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Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 14 July [1871]

Brooklyn, 107 North Portland av. Dear friend,

There is nothing special to write about, yet I will send you a line. I wrote to Nelly between two & three weeks ago2—with a line to you and Charles Eldridge—which I suppose came all right at the time. I have been having a comfortable time, absolutely doing nothing, sleeping a good deal, eating & drinking what suits me, and going out a few hours a day, a good part of the time on the water. Mother has had an attack of illness, somewhat severe, the last few days—& I have been sort of nurse & doctor—(as none of my sisters are home at present)—result is that Mother is very much better this morning—

John Burroughs3 has called on me—looking well.

I must tell you that the Westminster4 for July has for the 2d article of the number a long article of 33 or 4 pages, headed "The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman" and capped with the names of the three last issued books—rather quiet in tone, but essentially very favorable & appreciative—undertakes to define the character of democratic art & poetic literature, as discriminated from aristocratic—quotes freely from all my books—will please you, I think.

Wednesday's brush in N. Y. you have seen in the papers5—in five sixths of the city, it was curiously almost unfelt, every thing went on the same—30 or 40 killed and a hundred wounded—yet it all falls very languidly on our people—we have supped full of horror of late years—the Policemen looked & behaved splendidly—I have been looking on them & been with them much, & am refreshed by their presence—it is something new—in some respects they afford the most encouraging sign I have got—brown, bearded, worn, resolute, American-looking men, dusty & sweaty—looked like veterans—the stock here even in these cities is in the main magnificent—the heads either shysters, villains or impotents—Love to Nelly, Charles Eldridge & Jeannie—



  • 1. This letter is endorsed, "Answ'd July 16 | 71." Its envelope bears the address, "Wm. D. O'Connor, | Treasury Department, | Light House Bureau, | Washington, | D.C." It is postmarked, "New York | (?) | 14 | 1:30 PM." [back]
  • 2. For this letter, see Whitman's June 29, 1871 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor. [back]
  • 3. Burroughs was one of Walt Whitman's staunchest defenders in print during this period; see his "More about Nature and the Poets," Appleton's Journal, 4 (September 10, 1870), 314–316, and Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 58. Burroughs issued the expanded second edition of his Notes in 1871. [back]
  • 4. An unsigned article by Edward Dowden (a professor of English literature at the University of Dublin; see also Whitman's August 22, 1871 letter to Dowden) in the Westminster Review, 96 (July 1871), 33–68. A few weeks later Whitman was still pleased with the review; he wrote positively about it in his July 26, 1871 letter to William D. O'Connor and in his July 28, 1871 letter to William Michael Rossetti. [back]
  • 5. With the headline "War at Our Doors," the New York World reported: "The ides of March have come and gone. In spite of the efforts of the clergy, the municipal authorities, and all good citizens, New York has been disgraced by a street fight in 1871 over the merits of an Irish battle fought and won in 1690." The journal devoted two full pages (in an eight-page issue) to the incident, and announced that 45 had been killed and 105 wounded. Whitman also wrote of the incident in his July 14, 1871 letter to Peter Doyle. [back]
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