Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 15 March [1867]

Date: March 15, 1867

Editorial note: The annotation, "15 March 67," 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.00476

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



page image
image 1
page image
image 2


M 151

my dear walter

i just write a line to you this friday morning before breakfast to say we are all about the same and that i got the ten dollars and the 5 of last week and envelopes all come safe) it is very cold again here you say walt for me to get some body to come and help me i shall certainly do so for i find i cant doo much in the way of any thing that is laborious its hard to give up but old age will creep on us jeff and matty2 went to the funeral of the doctor poor Dr ruggles is gone forever3 he was buried at greenwoods) george4 was up yesterday he is well but begins to look quite old jeff is to let him have 200 dollars he is in hopes of selling one to a sea captain if he does they will get along very well) matty still has company mrs mason5 i felt walt as if i must write a line or two i am still troubled with my wrist and my thumb it pains me some but i feel thankful i can dress myself and doo around Walt think you come home you said maybee you would dont let the sleeping part hinder you i can manage it very well i want to see you very much

good bie walter dear
L W6

last evening sis swallowed a penny jeff was very much alarmed about it but she is bright enoughf now7


Notes:

1. This letter dates to March 15, 1867. Richard Maurice Bucke dated the letter March 15, 1867, but only the letter "M" and day of the month "15" appear in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand. March 15, 1867 fell on Friday, the day that Louisa wrote. Edwin Haviland Miller cited Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:378). The date is consistent with the death of Dr. Edward Ruggles, a close friend of the Whitman family, the previous Sunday ("Obituary: Edward Ruggles, M.D.," New York Herald Tribune, March 12, 1867, 4). [back]

2. 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]

3. The Brooklyn physician Edward Ruggles (1817?–1867) befriended the Whitman family and became especially close to Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and his wife Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman. Late in life, Ruggles lost interest in his practice and devoted himself to painting cabinet pictures called "Ruggles Gems." Walt Whitman enclosed a copy of Ruggles' obituary with his March 19, 1867 letter to his mother. Green-Wood is a Brooklyn cemetery located southwest of Prospect Park. [back]

4. 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]

5. This Mrs. Mason is presumably the wife of Gordon F. Mason of Towanda, Pennsylvania. Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman stayed with the Mason family from June to September 1867, after her husband Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman departed for St. Louis (see Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman [New York: New York University Press, 1977], 37, 42).  [back]

6. 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]

7. The postscript encircles the first page from the left to the top and then to the right margin.

"Sis" is Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957), the younger daughter of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. At the time of this letter, she was approaching four years of age. For an update on the penny, see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 21, 1867 letter to Walt. Jessie and her elder sister Manahatta were both favorites of their uncle Walt. [back]


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.