Skip to main content

Ellen M. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 18 July 1864

 loc.00944.001.jpg Dear Walt,

If no more raids, invasions, incursions, no more new developments in the Ginnaty affair, no more detentions by fire or water occur, my plan is to leave at 6:30 to-morrow evening.1 I shall get into New York about an hour later than usual, & put my baggage upon the Stonington Boat to leave that Wednesday evening  loc.00944.002.jpgand I shall in on the boat in good time, it leaves at 5 P.M. & I will be there by three P.M. I can say, unless the omnibus that takes me down town should smash up, or something like it. So if you are able I shall be very, very glad to see you & have a good talk with you while I wait.

Don't come unless you are able, but if you are I shall rejoice to see you.

Of course I do not ask you  loc.00944.003.jpgto meet me when I get in on Tuesday morning because I know it would be too much for you, & because Mr. Howells2 has said he would, but it would be good to have a whole day with you if you were well. I shall go to some place & get a breakfast, & be under Mr. Howells' supervision.

Good bye. Charlie3 got your last letter. He did hope to get away, but can't.

With love - Nelly.  loc.00944.004.jpg


  • 1. For a time Whitman lived with William D. and Ellen M. O'Connor, who, with Charles W. Eldridge and later John Burroughs, were to be his close associates during the early Washington years. William D. O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of Harrington, an abolition novel published by Thayer & Eldridge in 1860. Ellen "Nelly" O'Connor, William's wife, had a close personal relationship with Whitman. In 1872 Whitman would walk out on a debate with William over the Fifteenth Amendment, which Whitman opposed and O'Connor supported. Ellen defended Whitman's opinion, and in response William established a separate residence. 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 O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889). [back]
  • 2. Charles Joseph Howells, according to entries in New York Directories, must have been versatile (and perhaps eccentric): in 1864–1865 he was an "inventor," in 1865–1866 an inspector in the Custom House, in 1866–1867 simply an "inspector," and in 1867–1868 a seller of hairpins. [back]
  • 3. Charles W. Eldridge was one half of the Boston-based abolitionist publishing firm Thayer and Eldridge, who put out the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. In December 1862, on his way to find his injured brother George in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Whitman stopped in Washington and encountered Eldridge, who had become a clerk in the office of the army paymaster and eventually obtained a desk for Whitman in the office of Major Lyman Hapgood, the army paymaster. For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge, see David Breckenridge Donald, "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]
Back to top