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Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor, 3 February [1874]

Dear Nelly,

I sent you the Weekly Graphic No. 2 yesterday—wish you to take an opportunity, when convenient, & loan it to those two dear ladies, Mrs. Johnson & her sister mentioned in my article2—& please give them my best remembrances. Dear Nelly, how are you getting along, this winter?—We have just had a snow storm here—cold & while, as I look out, and the sleigh-bells occasionally jingling by—I am sitting here alone in the parlor by the heater, as I write. I am alone most of the time, (to all intents & purposes.)

I feel that I am better, in the main—yet still have daily & nightly bad spells in the head, & my leg most of the time disabled as ever. In fact not much different from the same old story—(yet certainly a good streak, or vein, of encouragement, & feeling of encouragement—maintaining itself—accumulating—never more than temporarily leaving me.) I even begin to think about coming back to Washington & trying it again.

Nelly, I sent a P.O. check for $50 to Charley last Friday to pay my young man3—haven't rec'd​ any word from Charley yet, up to this present writing4—hope it came safe—may hear from him, this afternoon or tomorrow. Charley is always so prompt in responding. I hear regularly from Peter Doyle—he is well & hearty, works hard for poor pay, on the Balt​ & Potomac RR​ ., works nights a great deal. He writes me regularly every week. I have been waiting ever since I wrote,5 to get the photos. of my nieces, (my dear sister Mat's girls,) returned from New York, & send them to you—but have not yet got them. Shall write for them. My "song of the redwood tree," in last Harpers is copied a little, & abused & sneered at in the newspaper criticisms, a good deal, (from what I glean)—of course, that last makes me feel very bad—I expect to have another piece in February6 Harpers—(but am not certain)—"prayer of Columbus"—as I see it now I shouldn't wonder if I have unconsciously put a sort of biographical dash in it—Nelly dear, write oftener—put in all the gossip & items that will be next best to seeing you—do you see Dr. Drinkard—I sent Garaphelia Howard7 a paper, the Graphic8 that has my picture—how is she? Is she married? Give her my love—Poor, good Mr. Dille9—yet amid all its sombreness & terror how blessed to die "by touch ethereal," painless, instantaneous—Nelly, death has become to me a familiar thing—Yet, as I sit here writing, I do not feel a particle less of life in me, than ever.

God bless, you, dear, dear Nelly. Walt


  • 1. This letter is endorsed, "Ans'd." Its envelope bears the address, "Mrs. E. M. O'Connor, | 1015 O street | near 11th N. W. | Washington, | D.C." It is postmarked: "Camden | Feb | 3 | N.J." [back]
  • 2. Whitman refers here to Nancy M. Johnson and her sister, referenced in Whitman's January 16, 1874 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor. [back]
  • 3. Whitman refers here to Walter Godey, Whitman's substitute at the U.S. Attorney General's Office. [back]
  • 4. Charles Eldridge wrote later in the week; Whitman confirmed receipt of Eldridge's letter in a February 6, 1874 letter to Peter Doyle. [back]
  • 5. Whitman mentioned these photographs in his December 29, 1873 letter to Charles W. Eldridge. [back]
  • 6. Whitman meant the March issue, in which "Prayer of Columbus" appeared. [back]
  • 7. Whitman probably refers here to the "Miss Howard" mentioned in his January 6, 1865 letter to William O'Connor. [back]
  • 8. The New York Daily Graphic of November 25, 1873. [back]
  • 9. Israel Dille was a clerk in the Internal Revenue Bureau, whose death was mentioned in Whitman's January 16, 1874 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor. [back]
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