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Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor, 21 September 1867

My dear friend,

As you see by the date, &c. I am home, on a visit to my mother & the rest. Mother is about as well as usual—has occasionally some trouble with rheumatism, but is cheerful & keeps up amazingly. We speak of you every day, & I have to give minute particulars of you, William, little Jenny, & all. My brother George is very well, looks hearty & brown as ever—much like he used to, only more serious—Jeff is at St. Louis, on the Water Works. Martha & the little girls are well—they are here in Brooklyn, occupying temporary apartments.

I am well as usual, & go daily around New York & Brooklyn yet with interest, of course—but I find the places & crowds & excitements—Broadway, &c—have not the zest of former times—they have done their work, & now they are to me as a tale that is told—Only the majestic & moving river & rapid sea-water scenery & life about the islands, N. Y. and Brooklyn, tower into larger proportions than ever. I doubt if the world elsewhere has their equal, or could have, to me—The waters about New York & west end of Long-Island are real sea-waters, & are ever-rolling & rushing in or out—never placid, never calm—surely they please this uneasy spirit, Me, that ebbs & flows too all the while, yet gets nowhere, & amounts to nothing—

I am trying to write a piece, to be called Democracy, for the leading article in the December or January number of the Galaxy—in some sort a counterblast or rejoinder to Carlyle's late piece, Shooting Niagara2, which you must have read, or at least heard about. Mr. Church3 strongly wishes it written. Mother & Martha send love, & I also, most truly—I shall probably return to Washington last of the week.



  • 1. This letter is endorsed, "Sept. 21.—1867— | Ans'd." Its envelope bears the address, "Mrs. Ellen M. O'Connor, | Care of Benjamin Gardiner, | Jamestown, | Rhode Island." It is postmarked: "Brooklyn | Sep | 23 | N. Y." [back]
  • 2. "Shooting Niagara: and After?" (Macmillan's Magazine, 16 1867: 319–336). Whitman's piece was published in the December issue. See Grier, "Walt Whitman, the Galaxy, and Democratic Vistas," American Literature, 23 (1951–1952), 337–338; and Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1955), 389–391. [back]
  • 3. William Conant Church (1836–1917), journalist and publisher, was a correspondent for several New York newspapers until he founded the Army and Navy Journal in 1863. With his brother Francis Pharcellus (1839–1906), he established the Galaxy in 1866. Financial control of the Galaxy passed to Sheldon and Company in 1868, and it was absorbed by the Atlantic Monthly in 1878. William published a biography of his life-long friend Ulysses S. Grant in 1897, and Francis wrote for the New York Sun the unsigned piece "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." See Edward F. Grier, "Walt Whitman, the Galaxy, and Democratic Vistas," American Literature, 23 (1951–1952), 332–350; Donald N. Bigelow, William Conant Church & "The Army and Navy Journal" (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952); J. R. Pearson, Jr., "Story of a Magazine: New York's Galaxy, 1866–1878," Bulletin of the New York Public Library, 61 (1957), 217–237, 281–302. [back]
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