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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 13 November 1866

Dearest Mother,

I have had a very bad cold the past week or so, but am feeling better to-day. I am at the office as usual every day. The promotion I spoke about last week hasn't come yet1—I guess I had better make no reckoning of it till it comes—Mother, I havn't received any letter from you the past week—I sent you day before yesterday a paper with the piece in (or most of it) from the London Fortnightly Review—it was meant well, but a good deal of it is most ridiculous.2 Here in the office every thing goes on as usual. The Attorney General and Assistant are very busy getting themselves ready to argue their cases in the U. S. Supreme Court, which holds a session here every winter, & all the big cases, in which the U. S. are a party, come off on such occasions. We are having pleasant weather yet—a little dusty though. The O'Connors are all well—they have got to move, & are worrying a good deal about it.

Well, I believe that is all—so good bye for this time, mother dear. I send my love to Jeff & George & Mat & all.



  • 1. See Whitman's letter of November 16, 1866 . The letter referred to is not known. [back]
  • 2. Moncure Conway's article; see the letter of September (?) 1866 . John Burroughs called it "an eloquent article . . . but it told untruths about him. Walt said it did" (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1931], 39). William O'Connor wrote to Conway on December 5, 1866: "A great deal of it I liked very much, and I think the general effect of it was very good. In part of it, there was a tone I regretted. Pardon me. I think the time is past when this august man should be written of as a curiosity, or his poem mentioned as something monstrous. You do not do this, it is true, but there are, here and there, lines and touches in your article, which suggest such a treatment and leave me unsatisfied" (Yale). However, to John Townsend Trowbridge, O'Connor labeled it "a frightful mess of misstatement and fiction" (Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs (1931), 40). Whitman, and therefore his friends, objected to two of Conway's anecdotes in particular: Whitman's lying on his back at Coney Island with the temperature at 100 degrees, and the description of his room in 1855. In 1888 Whitman observed: "I can't help feeling still a little suspicion of Conway's lack of historic veracity: he romances: he has romanced about me: William says lied: but romanced will do" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1906–1996], 3:16). William Michael Rossetti repeated the Coney Island tale in Poems by Walt Whitman (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868), 15–16. [back]
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