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Ellen M. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 1 November 1865

 loc.00949.001.jpg Dear Walt,

Your letter was very welcome, and I1 have not forgotten you one day, though I have not written you. But I have been very much occupied in thought, as well as much of my time in going daily, & some days twice to see Miss Howard.2 Her sister Sallie has the worst form of typhoid fever. She has been very ill for three weeks, & alarmingly so for over ten days. Her mother  loc.00949.002.jpgwas sent for more than a week ago, and two doctors have come twice a day to see her for many days. I don't suppose there is any hope at all. She is wild with delirium all the time. Poor Garrie is worn, but she bears up like a hero under it, does not leave her sister night or day. I got a good nurse for them, as their nurse had to leave.

It is very sad, & I have not given up hoping till to-day, but she has no encouraging symptoms. loc.00949.003.jpg

I was so glad to hear that your little pet was better, and that your mother had got home! Has the little girl continued to improve? I hope so.

It was good too, to hear that your mother was so well, & George, & all of you.

I hope you are all well now. I trust the little girl is picking up fast.

You ask about William.3 His letters have been "few and far between", four in five weeks,— but now I look a little for him to-morrow,  loc.00949.004.jpgSaturday, and shall surely expect him on Sunday. I guess he has had a good time, & he sent the MSS. to Curtis. You may see him in New York to-morrow. He will see Curtis, I suppose.

When you come back what lots of things we shall have to talk about.

I saw in the Tribune of Wednesday the advertisement of Drum Taps. Glad we were to see it, Charley & I.

Have you sent one to Emerson? Do, in haste, won't you? I  loc.00949.005.jpg  loc.00949.006.jpgwant him to have one right away.

Dear Walt, will you see in New York Mr. Howells?4 I don't even know his address, & it is necessary that I should write him a business letter. I wonder how they are. Give him my love if you see him.

Jeannie is well, & sends love. I am well, so is Charley, & he too, sends love. We all want to see you back.

Mr. Ashton is well, but very busy, & looks worn.5 His wife is well, & I guess they will come soon.

Give my love to your mother, & with much love to you - hoping soon to see you.

Yours— Nelly.


  • 1. For a time Whitman lived with William D. and Ellen O'Connor, who, with Eldridge and later 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. Probably Garaphelia ("Garry") 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]
  • 3. William D. O'Connor. The manuscript to which Ellen O'Connor refers is The Good Gray Poet. See Whitman's letters of October 12 and October 20, 1865, Ellen O'Connor's letter of October 17, and William's letter of October 19. [back]
  • 4. 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]
  • 5. 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 (see James Harlan's letter to Whitman of June 30, 1865). [back]
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