Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [4 November 1868]

Date: November 4, 1868

Editorial notes: The annotation, "Evening 4 Nov. 1868," is in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke. An image of the verso of the second leaf is not currently available. The verso is blank.

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.00551

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



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wensday1

Dear Walt

i2 got your letter to day wensday all safe and one from Heyd saying hannah was sick3 i dont know what to make out by the letter but i should think she was better he says he had telegraph to you i wish i could know the thruth about her) it made me feel bad with my other afflictions but i hope to stand it some how or other matty4 is i dont know what to say the doctor has sounded her lungs and said they were not as bad as he first thought but she is not able to doo much5 but i hope she will be better the doctor pays good attention to her has given her somthing for her coughf to take when she has bad spels mr Oconer6 was here awhile to day but wouldnt have any dinner or lunch said he had just had his breakfast) Ellen price7 was here last saturday she diden stay long she had lost her purse and i let her have some change to go home with they had hired their rooms to a man and wife and 2 little boys8 the stears s have moved in to day9 so we have had a pretty jolly noise but its good to have something to keep up a little excitemen[t?] but the best of all is grant is elected10

good bie walter dear i wrote this in a hurry as you see


Notes:

1. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated the letter "wensday," and the letter closes with the news that "grant is elected." Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the date November 4, 1868, and Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:66, n. 17; 2:366). Republican presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant's strong showing in the election on Tuesday, November 3, 1868, assured him an electoral college victory, so this letter dates to the Wednesday immediately following the election, November 4, 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. Charles L. Heyde (1822–1892), a French-born landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–1908), Walt's sister, in 1852, and they lived in Burlington, Vermont. Hannah in late 1868 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 December 1868 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 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]

4. 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]

5. Mattie Whitman had arrived in Brooklyn for a visit and medical evaluation in mid-October. For a report on her medical condition, see Walt Whitman's October 25, 1868 letter to Thomas Jefferson Whitman.  [back]

6. For a time Walt Whitman lived with William D. and Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor, who, with Charles Eldridge and later John Burroughs, were to be his close associates during the Washington years. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the pro-Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet" in 1866. Nelly O'Connor had a close personal relationship with Whitman, and the correspondence between Walt and Nelly is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)." [back]

7. Helen "Ellen" Price was the daughter of Edmund and Abby Price, whom Walt Whitman and his mother had known since the Prices moved to Brooklyn in 1856. During the 1860s, Abby Price and her family, especially her daughter Helen, were friends with Walt and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. The Price family began to save Walt's letters. Helen's reminiscences of Whitman are included in Richard Maurice Bucke's biography, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and she printed for the first time some of Whitman's letters to her mother ("Letters of Walt Whitman to his Mother and an Old Friend," Putnam's Monthly 5 [1908], 163–169).  [back]

8. Edmund and Abby Price's boarder may have been John Arnold and family (see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: Macmillan, 1955], 199). [back]

9. Margret Steers, her husband Thomas Steers (1826–1869), and their four children Thomas (b. 1853), Caroline (b. 1857), Louisa (b. 1862), and Margret (b. 1865) moved into the Atlantic Avenue building in November 1868. Thomas Steers operated a bakery, and his wife, who would become a close friend of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, continued the business when he died in January 1869. After Thomas Steers' sudden death, Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman replied to an early 1869 letter from Louisa (not extant) with concern that "Mr. Steers' death had quite an effect on you." George Washington Whitman sold a property to Margaret Steers in January 1871, and the property had title trouble with regard to unpaid assessments (see Mattie Whitman's February? 1869 letter to Louisa in Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman [New York: New York University Press, 1977], 67; Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's November 4, 1868 letter to Walt Whitman; "Died," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 22, 1869, 3; United States Census, 1870. New York, Brooklyn Ward 7, Kings, District 1; and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's January 3–24?, 1871 letter to Walt). [back]

10. The 1868 presidential election was held on Tuesday, November 3, 1868. By November 4 both the New York Times and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported the expected and overwhelming electoral college victory of Republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885). Grant was the most successful and highest ranking Union general of the Civil War. As commander of the Army of the Potomac, he accepted the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Elected first in 1868, he was re-elected in 1872 and served two full terms as president. [back]


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