Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 3 June [1865]

Date: June 3, 1865

Editorial note: The annotation, "—1865," is in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke.

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 Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00437

Contributors to digital file: Zachary King, Elizabeth Lorang, Wesley Raabe, Felicia Wetzig, and Natalie Raabe



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June 31

My dear Walt

I2 once more send you A few lines to let you know we are all pretty well it is very warm weather which makes matty3 and me sigh for some country place by the sea side I shall never I think regret leaving this place it is very disagreable to live with the B family more so than ever there is nothing but quarrel with Hattee on somethin[g?] or other all the time the old brown4 has gone away to work at Harrisburgh I wish they were all gone I commenced A letter to Hanna5 yesterday but I have not finished it yet but will try too to day and to morrow if my head dont hurt me I have considerable distress in my head seems to affect my eyes but is better after I get up in the morning and wash my eyes in cold water matty is very kind to me when I dont feel well she has very much to doo with the young ones and her work they think they will put up some kind of A house by next spring so she will have it more handy to work

I have not had but the one letter from george6 I want to hear from him very much I like to get letters if there aint any thing so very particular in them) I suppose you had to send one to the little girls that got up the fair the proceeds of which they sent to you I heard there were 4 mannigers and they concluded when you wrote the letter back to them one was to have possession of it for A few days and then the other so it was to go round so I suppose you have written the much expetted letter7 they were the high order of young ladies) a lady opposite mr Lanes8 gave them the use of her basement for the occation

well Walt how are you getting along in the money matters for my part I have got pretty short I wish if you can walt you would send me enoughf to pay my rent I dont like to have it get behind I have to give 6 an half dollar for my shoes the dearest shoes I ever had I dont know how it is gold is down but provitions is so very high i wish Walt we could send you some more cake would you like to have some if you would write how we must send it write all about the old man or Mrs gracons husband9 if he is home and how the old lady is with my love to her and about the Hospitals the Assassins trial10 holds on I read it nearly all when my eyes is well enoughf ) the english papers is very sypathectic for the honourable Jefferson davis11 poor mr Lincoln s being murderd dont seem to be any thing to them compared with the American patriot as they call the great Jefferson davis) the printer Walt brought 2 plates sterotyped i suppos[e?] and 5 books12 I have one the others is up stairs I supposed Jeffy13 wanted to pres[ent?] Dr Ruggles14 and some other of his friends one they are nice little books very nicely got up) I will put the date to this letter it is saturday afternoon if you write to George tell him to write to his old mamma

no more
L Whitma[n?]


Notes:

1. "June 3" is in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand, and the letter closes with the remark that Louisa writes on Saturday. June 3 fell on Saturday in 1865. Therefore, the letter dates to June 3, 1865. Richard Maurice Bucke also assigned the year 1865, and the year is consistent with the recent assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, 1842–67 [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:376). [back]

2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt Whitman was the second. For more information on Louisa and her letters, see Wesley Raabe, "'walter dear': The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt" and Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]

3. Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873), known as "Mattie," was the wife of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother. She and Jeff had two daughters, Manahatta and Jessie Louisa. In 1868, Mattie and her daughters moved to St. Louis to join Jeff, who had moved there in 1867 to assume the position of Superintendent of Water Works. For more on Mattie, see Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman (New York: New York University Press, 1977), 1–26. [back]

4. Part of the Portland Avenue house was rented to the family of John Brown, a tailor (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 26–31?, 1860 letter to Walt Whitman). The relationship between the Browns and the Whitmans was often strained, especially in regard to the noise made by Jeff and Mattie's daughter "Hattie," but the Browns remained in the Portland Avenue house for five years. See Jeff's April 16, 1860 and March 3, 1863 letters to Walt. [back]

5. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908) was the youngest daughter of Walter Whitman, Sr., and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. She resided in Burlington, Vermont, with her husband Charles Louis Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter. The relationship between Hannah and Charles was difficult and marred with quarrels and disease. Charles was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. Louisa wrote, "if heyde was kind to her she would get well" (see her November 11–14, 1868 letter to Walt). [back]

6. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman likely refers to George Washington Whitman's May 8, 1865 letter. George (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and remained on active duty until the end of the Civil War. He was wounded in the First Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862) and was taken prisoner during the Battle of Poplar Grove (September 1864). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with a partner named Smith and later a mason named French. He would later be employed as an inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

7. Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman earnestly requested that Walt Whitman send a letter to the "children of the people that sent you money last winter." Jeff listed the families by their surnames—"Durkee's, Crany, Lanes &c &c" (see Jeff's June 4, 1865 letter to Walt Whitman). The names in Jeff's letter match the postscript to Walt Whitman's "The Great Washington Hospitals: Life Among Fifty Thousand Sick Soldiers.—Cases of Brooklyn Men" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 19, 1863, 2). [back]

8. 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. [back]

9. Edward B. Grayson was the husband of Juliet Grayson, who took boarders at 468 M Street South, where Walt Whitman lived between late January 1865 and at least June 1866. The Graysons were Southern sympathizers with a son in the Confederate Army. [back]

10. Eight suspected conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln first appeared before a military tribunal on May 1, 1865. After a seven-week trial, all eight were found guilty on June 30, 1865; four were hanged on July 7, 1865, one died in prison in 1867, and three were pardoned in 1869. [back]

11. Jefferson Davis (1808–1889) was the President of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865. After the Civil War, public opinion of Davis was mixed in both the North and the South. [back]

12. Walt Whitman had inquired "whether you got the package of 5 Drum-Taps" (see his May 25, 1865 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman). Walt had directed printer Peter Eckler to deliver materials to his mother at the Portland Avenue address (see his May 3, 1865 letter to Eckler). For details on the printing history and organization of Drum-Taps, see Ted Genoways, "The Disorder of Drum-Taps," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 24 (Fall 2006/Winter 2007), 98–116. [back]

13. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was the son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and Walt Whitman's favorite brother. In early adulthood he worked as a surveyor and topographical engineer. In the 1850s he began working for the Brooklyn Water Works, at which he remained employed through the Civil War. In 1867 Jeff became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and became a nationally recognized name in civil engineering. For more on Jeff, see "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)." [back]

14. The Brooklyn physician Edward Ruggles (1817?–1867) befriended the Whitman family and became especially close to Thomas Jefferson Whitman and his wife. Late in life, Ruggles lost interest in his practice and devoted himself to painting cabinet pictures called "Ruggles Gems." [back]


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