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William D. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 16 September 1868

 loc.01821.001_large_mflm.jpg see notes Oct 4 1888 Dear Walt:

I was very sorry not to have seen you yesterday before you left, because the enclosed answer1 came from Westermann,2 and I wanted to consult with you as to the steps to be taken. I think a package ought to be made up at once for  loc.01821.002_large_mflm.jpg Ferdinand Freiligrath,3 and we can send it through Westermann, reimbursing him for any expense of transportation. I suppose it would be best to have it done by my agency, and I suggest that I write F. F. a letter, (to go with the package),4 explaining things generally, and making him as far as possible, master  loc.01821.003_large_mflm.jpg of the situation. What do you think? I am sorry I did not know you were going yesterday, because we could have arranged it all better than now.

Preserve the enclosed. I think the sooner we do what is to be done (if anything) regarding F. F., the better.5

I write hurriedly, just on the edge of mail  loc.01821.004_large_mflm.jpg time. No letters for you today at the Attorney General's. I hope you'll have a good time. Give my love to your mother.6 John7 came in yesterday to bid me tell you to come up to his house before you left. I did not then know you had gone. He will be disappointed.

Affectionately Yours, W.D.O'Connor.

Kindest regards to Mrs Price.8

William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This enclosure has not been located. [back]
  • 2. Bernard Westermann was a publisher and importer of books, whose office was at 440 Broadway. In volume 2 of Ira Morris's Memorial History of Staten Island (West New Brighton, Staten Island: Westermann, 1900), Westermann is called "the leading German bookseller of America" (237). [back]
  • 3. Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876) was a German poet and translator and friend of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In his January 16, 1872 letter to Rudolf Schmidt, Whitman wrote that Freiligrath "translates & commends my poems." Freiligrath's review in the Augsburg Allgemeinen Zeitung on April 24, 1868 (reprinted in his Gesammelte Dichtungen [Stuttgart: G. J. Göschen, 1871], 4:86–89), was among the first notices of Whitman's poetry on the continent. A translation of the article appeared in the New Eclectic Magazine, 2 (July 1868), 325–329; see also Gay Wilson Allen, Walt Whitman Abroad (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1955), 3–7. A digital version is available in Walter Grünzweig's "Whitman in the German-Speaking Countries," which collects numerous examples of German reception of Whitman's poetry. Freiligrath had promised his readers "some translated specimens of the poet's productions," not a complete translation. A sympathetic article on Whitman in the New York Sonntagsblatt of November 1, 1868, mentioned Freiligrath's admiration for the American poet. A translation of this article, which Whitman had a Washington friend prepare, is now in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection. [back]
  • 4. Whitman followed up on the package for Freiligrath in his October 4, 1868 letter to William D. O'Connor. [back]
  • 5. Whitman wrote to Freiligrath on January 26, 1869. [back]
  • 6. 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]
  • 7. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a decades-long correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 8. Abby H. Price (1814–1878) was active in various social-reform movements. Price's husband, Edmund, operated a pickle factory in Brooklyn, and the couple had four children—Arthur, Helen, Emily, and Henry (who died in 1852, at 2 years of age). During the 1860s, Price and her family, especially her daughter, Helen, were friends with Whitman and with Whitman's mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. In 1860 the Price family began to save Walt's letters. Helen's reminiscences of Whitman were included in Richard Maurice Bucke's biography, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and she printed for the first time some of Whitman's letters to her mother in Putnam's Monthly 5 (1908): 163–169. In a letter to Ellen M. O'Connor from November 15, 1863, Whitman declared with emphasis, "they are all friends, to prize & love deeply." For more information on Whitman and Abby H. Price, see Sherry Ceniza, "Price, Abby Hills (1814–1878)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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