Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [22–23? August 1863]

Date: August 22–23?, 1863

Related item: Louisa wrote this letter on a letter she received from George Washington Whitman. She forwarded George's letter to Walt Whitman and included this note on the verso of the last page of George's letter. See duk.00344.

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.00570

Contributors to digital file: Wesley Raabe, Elizabeth Lorang, and Nicole Gray



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Dear Walt1

I write a few lines with Georges letter2 i received it last wensday and should have sent it before but i have not received the money he writes of going to send3 i think there must be something wrong about it if i dont get it to day perhaps he was orderd away before he co[u?]ld express it4 i thought maybee i should have to show the letter to the express but i will send it) mat5 says she gesses he is going to get married because he said use what i want[ed?] and put the rest in the bank I shall put all i can doo without in certainly but if he could see Andrew6 i know he would say mother give him some and let him go in the country7 if it will doo him good I went down there the other day but O walt how poverty stricken every thing looked it made me feel bad all night and so dirty every thing he thinks of going to rockland lake county8 next monday i hope it will doo him good we are quite well i feel middling well i am fatter than i was when you went away but i dont feel any better for it i think sometim[es?] not as well i will write again soon i have had anothe letter fro[m?] [Heyd?]9 he says han10 is gradualy getting better but is not able to come home

miss hattie has torn this letter as usual11


Notes:

1. This letter dates to August 22 or 23, 1863. Edwin Haviland Miller dated the letter to August 16–25?, 1863 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:137; 1:373), but a more narrow range can be assigned.

Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had received George Washington Whitman's August 16, 1863 letter from near Covington, Kentucky, and she forwarded George's letter to Walt with this letter. Walt Whitman acknowledged receipt of George's letter and "your lines" on August 24 (see his August 25, 1863 letter to Louisa). Walt, who was pleased that George was "back to Kentucky," received George's letter with this one from Louisa because his remark echoes George's phrase "again back to old Kaintuck" (see George's August 16, 1863 letter to Louisa). Walt also responded to this letter's discussion of Andrew Jackson Whitman's illness and the possibility that George's money could help aid Andrew to take a trip recommended by a physician.  [back]

2. This letter from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman is inscribed on George Washington Whitman's August 16, 1863 letter to Louisa. 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. "Mother, you may expect to get 175 or 180 dollars nearly as soon as you receive this" (see George Washington Whitman's August 16, 1863 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman). The preceding Wednesday, the day Louisa she received George's letter, was August 19, 1863. [back]

4. George Washington Whitman generally forwarded money from Kentucky via Adams Express, a packet and letter service that was founded in the northeast in the 1840s and spread nationally. Adams Express was noted for its trustworthiness and its guarantee of privacy for shippers, which made it a favorite for conveying material that was deemed valuable or otherwise called for discretion. The Whitmans use Adams Express to transfer larger sums of money (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's April 29, 1863 letter to Walt Whitman). For more on the trust accorded to Adams Express, see Hollis Robbins, "Fugitive Mail: The Deliverance of Henry 'Box' Brown and Antebellum Postal Politics," (American Studies 50.1/2 [2009], 12–13). [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. Andrew Jackson Whitman (1827–1863) was Walter Whitman, Sr., and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's son and Walt Whitman's brother. In the early 1860s, Andrew worked as a carpenter, and he enlisted briefly in the Union Army during the Civil War (see Martin G. Murray, "Bunkum Did Go Sogering," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 10 [Winter 1993], 142–8). He developed a drinking problem that contributed to his early death, leaving behind his wife Nancy McClure Whitman, pregnant with son Andrew, Jr., and their two sons, George "Georgy" and James "Jimmy." For Andrew's family after his death, see Jerome Loving, ed., "Introduction," Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975), 13–14. [back]

7. Whether Louisa Van Velsor Whitman asked George Washington Whitman if she could spend some of his money to permit Andrew Jackson Whitman to take the proposed trip to Rockland Lake is not known, but Louisa provided money for Andrew to take two trips in late August. A few weeks earlier, Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman had conveyed a physician's opinion that Andrew must "go out from the seashore if he wants to get well." Jeff also sought Walt Whitman's advice: "Andrew wants to go but dont know where to go or how to leave his family" (see Jeff's August 4, 1863 letter to Walt). In addition, Andrew sought treatment from an Italian doctor on Court Street who recommended baths (see George's October 16, 1863 letter to Louisa). [back]

8. Rockland Lake is an elevated lake on the western shore of the Hudson River, about 45 miles north of Brooklyn. It was a recreational area that also served as a source for ice in the city of New York (see Addison T. Richards, Appletons' Illustrated Hand-book of American Travel [New York: Appleton, 1860], 125). Andrew took a late-August trip to Freehold, New Jersey, that Louisa characterized as a drinking spree (see her August 31 to September 2, 1863 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]

9. Charles Louis Heyde (1822–1892), a French-born landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–1908), Walt's sister, in 1852.  [back]

10. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908) was the youngest daughter of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. She lived in Burlington, Vermont with her husband Charles L. Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his often offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. [back]

11. The postscript is inverted on the top of the page. Manahatta "Hattie" Whitman (1860–1886) was the elder daughter of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman. Though Louisa Van Velsor Whitman was at times irritated with childcare responsibilities, she became very close to Hattie, who lived most of the first seven years of her life in the same home with her grandmother. Hattie and her sister Jessie Louisa were both favorites of their uncle Walt. [back]


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