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Ellen M. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 17 October 1865

 loc.00948.001.jpg Dear Walt,

I was very glad to hear from you.1 The letter came promptly last Friday with one from Wm. & I wrote him yesterday, & sent the book review. I think it is an admirable criticism, almost the best of Leaves of Grass that I have ever seen.

William tells me that in the letter Curtis promises to do all he can, & is very much interested, but most likely he has written you all about it.2

How comes on Drum Taps?  loc.00948.002.jpgHow is the little girl? I was more pained than I can tell you to learn that she was ill, and with one of those dreadful fevers. The poor little thing! Isn't it s pitiful thing to see a child sick? To me far more appealing than the sickness of a grown person.

The critical time was Sunday last you said, now it is Tuesday, I hope she is better. Try to send me a line to say how she is.

I am sorry for your sake, dear Walt,  loc.00948.003.jpgthat your mother is away. I know how you would miss her. But perhaps by this time you have gone for her. I hope you will go, & will have a pleasant journey and visit.

I have delayed writing that I might give you the latest news of Mrs. Ashton & baby, but Charley went in there & Ashton had gone home to see them.3 Speed had returned, I think he was gone for a week. Mr. Pleasants said they were well when Ashton left for Philadelphia.4  loc.00948.004.jpg

We miss you and William immensely, Charley & I speak of you daily.

Miss Howard's sister Sallie is very sick, I think typhoid fever, & I have been out to-day trying to get a nurse for her.5 So far Garaphelia has taken care of her night & day, & she looks worn out.

We are well, so is Charley. Jeannie sends love. She was very sorry & sympathizing about little California. I trust the little thing is better.

My sister Jeannie's little Mary is very sick with typhoid  loc.00948.005.jpgfever too, but they hope not dangerously so.

We shall be glad to welcome you back, but while you are away I hope you will have a good time, & get very well.

Good by.

With love always Nelly.


  • 1. For a time Whitman lived with William and Ellen O'Connor, who, with Eldridge and later Burroughs, were to be his close associates during the early Washington years. William O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of Harrington, an abolition novel published by Thayer & Eldridge in 1860. Ellen "Nelly" O'Connor, William O'Connor's wife, had a close personal relationship with Whitman. In 1872 Whitman would walk out on a debate with William Douglas O'Connor over the Fifteenth Ammendement, which Whitman opposed and O'Connor supported. Ellen O'Connor defended Whitman's opinion, and in response William O'Connor established a separate residence. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen O'Connor 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. Probably George William Curtis (1824–1892), the editor of Harper's Weekly, who in 1865 proposed to William O'Connor that he write to George W. Carleton, a New York publisher, about the publication of The Good Gray Poet; see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1906–1996), 1:86. [back]
  • 3. J. Hubley Ashton, the assistant Attorney General, actively interested himself in Whitman's affairs, and obtained a position for the poet in his office after the Harlan fracas. In December 1862, on his way to visit George at Fredericksburg, Virginia, Whitman stopped in Washington and encountered Charles W. Eldridge, who was now a clerk in the office of the army paymaster. After he had seen for himself that George had not been severely wounded, he returned to Washington, which was to be his home until 1873. Eldridge obtained a desk for Whitman in the office of Major Lyman Hapgood, the army paymaster. [back]
  • 4. Matthew F. Pleasants, who later became chief clerk in the Attorney General's office. [back]
  • 5. Miss Howard and her sister, probably Miss Garaphelia Howard, one of Whitman's Washington friends. In a February 11, 1874 letter to Ellen O'Connor, Whitman describes Garaphelia Howard as "a good, tender girl—true as steel." [back]
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