Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 19 March 1864

Date: March 19, 1864

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1984).

Location: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00311

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Sarah Synovec, Kathryn Kruger, April Lambert, and Nicole Gray



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Brooklyn
March 19th /64

Dear Walt,

The enclosed letter from George1 I should have sent you before but have been so busy that I have neglected it  There is nothing particularly new at home with the exception that Mother is not well. She has been very unwell for the last few days. She has a very steady and severe pain, she thinks a gathering or enlargement, in the right side of her chest. For a day or two she was almost helpless. Night before last Mat made her a poultice of elm and it seems to have done her good. I can not get her to allow herself to be taken care of or to take care of herself. She has been very foolish in house cleaning, she has done more work—whitewashing and cleaning—than any man ought to have done. Yet all the talking that Mat and I could do was no avail. I am really fearful that she has permanently hurt herself. If she does not get better by tomorrow I shall have the doctor to see her  Its very provoking to have Mother kill herself so persistently. She is much worse I think than she used to be. She has an idea that she cannot afford to have anything hired. Im in hopes that you will make and carry out the idea of coming to New York.2 I cannot imagine what it is that ails mother. I hope nothing serious

In regard to the house I belive its settled that we all stay as we are. I sent for Brown3 to come up and see me the other evening. He said that if he had to pay more rent he would have to move. That he should like to stay but that he would move rather than pay more  I thought the matter all over—I did not want to take the whole house—I did not want to move—it would not make but a difference of abt a $ per month so I told Brown he could stay and I would bear the increased rent. As it now stands it is as follows  Mother pays $85 per year, I pay $147 per year and Brown $168 per year. I took out an agreement for Mothers and my names at $19 33 per month

Did you get my letter enclosing $5 from Mr Lane.4 Why do you not write me? is there any reason? I was in hopes that I would hear from you sometime ago.

I wrote you to write me a letter to show Mr Worthen5 of New York. I think we could get some money through him.

Mattie and the babies are quite well. The children are both growing finely  If Mother does not get better in a few days I will write you again

Yours truly
Thos J. Whitman


Correspondent:
Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized figure. For more on Jeff, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)."

Notes:

1. Jeff Whitman's letter was written on the verso of George Whitman's letter to his mother of March 6, 1864. See Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman, ed. Jerome M. Loving (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975), 111. [back]

2. In his letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman of March 2, 1864, Walt Whitman indicated that he wanted to return to New York to see the family and to bring out his new book of poems, Drum-Taps[back]

3. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from April 3, 1860[back]

4. Moses Lane (1823–1882) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to 1869. He later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer. Like Jeff Whitman, he collected money from his employees and friends for Walt's hospital work. Lane sent Whitman $15.20 in his letter of January 26, 1863, and later various sums which Whitman acknowledged in letters from February 6, 1863, May 11, 1863, May 26, 1863, and September 9, 1863. In his letter of May 27, 1863, Lane pledged $5 each month. In an unpublished manuscript in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library, Whitman wrote, obviously for publication: "I have distributed quite a large sum of money, contributed for that purpose by noble persons in Brooklyn, New York, (chiefly through Moses Lane, Chief Engineer, Water Works there)." Lane assisted Whitman in other ways as well (see Whitman's letters from December 29, 1862, and February 13, 1863). He was so solicitous of Whitman's personal welfare that on April 3, 1863, he sent through Jeff $5 "for your own especial benefit." [back]

5. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letters to Walt Whitman from December 15, 1863, and March 11, 1864. Worthen sent twenty dollars to Whitman on May 23, 1864, and expressed his hope "to send more from time to time." Whitman replied on May 24 (?), 1864, and wrote Worthen again two years later on December 20, 1866; both of these letters are lost. See The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–77), 1:368, 369. [back]


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