Title: Ellen M. O'Connor to Walt Whitman, 20 November 1870
Date: November 20, 1870
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.01815
Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Ashley Lawson, and Beverley Rilett
Providence. R. I.
Nov. 20th 1870.
My very dear friend—It is good to feel so assured of one's love as not to need to express it, & it is very good to know that one's love is never doubted or questioned, & for these reasons it is I am sure that we do not write to each other. I always know that you know that I love you all the time, even though we should never meet again, my feeling could never change, and I am sure that you know it as well as I do. I do flatter myself too, that you care for me,—not as I love you, because you are great and strong, and more sufficient unto yourself than any woman can be, besides you have the great outflow of your pen which saves you from the need of personal love as one feels it who has no such resource. You could not afford to love other than as the Gods love; that is to love every body, but no one enough to be made unhappy, or to lose your balance. You know that Hector Tyndale was always preaching that to us, to be like the Gods. But however it is with you—it is very good sometimes for me to try to tell those that are very dear to me how I like them. And ever since I left home I have had it in my heart to write you,—but it has been postponed, waiting for the more fitting time. It is only when I am away from you that I am conscious of how deeply you have influenced my life, my thoughts, my feelings, my views—my self in fact, in every way, you seem to have permeated my whole being. And knowing you as intimately as I do I find myself constantly wondering and thinking how such or such a thing seems to you, what your ideas are in relation to this or that.
I find too, that the estimate in which persons hold you is a sort of test of them to me all the time. My friend Mrs. Mitchell with whom I was at Nantucket said to me one day, "I see plainly that if I am to remain in your good graces, I am to come to the knowledge and love of your friend Walt Whitman," she said that she could see that I made it a test in some sort. Every where, as usual, I find some who ask me about you, & who want to hear of you. I have enjoyed very much reading the "Passage to India." The other I lent as soon as it came and it has not yet been returned. Thank you for both. I shall have to scold you for some portion of the arrangement—but that I will reserve till I see you. I always feel refreshed and stronger for reading your poems, they seem so sane, so sweet, so human and healthy. But more than all your poems, more than all you ever can write, you are to me; yet they were very much to me before I knew you. It is good to have my love for you then rounded by knowing you, and finding my feeling and thought about you justified. I have sometimes suffered very deeply, but I feel that I have been dealt very kindly by, and had more than fullest compensation in the great privilege of knowing you, and being permitted to be with you as I have. I hope that the good angels who take care of us will for long, long yet spare us to each other. And you must be very good and come often to see us. You must not neglect the golden opportunity of letting me love you and see you all that is possible. I think that I must have been very good at some time to have deserved such a blessing.
Very soon I hope to see you now, very soon. Till then good by. Jeannie sends much love to you, so does my sister Jeannie. My Jeannie has grown to be a tall girl, & is very graceful sometimes in her manner, as you used often to tell me that she would be. She is quite womanly about some things. She longs to be at home; though she enjoys her cousins.
I, too, quite long to be with you all. Soon I shall be (D.V.).
With love ever—
I came near forgetting to send you a letter which I cut from a Boston paper on purpose to send you. It is the account of the death of those persons who were overtaken by the snow storm in the mountains. The diary is to me very touching, the simple manly, unflinching tone of what that dying man wrote is to me very noble, I can't read it once without the tears blinding my eyes. It is such a scene, he alone in that mountain pass with no hope of escape and the snow falling in fearful quantities. It is one of the loneliest pictures that I ever conceived. As I read it I thought of you.
Good by again.
With love Nelly.