Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 7 April [1869]

Date: April 7, 1869

Editorial note: The annotation, "1869," 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.00578

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



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April 71

Well Walter dear

i have receeved the money order to day and i got the letter on saturday withe the money in it) it was good in you and good for me it come very acceptable George2 came home to get his months salary as i told you he went away with so little money and went down to the hall to draw it and mr Lane3 had sent the draft on to him so he thought he was in a fix he had 40 cents and wanted to get boots and things but as it happened Johnny macknemee4 hadent drawn his months salary so he went and draw[d?] it and let George have what he wanted and George will send it on to him George has gone back to mellville5 for a short time but will come to camden as soon as he gets the man lane sent out to mellville instructed mr Lane said he must stay a week) i suppos[e?] you saw the change in the commissioners the new ones has the power to turn out or take in i suppose they are northrop and fowler6 they are the old board and the two new ones is archibald bliss and the eagle man you know his name Walt quinsella7 or something like it two democrats and two republicans)8 mr Lane told George in confidence he was making preparations to settle up affairs he couldent tell how matters would turn out) but george said he dident think lane expected it but i suppose he wanted to be ready i am better of my lameness but not entirely over it my knee is so weak but i think it will get better after a while it dont pain me as it has done otherways i am about the same cant work much have to work a little while and then sit down and rest)

i got worried some about not hearing from han9 so long so yesterday i sent a few lines to Heyde so i expect to get an account how or what i cant tell i hope it will be short but i thought to hear from him would be better than not hearing at all) two or three weeks ago edd10 was down town and encountered henry rome11 he talked a great deal about Jess12 said it was too damed bad to keep him there that he henry had broke out and got away he is evedently deranged i dident know but what he would induce Jess to leave and come with him but i dont know as they can get away very easy i dont know what i should doo if such should happen they must have much trouble with henry) smith13 told George he came running up the street the other day without hat or coat or shoes i thought walter dear maybee it would be better for you to write to the Doctor and see if he is as usual i dont put any faith in what he said but at first it made me feel bad i beleive he told eddy Jess wouldent come) i got a letter from matty14 she has not been so well but is gaining again she and the children talks some of going to minesota to stay the summer)15 well walt its most moving time we shant go george says till nearly may16 on account of the house getting dry George succeded when he was here to get a loan on smiths hous for 32 hundred doll he asked lotts if he could depend on it lott17 told him yes he wou[ld?] get it for him if he lott went to the poorhouse i suppose you know Emily price18 is going to get married i thought not in some time but mrs black19 says quite soon his name is law an artist in the cheap picture line quit poor but very free from bad habits quit pleasing i beleive

your mother20


Notes:

1. This letter dates to April 7, 1869. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated the letter April 7, and Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the year 1869. Edwin Haviland Miller also dated the letter April 7, 1869 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:367). The year is correct because it corresponds to the appointment of a new Water Board for Brooklyn. Although the public announcement of the new appointees came on April 12, 1869 in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, George Washington Whitman's connection to Moses Lane, chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works, probably provided Louisa with inside information about the expected appointments some days earlier. [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 also took a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden, and he married Louisa Orr Haslam in spring 1871. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

3. Moses Lane (1823–1882) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to May 1, 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. Lane later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer. [back]

4. John McNamee served at the Brooklyn Water Works in the office of Moses Lane, probably as an engineer (see Thomas Jefferson Whitman's August 20, 1868 letter to George Washington Whitman). McNamee donated to Walt Whitman's hospital work (see "The Great Washington Hospitals," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 19, 1863, 2). [back]

5. Millville, in the southern part of New Jersey, is on Union Lake and accessible to Delaware Bay via the Maurice River. The R. D. Wood Foundry had a site in Millville, but George Washington Whitman more often inspected pipe at Camden (see note below) and Florence, New Jersey. Moses Lane sent George to the Millville site to train a new pipe inspector. For a brief history of the company, see the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's finding aid to the R. D. Wood & Co. Records, 1858–1910, http://hsp.org/sites/default/files/legacy_files/migrated/findingaid1176wood.pdf. [back]

6. Daniel L. Northup was a continuing member of the Brooklyn Water Board. He had served as a city auditor. William A. Fowler, also continuing, was a member of the Democratic State Committee ("The New Water and Sewage Boards," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 12, 1869, 2). [back]

7. The two newly appointed members of the Water Board were Archibald M. Bliss and Thomas Kinsella ("The New Water and Sewage Boards," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 12, 1869, 2). The "eagle man" is Thomas Kinsella (1832–1884), a staunch Democrat, who served as the editor in chief of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1861 until his death ("Dead. Thomas Kinsella, Editor of the Eagle," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 11, 1884, 4). Archibald M. Bliss (1838–1923), who served on the Water Board until 1872, was a Brooklyn alderman, delegate to the Republican National convention in 1864 and 1868, railroad president, six-time Democratic Representative to Congress between 1875 and 1889, and real estate businessman in Washington, D.C. (Biographical Directory of the United States Congress). [back]

8. Before the New York legislature reorganized it, the Brooklyn Water Board had operated independently of the Brooklyn City government. On April 1, 1869, the Water Board was reorganized as four appointees, two Republicans and two Democrats, all chosen by city officials. The activity of the Water Works, where Moses Lane was employed as chief engineer, was under the authority of the new Water Board, which was also charged with contracting for the paving and cleaning of streets ("The New Water and Sewage Acts," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 2, 1869, 2). [back]

9. 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]

10. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death. During Louisa's final illness, Eddy was taken under the care of George Washington Whitman and his wife, Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman, with financial support from Walt Whitman. [back]

11. Henry Rome was an escaped resident from Kings County Lunatic Asylum, where Walt Whitman had committed his brother Jesse Whitman. Henry was in the family of Andrew and James Rome, printers for the 1855 Leaves of Grass (Robert Roper, "Jesse Whitman, Seafarer," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 26:1 [Summer 2008], 35–41). [back]

12. Jesse Whitman (1818–1870) was the first-born son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He suffered from mental illness that included threats of violence for several years before he was committed to an asylum, where he was placed in December 1864. Shortly after an outburst that followed his brother Andrew Jackson Whitman's death in December 1863—he threatened Martha Mitchell and Thomas Jefferson Whitman's daughter Manahatta—Jeff sought to "put him in some hospital or place where he would be doctored" (see Jeff's December 15, 1863 to Walt Whitman). Louisa resisted institutionalizing Jesse because, according to her December 25, 1863 letter, she "could not find it in my heart to put him there." On December 5, 1864, Walt committed Jesse to Kings County Lunatic Asylum on Flatbush Avenue, where he remained until his death on March 21, 1870 (see E. Warner's March 22, 1870 letter to Walt). For a short biography of Jesse, see Robert Roper, "Jesse Whitman, Seafarer," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 26:1 (Summer 2008), 35–41. [back]

13. George Washington Whitman started his speculative building business with a partner known only as Smith in 1865, and they were joined by a mason named French the following year. See Jerome M. Loving, ed., "Introduction," Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975). [back]

14. 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]

15. Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman's early April 1869 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman is not extant. But Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman in the same month belied Mattie's claim that she "is gaining": he wrote that she "is not so well for a week or so back" (see Jeff's April 5, 1869 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]

16. May 1, when leases expired, was moving day in Brooklyn. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman moved from 1149 Atlantic Avenue to 71 Portland Avenue "opposite the Arsenal" (see her April 25–27?, 1869 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]

17. The 1869 Brooklyn Directory lists two Lotts as lawyers, Abraham and John Z., at 13 Willoughby Street. A man named Lott is mentioned also with regard to financial matters concerning George Washington Whitman's speculative housebuilding business (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 17, 1869 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]

18. Emily "Emma" Price was the daughter of Edmund and Abby Price. Walt Whitman and his mother were both close with the Price family. For the marriage of Emily Price to Edward M. Law, an engraver, see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's July 14, 1869 letter to Walt. [back]

19. Mrs. Black was Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's neighbor. [back]

20. 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]


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