 1873 and his daughter Manahatta in 1886. Jeff's death in 1890 caused Walt to reminisce in his obituary, "how we loved each other—how many jovial good times we had!" For more on Thomas Jefferson Whitman, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 7. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death in 1873. During his mother's final illness, George Whitman and his wife Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman took over Eddy's care, with financial support from Walt Whitman. In 1888, Eddy was moved to an asylum at Blackwood, New Jersey. For more information on Edward, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Edward (1835–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 8. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was Walt's brother and the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. He was ten years Walt Whitman's junior. For more information on George Washington Whitman, see Martin G. Murray, "Whitman, George Washington," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 9. In the mid- to late-1850s, Vaughan lived with Whitman at the Whitman family's Classon Avenue home. Vaughan fondly recalls this residence years later, referring to it as "our old home," in a letter to Whitman of November 16, 1874. [back]
  • 10. On April 16, 1860, in Farnborough, England, acknowledged American boxing champion John Carmel Heenan fought Tom Sayers, the British Champion, in the "World Championship." The fight was called by police before a knockout by either fighter. This fight would have been of particular interest to the crowd at Pfaff's as Heenan was newly married to Adah Isaacs Menken, a Pfaffian actress, writer, and admirer of Whitman. The Democratic National Convention opened on April 23, 1860, in Charleston, South Carolina. Northern and Southern Democrats were locked in a heated debate about whether or not to officially add a pro-slavery plank to the platform. By April 30, Northern Democrats had won the argument, but fifty Southern delegates stormed out in protest. Japan's first envoys to the United States—referred to as the Japanese Embassy—arrived in San Francisco in March 1860. Their progress cross-country was covered extensively in the press. The city-wide celebration for the embassy's arrival in New York would serve as the subject of Whitman's poem "The Errand-Bearers" (later "A Broadway Pageant"), published in The New York Times on June 27, 1860. [back]
  • 11. This was possibly "Collins Dunne," whom Whitman lists as a Harvard Square driver on a piece of letterhead for Osgood and Company. See Daybooks and Notebooks, ed. William White (New York: New York University Press, 1978), 1: 238–239. [back]
  • 12. 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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