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Walt Whitman to John Hay, 10 March 1887

My dear John Hay,

I send the two sets of books you requested—Also a MS copy of "My Captain"—also a little Vol: containing my Dartmouth College Commencement-Poem-address in 1872.1 The sets are $10 cash, & the MS $2–$22 altogether, which please remit me by post office order.2

I am comfortable enough here in a democratic way, & in good heart, but physically wreck'd & paralyzed. O'Connor3 is now in Southern California, sick— I send you my remembrance love & thanks—

Walt Whitman

the parcel goes by express

John Hay (1838–1905), Abraham Lincoln's private secretary and biographer, as well as Theodore Roosevelt's Secretary of State, was an early admirer of Walt Whitman's poetry.


  • 1. "As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free" (later "Thou Mother with Thy Equal Brood") was recited at the Dartmouth commencement on June 26, 1872. Evidently a student organization hoped to annoy the faculty by inviting Walt Whitman to Dartmouth, a seat of New England sobriety and conservatism; see Bliss Perry, Walt Whitman (1906), 203–205. A dispatch to the New York Times on June 29, 1872, reported that Walt Whitman "was cordially met by the venerable gentlemen sitting upon the platform. He then took his position at the desk and read, with clearness of enunciation, his poem, written for the occasion, 'As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free.' As Mr. Whitman himself said to the writer, 'There is no one expression that could stand as the subject of the poem.'" For another first-hand report of this recitation, see Perry, Walt Whitman, 203–205. "As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free" was later printed as a pamphlet in 1872. [back]
  • 2. The copy of "O Captain! My Captain!" is dated by Walt Whitman as March 9, 1887, as is a Gutekunst photograph. [back]
  • 3. 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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