Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 6 [March 1868]
Date: March 6, 1868
Editorial note: The annotation, "6 March 1868," 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.00518
Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Felicia Wetzig, Wesley Raabe, Elizabeth Lorang, and Caterina Bernardini
friday the 61
My dear Walt
i thought i would write again this week to tell you i had received the letter with the money order all come safe and sound we have got through the dreadfull storm but the water is frozen up that makes it bad and we come pretty near getting out of coal but it held out till after the storm got a little settled and i got some) with the 5 that came in my last letter) George2 went to Camden yesterday morning to take a contract from the commissioners here to the foundry to camden3 he had to witness the signing here and then witness the signing there if they dont commence work he will be back saturday morning if they doo he will stay till mr Lane4 sends an inspector out and then he is to inspect the new main he paid my rent and gave me 2 dollar to last me till i received the order which i have got) but Walt i have got enoughf to last till i can go down and get it cashed
well Walt i gess you will be surprised when i tell you who has been here to day and stayed to dinner no other than mrs price and helen5 they have just gone i was very glad to see them helen helped me get dinner and made some nice tea and bread and butter and peaches and cake and mince pie and it did mrs price so much good she seemed to really enjoy it i had to insist upon her staying she said she had quite a family home but i insisted on her taking of her had and so did helen so they stayed till 2 oclock she looks first rate she is very much better she says) it is amusing to hear her tell about the times they have had over in there the greatest fuss i should think [im?]maginable i suppose you know the doctor Jenne6 husband is a divorsed man with his first wife living with one child it seemes it was a love mach and after a while the doctor got set against her couldent bear her so he went west and got a divorce and came back and married Jenne if you never heard about it dont let on)
while george was out to camden he had an invitation to conell Sheppards marriage he sent the wedding cards to the office to the hall and they sent them on to him he has married one of the vandebilts worth no end of money7 george says i told him he ought to have gone) i am feeling pretty well i hope this will find you the same Walter dear
i have wrote a pressing letter to hannah8 urging her to come and make us a visit i thought perhaps the easeyest way
mrs price says you must not come home again without coming to see her
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)."
1. Richard Maurice Bucke dated the letter March 6, 1868, and Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:365). March 6, 1868 fell on Friday, and both the day of the week and the calendar date are in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand. Furthermore, the letter must follow the recent marriage of Colonel Elliot F. Shepard to Margaret Louisa Vanderbilt, a ceremony to which George Washington Whitman was invited, on February 18, 1868. March 6, 1868 was the first Friday to follow on the 6th day of the month after the Shepard-Vanderbilt wedding. Therefore, the letter dates to March 6, 1868. [back]
2. 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]
3. In late 1867, George began inspecting gas pipes in Camden, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York. By 1869, he had accepted a position inspecting pipes at a Camden foundry. [back]
4. Moses Lane (1823–1882) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to 1869. The connection between Lane and Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, who had served under Lane before accepting the position of Chief Engineer at the St. Louis Water Works, led to George Washington Whitman's employment as a pipe inspector in Brooklyn. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman in her July 8, 1868 letter reported Jeff Whitman's confidence that George's connection to Lane offered assurance of stable employment. George's position with the Brooklyn Water Works became more tenuous in 1869 after the reorganization of the Brooklyn Board of Water Commissioners in April: Lane resigned after the new board was seated (see Louisa's April 7, 1869 letter to Walt Whitman). Lane later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer, and he again employed George to inspect pipe in Camden, New Jersey ("Moses Lane," Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers [February 1882], 58). [back]
5. Abby H. Price (1814–1878) was active in various social-reform movements. Price's husband, Edmund, operated a pickle factory in Brooklyn, and the couple had four children—Arthur, Helen, Emily, and Henry (who died in 1852, at 2 years of age). During the 1860s, Price and her family, especially her daughter Helen, were friends with Walt Whitman and with Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. In 1860 the Price family began to save Walt's letters. In a November 15, 1863 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor, Whitman declared, "they are all friends, to prize and love deeply." [back]
6. "Jenne" may have been a shared acquaintance of the Price family. If so, "Jenne" is unidentified, but Walt Whitman presumably would have recognized the person because he visited often with the Prices and sometimes stayed with them during trips to New York. But the letter here may also switch to a description of a family that lives upstairs in the Atlantic Street boarding house. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman spoke of the "chappells" in her March 31, 1869 letter to Walt. According to that letter, the husband had "an awful temper," but the wife Janey (not "Jenne" as here) let it go "in one ear and out the other." [back]
7. Colonel Elliot F. Shepard (1833–1893) served with George Washington Whitman and the Fifty-first New York during the Civil War. In April of 1862, he wrote to George, "I have the pleasure of handing you your commission, and congratulate you upon your promotion" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [New York: Rowan and Littlefield, 1961], 2:201). Shepard married Margaret Louisa Vanderbilt (1845–1924), the daughter of railroad tycoon William H. Vanderbilt, on February 18, 1868 ("Married," New York Times, February 20, 1868, 5). [back]
8. The letter that Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote to her daughter Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908) "stirred . . . up" Charles Louis Heyde (1822–1892), Hannah's husband (see Louisa's March 11, 1868 letter to Walt Whitman). Hannah, who resided in Burlington, Vermont, was married to Heyde, a French-born landscape painter. Louisa often spoke disparagingly of Heyde "Hay" in her letters to Walt. On March 24, 1868, she wrote, "i had a letter or package from charley hay three sheets of foolscap paper and a fool wrote on them." [back]