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Walt Whitman to Abby H. Price, 27 October 1866

Mrs. Price, & all My dear friends,

I sent you a telegram, ten minutes ago, telling you that I have just succeeded in getting an order from the Attorney General for Mr. Parker's pardon.2 The pardon will probably go from here, (from the State Department,) on Monday next—the day you will receive this note—it will be directed to the Jail at Plymouth. I have had much more of a struggle than I anticipated—the pardon clerk knew the case, & was filled with Mr. Dana's3 reports upon it. When we meet, (or perhaps by letter, before) I will give you a more detailed account of the progress of the affair here, & its fluctuations. But no matter—it has ended successfully.

I have written to Aurelia Parker, & sent the news, the same mail as this.

I am fearfully well—indeed so red & fat that people stop in the street & gaze at me.

In the office, & my work, every thing goes on as usual. We are having delicious weather, coolish & bright. Has Arthur4 gone, then? Well you will value him all the more, when you have him again.

Helen & Emmy,5 my dear friends, I send you my best love—Go over & see my mother when you can—Best remembrance to Mr. Arnold6—also to Mr. Price.7


Abby H. Price (1814–1878) was active in various social-reform movements. Price's husband, Edmund, operated a pickle factory in Brooklyn, and the couple had four children—Arthur, Helen, Emily, and Henry (who died in 1852, at 2 years of age). During the 1860s, Price and her family, especially her daughter, Helen, were friends with Whitman and with Whitman's mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. In 1860 the Price family began to save Walt's letters. Helen's reminiscences of Whitman were included in Richard Maurice Bucke's biography, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and she printed for the first time some of Whitman's letters to her mother in Putnam's Monthly 5 (1908): 163–169. In a letter to Ellen M. O'Connor from November 15, 1863, Whitman declared with emphasis, "they are all friends, to prize & love deeply." For more information on Whitman and Abby H. Price, see Sherry Ceniza, "Price, Abby Hills (1814–1878)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. The envelope for this letter bears the address: To | Mrs. Abby H. Price, | 279 East 55th st. bet. 1st & 2d Av's. | New York City. It is postmarked: Washington D. C. | Oct | 27 | Free. [back]
  • 2. The Prices became interested in the case of Erastus Otis Parker, as Helen Price wrote years later, "through his niece an intimate friend who beleived most absolutely in her Uncle's innocence" (Pierpont Morgan Library). They asked Whitman to investigate the circumstances of Parker's conviction and to appeal for a pardon. See Whitman's October 26, 1866 letter to Henry Stanbery. [back]
  • 3. Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (1815–1882), author of Two Years Before the Mast, was the United States attorney for the district of Massachusetts from 1861 to 1866. On July 9, 1864, Dana informed Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General, that a pardon was being requested for Parker "on the ground of failing health." On March 19, 1866, in a letter to M. F. Pleasants, pardon clerk in Whitman's office (see Whitman's letter from August 25, 1866 , Dana explained what had transpired two years earlier: "Parker's friends tried to get President Lincoln to issue a pardon without its coming to his knowledge that Parker had admitted his guilt; and for that purpose, contrived to get the thing out of the regular track of the Pardon Bureau, with a report from me. I think they did get an order for a pardon, conditioned on Mr. Blair's assent. But, Mr. Blair sent the papers to me; and when the President learned the facts, and the deception that had been practiced upon him, he revoked the order. . . . The case is a very bad one, almost as bad in the fraudulent attempts to get signatures and a pardon, as in the original guilt" (National Archives). [back]
  • 4. Abby's son, Arthur, joined the navy and became second assistant engineer on the steamer "Ossipee"; see Whitman's address book (The Library of Congress #109). [back]
  • 5. The two Price daughters, Helen and Emily. [back]
  • 6. John Arnold lived with his daughter's family in the same house as the Abby and Edmund Price family. Helen Price, Abby's daughter, described Arnold as "a Swedenborgian," with whom Whitman frequently argued without "the slightest irritation between them" (Richard Maurice Bucke, Walt Whitman [Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883], 26–27). [back]
  • 7. Abby's husband, Edmund. [back]
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