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Ellen M. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 5 March 1891

 loc.03006.003_large.jpg Dear Walt,

Thank you for the Lippincott.2 I hope to read it soon,3 but these last weeks I am so busy though can not steal a minute to read, having even to work after office hours,—& last night to go back & stay till near 10. extra work.

I enclose for loc.03006.004_large.jpg you a piece written by Mr. Kimball4 for the Life Saving Report5 of the year that William6 died. They are always behind time in getting them out

Mr. Kimball is one of the cautious kind, who always means more than he says, & this is all from his heart.

I am sorry to hear no better loc.03006.005_large.jpg reports of your health. The winter has been hard, but let us hope that Spring will treat you more kindly.

Thanks for papers—too, & for all messages.

With love always— Nelly O'C.  loc.03006.006_large.jpg  loc.03006.001_large.jpg  loc_tb.00052.jpg

Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor (1830–1913) was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Whitman's staunchest defenders. Before marrying William, Ellen Tarr was active in the antislavery and women's rights movements as a contributor to the Liberator and to a women's rights newspaper Una. Whitman dined with the O'Connors frequently during his Washington years. Though Whitman and William O'Connor would temporarily break off their friendship in late 1872 over Reconstruction policies with regard to emancipated African Americans, Ellen would remain friendly with Whitman. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. Three years after William O'Connor's death, Ellen married the Providence businessman Albert Calder. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see Dashae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]" and Lott's "O'Connor (Calder), Ellen ('Nelly') M. Tarr (1830–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | Camden, | New Jersey. It is postmarked: WASHINGTON, D.C. | MAR 6 | 1030 AM | 91; CAMDEN, N.J. | MAR | 6 | 1891 | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine was a literary magazine published in Philadelphia from 1868 to 1915. Joseph Marshall Stoddart was the editor of the magazine from 1886 to 1894, and he frequently published material by and about Whitman. For more information on Whitman's numerous publications here, see Susan Belasco, "Lippincott's Magazine." [back]
  • 3. In March 1891, Lippincott's Magazine published "Old Age Echoes," a cycle of four poems including "Sounds of the Winter," "The Unexpress'd," "Sail Out for Good, Eidólon Yacht," and "After the Argument," accompanied by an extensive autobiographical note called "Some Personal and Old-Age Memoranda." Also appearing in that issue was a piece on Whitman entitled, "Walt Whitman: Poet and Philosopher and Man" by Horace Traubel. [back]
  • 4. Sumner Increase Kimball (1834–1923) was a lawyer who became the chief of the Marine Division in the Treasury Department in 1871. In 1875, Kimball became W. D. O'Connor’s supervisor when O'Connor was appointed Assistant General Superintendent of the newly formed Life-Saving Service in the Treasury Department; Kimball became General Superintendent and served in that capacity during the entire existence of the Life-Saving Service, until 1915 when it was merged into the U.S. Coast Guard. Kimball admired O'Connor and supported him throughout his career; after O'Connor's death, he arranged for Nelly O'Connor to work in the Census Service. [back]
  • 5. William Douglas O'Connor (Ellen M. O'Connor's husband) had worked for the United States Lighthouse Board (eventually the Life Saving Service) for many years, becoming Assistant General Superintendent in 1878. His book of nonfiction about lighthouse keepers, Heroes of the Storm, was eventually published in 1904, fifteen years after his death. [back]
  • 6. 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). [back]
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