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Walt Whitman to John Flood, Jr., 12 December 1868

Dear Jack,2

I send you a few lines, though there is nothing new or special with me. I am still working here in the same place, and expect to be here all winter—(yet there is such a thing as a man's slipping up in his calculations, you know.) My health keeps good, & work easy. I often think of you, my loving boy, and think whether you are all right & in good health, & working on 2d avenue yet.

I suppose you received the letter I sent you. I got yours November 15, & sent you a letter about the 20th or 21st3 I believe. I have not heard from you since.

Congress began here last Monday. I have been up to see them in session. The halls they meet in are magnificent. The light comes all from the roof. The new part of the Capitol is very fine indeed.4 It is a great curiosity to any one that likes fine workmanship both in wood & stone. But I hope you will come here & see me, as you talked of5—Whether we are indeed to have the chance in future to be much together & enjoy each other's love & friendship6—or whether worldly affairs are to separate us—I don't know. But somehow I feel (if I am not dreaming) that the good square love is in our hearts, for each other, while life lasts.

As I told you in my previous letter, this city is quite small potatoes after living in New York. The public buildings are large & grand. Most of them are made of white marble, & on a far grander scale than the N. Y. City Hall; but the oceans of life & people, such as in N. Y. & the shipping &c, are lacking here. Still a young man ought to see Washington once in his life, any how. Then I please myself with thinking it will be a pleasure to you to be with me. Jack, I want you to write to me often as you can.


  • 1. This draft letter is endorsed (by Walt Whitman): "2d." [back]
  • 2. Jack Flood was a streetcar conductor in New York, known, according to an unidentified notation on his letter to Walt Whitman, as "Broadway Jack." According to date entries in an address book (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #109), Whitman saw Flood on September 30, 1868, and October 5, 1868, and rode with him on his Second Avenue car; Flood had been a conductor for ten years. After Whitman's return to Washington, there was a brief correspondence, consisting of four extant letters from Whitman (dated November 22, 1868, February 23, 1871, and March 8, 1871?) and one from the young man. Flood, somewhat better educated than some of Walt Whitman's other conductor friends, wrote on January 11, 1869: "Sir, It is with great pleasure that I sit down with pen in hand to address a few lines to you." He informed Walt Whitman that he had lost his position on New Year's Eve and that he was now seeking another job: "I shall still continue to correspond and can never forget your kind friendship towards me.…Your True and Ever intimate friend." According to the first listing of his name in the New York Directory, in 1872–1873, he was at that time either in the milk business or a milkman. [back]
  • 3. Whitman's letter was dated November 22, 1868. [back]
  • 4. On November 30, 1868, O. H. Browning, Secretary of the Interior, informed Congress of the completion of the exterior marble work on the Capitol; see Documentary History . . . of the United States Capitol Buildings and Grounds (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904), 1266. [back]
  • 5. Walt Whitman excised the following: "No doubt you are all right, Jack, but should ever sickness or any thing trouble you, you must send me word." Walt Whitman inserted similar sentiments after the first paragraph and then lined through the passage. [back]
  • 6. Walt Whitman originally wrote "loving society." [back]
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