Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 11 September [1865]

Date: September 11, 1865

Editorial note: The annotation, "From Burlington 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.00461

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



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Sept 111

Dear Walt

i am here yet i feel pretty well i thought last night i should not stay here much longer2 there was quite a blow out of coarse i did not participate in the scrap but walt i felt bad i cant write it perhaps its better to not the greatest hardship for me is to be compeled to be pleasant to one you dislike han3 has every thing to live on provitions by the quantaty and nice place but she has few cloths only what she fixes over she keeps house very nicely and is very forbearing puts up with every thing) i got your letter walt the only one i have received since i have been here i got the money too what you sent me before i came and since i came i have written to matty4 and george5 and jeffy6 and havent had any letter from any of them han is much better she says than she has been and sends her love to you and wants you to come here very much indeed she wants to see you and wants you to see a place for sale across the lake at Birmingham7 ½ miles from keesville and 3 miles from port kent the line of steamboats run from new york and stops at port Kent and so to burlington) this place at birmingham was very active in time of the war with factories nail and other factories but since the war there is not much business but a man that lives there told me very much about it the house and ground around it is 400 dollar he said the house and by his tell the ground must be very cheap he said there was fruit and the ground very good indeed and spring of water there is a steam boat runs from here several times a day 50 cent acrost han says if you will only come she will doo ever so much to make you like your visit this place i speak of is in new york state on the map i suppose han thinks you must buy it and settle down and get married i suppose the lake is very beautiful this gentleman that spoke to me about it said they didint feel as if they were very far from new york i wont write any more about that) but how i doo want to see the young ones8 dont of course you wont write any thing about what i say about the little conceited fool but write about every thing you can think of if heyde would only go off schetching i should be very glad but i suppose i must stand it the best i can i have got one more envelope besides this to you walt and then if i stay longer you must send me one i wish you could come for a few days dont be worried about me i will try to stand the gramatical phrases9

so good by walt for the pres[ent?]
L Whitman10


Notes:

1. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated the letter "September 11," and Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the year 1865. Edwin Haviland Miller cited Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:377). Because Louisa is in Burlington, Vermont, to visit her daughter Hannah Heyde at the time of this letter, it dates to September 11, 1865. [back]

2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman left Brooklyn for Burlington, Vermont, to visit her daughter Hannah (Whitman) Heyde, on September 4, 1865 (see Thomas Jefferson Whitman's September 11, 1865 to Walt). She remained longer than she anticipated and did not return to Brooklyn until October 17, 1865 (see Walt Whitman's October 20, 1865 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor). [back]

3. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908), the youngest daughter of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., resided in Burlington, Vermont, with husband Charles L. Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter. In this letter, Louisa refers to Heyde as the one she dislikes, and she labels him a "conceited fool." Louisa visited her daughter in September 1865 because Hannah and her husband had quarreled about "some women that Heyde had in his room" (see Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman's July 16, 1865 letter to Walt Whitman). According to Jeff's letter, Louisa informed Jeff that she intended to "bring Han home." [back]

4. 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]

5. George Washington Whitman (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. George eventually took up a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

6. 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]

7. Though below she wrote the proper name "Burlington," Louisa Van Velsor Whitman erred here because daughter Hannah Heyde and her husband reside in Burlington, Vermont. She repeated the mistake, writing "Birmingham" instead of "Burlington," in her September 21, 1865 letter and, after her return to Brooklyn, in a March 26, 1866 letter. Burlington is on Lake Champlain, across from Port Kent, New York. Vermont has no city or town named Birmingham. [back]

8. The "young ones" are Manahatta "Hattie" Whitman (1860–1886) and Jessie Louisa "Sis" Whitman (1863–1957), the daughters of Jeff and Mattie Whitman. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman shared the Portland Avenue home with Jeff's family and often had the responsibility of caring for Hattie and Sis. [back]

9. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman appears to have written "gramatical phrases," but the meaning of the expression is unclear. If a nonce coinage, she may intend the phrase as a euphemism for "dramatical phases," the periodic conflicts between Hannah and Charles L. Heyde. [back]

10. 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]


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