Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 26 [December 1867]

Date: December 26, 1867

Editorial note: The annotation, "Dec. '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.00511

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



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thursday 26th1

My dear Walt

i received your letter with the 5 doller all first rate and i should have wrote yesterday but i went down to matts2 for the first i had not been down to their place before) george3 came home yesterday morning thinks likely he will stay till after new year s as something in the foundry4 is broken and will take time to be repaird george dont know as he will be there much longer but will be employed in brooklyn) we are about the same as usual matty and the children are going back with jeff after taking the place and getting the things unpacked they have fairly decided to return with him she dont like her place at all and would move again if she staid so she thinks she had better go at once as jeff is under a very great expence i wont write much walt or i shant have any thing to tell you when you come you must send word when you will come5

so good bie walter dear
L W6


Notes:

1. This letter dates to December 26, 1867. The date, "26," and day of the week, "Thursday," are in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand. Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the month and year December 1867. Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:379). December 26 fell on Thursday in 1867, and the letter's concern, that Martha Mitchell Whitman was dissatisfied with her new place and decided to return to St. Louis with Thomas Jefferson Whitman, is consistent with late 1867. [back]

2. 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]

3. 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]

4. Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890) had pipe for the St. Louis Water Works made at the R. D. Wood Foundry in Florence, New Jersey. George Washington Whitman in late 1867 served as a pipe inspector both for Moses Lane's Brooklyn Water Works in Camden, New Jersey and for Jeff Whitman's pipe at the R. D. Wood Foundry (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's November 19, 1867 letter to Walt Whitman).

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]

5. Walt Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman on his expected visit is not extant. He arrived in Brooklyn on January 1 or 2, 1868 (see his December 30, 1867 letter to Francis P. Church and William C. Church), and he returned to Washington on or near January 18 (see Walt's January 17, 1868 letter to Edmund Routledge). [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]


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