Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 11 March [1868]

Date: March 11, 1868

Editorial note: The annotation, "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.00519

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



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march 11 evening1

My dear Walt

i2 have nothing to write this week i have got all out of news) but i cant feel satisfied till i write something so much for habit it seems when i get A letter as if i must answer it i have been writing a few lines to george3 i dont know whether i have written to you that he went out to camden to take a contract and stan the foundry man4 wouldent sign it so he had to come back and have some alteration made in the length of pipes he came back friday and went back to camden last monday morning he said when he come back to brooklyn again he should come for good mr Lane5 is to send an inspector out for george to instruct mr Lane keeps him along so he will be on hand when they commence here) George want[ed?] me to write about some rooms that was in the eagle saturday night in carlton ave i went monday to see about them but they were taken)6 mrs brown7 was here yesterday they are looking for apartments too mrs black8 was here yesterday she sends her love to you she has written to the pension bureau and got an answer that there is no such name on record so she is satisfied) i got your package yesterday Walter with the envelopes and letter and 1 dollar and book to read that seemes as if half the people passed counterfiet and when i opened it i thought there is no letter but i found one)9 i got a letter from Jeff10 to day i thought when i read it he must have written it running for i could hardly make it out he is very busy he says they have moovd and are all better than they were at the hotel)11 i have had another from Charley heyde what i wrote about hans coming has stirred him up12 this letter is much better than the others he wishes you and george to write to han and sent his respets to george

i am as well as usual


Notes:

1. This letter dates to March 11, 1868. The date, "March 11," is in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand. Richard Maurice Bucke dated the letter to 1868, and Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:365). The year 1868 is consistent with subjects in letters to Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman and to Charles Heyde and with a Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertisement for a prospective room for rent on Carlton Avenue. [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. 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. George Washington Whitman inspected pipe at the R. D. Wood foundry in Camden, New Jersey, on behalf of Moses Lane of the Brooklyn Water Works, but "stan the foundry man" has not been identified. [back]

5. 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]

6. Advertised as the "SECOND FLOOR and part of third, six rooms" including "water and gas," the rooms were located at 407 Carlton Avenue and listed at a rate of $50 per month ("Houses to Let," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 7, 1868, 3). [back]

7. The Portland Avenue home that Louisa Van Velsor Whitman shared with Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman 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 Whitman's April 16, 1860 and March 3, 1863 letters to Walt. Louisa maintained cordial relations with the Browns after the departure of Jeff, Mattie, and family to St. Louis in 1868. See Louisa's April 14, 1869 letter to Walt, in which she described a visit to Mrs. Brown and added that "if Jeff and matt knew i had been to see mrs Brown they would cross me off their books." [back]

8. Mrs. Black was a neighbor of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. She is also mentioned in Louisa's March 13, 20, or 27?, 1868, June 15 or 16, 1868, and March 16, 1870 letters to Walt Whitman. [back]

9. Walt Whitman's early March 1868 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman is not known. [back]

10. 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]

11. Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman's letter is not extant, but Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman described dissatisfaction with hotel life in her February 1, 1868 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. They soon moved to a new home on Olive Street. See Mattie's March 20, 1868 letter to Louisa (Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman [New York: New York University Press, 1977], 44–46, 50–53). [back]

12. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote that she had sent "a pressing letter to hannah urging her to come and make us a visit" (see her March 6, 1868 letter to Walt Whitman). Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908), Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's youngest daughter, resided in Burlington, Vermont, with husband Charles L. Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and treatment of Hannah. [back]


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