Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 2 or [3?] November [1868]

Date: November 2 or 3?, 1868

Editorial note: The annotation, "Monday 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.00550

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



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November 21

My dear Walter

i2 have got your letter to day with the money order i have been down and got the money this time all was well) i dont know as i should have gone down to day as it was election day but jeffy3 sent me a letter about 2 weeks ago with 5 dollars in and i never received it i had a letter from him last week saying if i had not received it to go to the post office and enquire i knew it would be of no use but i did ask simonson4 but it was the old story it never come here or you would have got it) it seems to be a fate on it every time Jeff sends me any money its stolen i wrote three letters to maty5 thinking it so strange i got no answer but Jeff wrote last week that matty wasent very well i suppose she has bad spells and then she gets better again)6 well walt i have had two letters from the honorable Mr Heyde7 well we wont say any thing of the bad but tell of the good he says han received my letter with one dollar and she cant get ready to come to brooklyn till about christmas that she drudges about that her thumb is very sensitive to the cold)8 that the neighbors is very kind and sympathecic when she was sick) then if he had stopped and not wrote any more the leter would have been quite acceptable but we let the balance go for what its worth i was glad to hear from han even from him

George9 has been home came on saturday and staid untill to day to vote he got me two tons of coal10 and had taxes to pay and he wished me to say to you walter that the 1 of next month he though[t?] he could pay you all up as smith11 will make some arrangements to dispose of all or part of the house he said he could send you 50 dollars this month if you had need of it but if you dident he would get an overcoat

he said you must write if you had use for it and he would not get the coat untill the next pay he is dooing very well now but if Goodrich is elected he thinks the ring will be broke up as he is very much down on the water board12 i have got the stove fixed and it does real good and the coal burns very good so you see walter dear i have a warm room and money in my pocket if i could get rid of the rheumatism but there must be something or we should get too much attached to this world) good bie to nig[ht?] walter dear) little charley13 down stairs is very sick the doctor comes twice a day the old lady has gone to mobeal14 to see a son she has living there

good bie


Notes:

1. This letter dates to November 2 or 3, 1868. Louisa dated the letter "November 2," and Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the year and the day of the week, "Monday." Edwin Haviland Miller also dated this letter November 2, 1868 (see Faint Clews & Indirections: Manuscripts of Walt Whitman and His Family [Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1949], 198–199; Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–75], 2:366). However, the letter refers to going to town on "election day," which does not match her date "November 2," because the election was held on Tuesday, November 3, 1868. The year is corroborated by the illness of neighbor Charley Mann, whose death is the subject of Louisa's November 10, 1868 letter to Walt. As the date in Louisa's hand and election day are not compatible, the letter dates to November 2 or 3, 1868. [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. 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]

4. Joseph Mosler Simonson (d. 1879) was a chief clerk in the Brooklyn Post Office. After three or four letters in which money was sent went missing earlier during the year, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had visited postmaster Simonson in his office (see her May 28–June 1, 1868 letter to Walt). Simonson assured her of the Brooklyn office's honesty, a view that Walt contested in his June 6–8, 1868 reply to Louisa: "I know the Mr. Simonson you saw at the post office—he has been a sort of Deputy post master a good many years—Notwithstanding what he says, the Brooklyn p. o. has a very bad name, & a great many money letters sent there never get to their destination." Also see "Funeral of an Old Official," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 7, 1879, 4. [back]

5. 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]

6. Mattie Whitman returned to Brooklyn in mid-October 1868 for medical treatment and an extended visit. Jeff Whitman arrived in Brooklyn late November. Mattie visited Brooklyn physician A. D. Wilson, and Walt Whitman consulted about her condition with another physician, DeWitt C. Enos (see Walt's October 25, 1868 letter to Jeff). Walt noted his own suspicion that Mattie had "possibilities of consumption." [back]

7. Charles L. Heyde (1822–1892) a landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–190), Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's second daughter, and they lived in Burlington, Vermont. [back]

8. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde suffered from a thumb infection that led Doctor Samuel W. Thayer to lance her wrist in November 1868 and to amputate her thumb the following month (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's November 18, 1868 letter to Walt Whitman; and see Charles L. Heyde's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, December 1868, Clarence Gohdes and Rollo G. Silver, ed., Faint Clews & Indirections: Manuscripts of Walt Whitman and His Family [Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1949], 225–226). [back]

9. 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]

10. In November 1868, coal was advertised in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle at a rate of $8.50 or $9.50 per ton. [back]

11. A man known only as Smith was George Washington Whitman's partner in building houses on speculation. Walt Whitman described Smith as "a natural builder and carpenter (practically and in effect) architect," and he advised John Burroughs that Smith was an "honest, conscientious, old-fashioned man, a man of family . . . . youngish middle age" (see Walt's September 2, 1873 letter to John Burroughs). For more on George's housebuilding business, see Jerome M. Loving, ed., "Introduction," Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975). [back]

12. William W. Goodrich ran for State Senator in the Second District on the Republican ticket in 1867. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle printed a detailed letter that accused Goodrich of attempting to intimidate the Brooklyn Water Board into purchasing overpriced fire hydrant couplings during a previous stint on the state legislature ("A Radical Republican on Mr. Goodrich's Nomination," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 23, 1867, 2). George Washington Whitman in late 1867 had begun to serve as a pipe inspector for Moses Lane of the Brooklyn Water Works. [back]

13. Charley Mann died of a disease that Louisa Van Velsor Whitman identified as "diptheria [sic] croup" three days later (see her November 10, 1868 letter to Walt Whitman). Diphtheria is a contagious disease characterized by acute infection of mucous membranes, primarily the throat and nasal passages. Croup, an infection of the throat and larynx, is characterized by a ringing or barking cough. [back]

14. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's phonetic spelling "mobeal" refers to Mobile, Alabama. The "old lady" was probably the mother of neighbor Mary E. Mann, who had family in Alabama (also see Louisa's December 7, 1869 letter to Walt Whitman). The Mann family—though Louisa spelled the name "man"—lived downstairs from Louisa. Also see Mary E. Mann's March 9, 1873 letter to Louisa (Library of Congress). [back]


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