Friday, November 15, 2013

November 15, 1862: Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O'Connor


On this day 150 years ago, poet Walt Whitman was enjoying a break from his nursing work in Washington, D.C. by visiting his mother's home in Brooklyn, New York. On this day, Whitman took time to write to one of his friends back in Washington, D.C.
Brooklyn November 15 1863
Dear Nelly

I have received your letter, also Charles Eldridge's & Mrs Cooper's. Nelly, I hope this will find you better of your cold, & that you & all the rest are well & [in] good spirits. Tell Mrs Cooper I heartily accept her invitation to visit at Philadelphia, & if I can work it so I will come gladly. I think about you all, & frequently. I have told my mother & sister about you all. I send my love to William. I feel that I have never had a better friend, & that no truer nor warmer heart beats. Tell Charles Eldridge too I send him my love. I regret his not likely meeting me in New York to go around together. But, Charley, we will have it yet, dear comrade. I received the letters you sent under envelope. For all & sundry, & the year's most valuable kindness, from you three, what can I say, more than that I am sure I appreciate it. Nelly, I had a pleasant trip that Monday from the start, & all through—clear & cool & no dust—I got home about 8 in evening—was up bright & early to the polls next morning &c. How well the election went in this state, you know. Here Brooklyn gave a stunning union vote, the biggest ever dreamed of here—Mayor, assemblymen, judges, all elected. Nelly, I am writing this from my room at my mother's house. It is Sunday afternoon, dripping & rainy, the air thick & warm, & the sky lowering. My poor brother Andrew is very ill. It is not likely he can live. His voice is quite gone. Still he moves about & is here all the time during the day. My sister Martha is untiring, feeding & nursing him. Of her children, little Hattie is well—the new baby is immense, & I take to her in proportion. I want her to be called California. She is fully worthy the name. She is large, calm, not pretty but something ahead of that, full of latent fire in the eyes (which are grey) & a complete success every way. Mother is very well & active & cheerful—she still does her own light housework, & keeps up handsomely under her surroundings of domestic pressure—one case of sickness & its accompanying irritability—two of grown helplessness—& the two little children, very much with her, & one of them unsurpassed in volatility & restlessness—Nelly, I have thought before that the real & best bravery is to be discovered somewhere else than in the bravery of war, & beyond the heroisms of men. My brother Jeff is well—he is a noble young man & one to love.

I find my New York boys the same gay-hearted, joyous fellows, full of friendship & determined to have pleasure. We have been together quite a good deal. They have given me little supper parties, men only, with drinking &c. Of course we have great times. I have been several times to the Opera & to French theatre. The opera here, Maretzek's troupe, is very fine. Medori, soprano, is pretty near perfection—Mazzoleni, tenor, ditto—Biachi, base, ditto. Miss Kellogg is also good. The pieces were Lucrezia, Sonnambula, &c.

Nelly, I have seen Charles Howells. He is well—apparently indeed better than he was in Washington (in health I mean). I have been at the place, 15 Charles street. In the parlor is hung up a large blue placard "Headquarters of the Pantarchy" in white letters. I did not stop to dinner, although I was prest hard. I saw a man named Newbold. Charles Howells is cheerful. We had quite a walk. He told me he was doing well in a business point of view, had made more while in New York than his salary would have been in Idaho. I did not see Mr nor Mrs Andrews. I did not make any demonstration upon Charles, except what was probably significant enough during the course of his flourishing & somewhat elaborated statement of the Pantarchian scheme which I listened to in dead silence, broken only by one or two running questions of a very brief & dry character. Charles was full of friendship & our interview was one in which he imprest me more agreeably than ever before. Surely he is a good man. The impression I received (maybe casual) is that he is partially absorbed there, his own yearning & eager nature supplying the fuel of the flame, but that he is really shrewd at bottom, & may prove more able to pick his way through the humbugs of the world than we were thinking.

Nelly, I have seen Mrs Price, but not to have much true & friendly talk, as there were many present. She is much less well than I expected—has a hacking cough. She preserves the same quiet cheerful way—& her daughters—dear girls—they are all friends, to prize & love deeply.


Nelly, if you go down to Armory Square—or if Mrs Howells should, (& if you feel well, & like going, I much wish you would very soon) please find if Pleasant Borley is living, he is in bed 40 in Ward A—tell him I am coming back soon, (or tell Miss Gregg, for him)—Also see James S Stilwell in Ward C, & Thomas Carson in same ward—also Lewis K Brown in Ward K, (I have sent him a long letter)—also Oscar Cunningham in Ward K—also tell Mrs Doolittle in Ward B, I want to see the boys there. I shall probably stay five or six days longer. I count on our all being together again. My head & hearing &c. are better yesterday & to-day than for two weeks—sometimes have been rather disagreeable. Well, Nelly, I will now bid you good bye for present, my truly dear friend, & good bye to the rest, & God bless you all.

Walt Whitman

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