Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 22 December [1869]

Date: December 22, 1869

Editorial notes: The annotation, "'69 ?," is in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke. An image of the verso of the 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.00587

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



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Decembe 221

Walter dear

i got your letter yesterday all safe i am obliged to you walter dear but i can doo without the order till next week if its just as conveinent for you to send it by wensday i would be glad but if it aint the week after will doo George sent me a letter that he wont be home till the last of next week he says he has to work hard but after next week he will have it eas[ier?])2 we have had a very rainy day here to day i havent made any preperations for the holidays nor i dont think i shall as you nor george3 wont be home george may be here new years i have been very lame but to day i can seem to get around better but i am afraid to doo much for fear i will get bad again) you must try to come home for a week or so if the new man gets in i see an account of it in the papers but i thought it must be judge strong4 of long island

walter you may send me a galaxy5 if you can just as well as not) mr and mrs Bruse6 has gone to washington he may probably call to see you if he does it will be to the office) i hope they will find you well and happy walter dear love to mr and mrs bouroughs7 and the Oconers8 also nomor at present

your mother
L W9


Notes:

1. This letter dates to December 22, 1869. The date December 22 is in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand, and Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the year 1869. Edwin Haviland Miller accepted Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:367). The year 1869 is correct because it is consistent with a December rumor that William Strong would be appointed to the office of attorney general. [back]

2. The word may be "easy" written over "easier," but the more probable reading is that the letters "ier" are written over the letter "y." [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. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman probably refers to a brief article that identifies William Strong as President Ulysses S. Grant's potential appointment to office of attorney general ("The News," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 18, 1869, 2). Louisa's interest is that Walt Whitman served as a clerk in the office of the attorney general. William Strong (1808–1895) was never nominated to office of attorney general, but Grant eventually nominated him to the Supreme Court, in which he served as a justice from 1871 to 1880 (Lisabeth G. Svendsgaard, "Strong, William," American National Biography Online). Ebenezer R. Hoar (1816–1895) remained in the office until his resignation on June 23, 1870. Amos T. Ackerman (1821–1880) replaced Hoar (see Mark Grossman, Encyclopedia of the United States Cabinet [Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2000], 1:81–82). [back]

5. William Conant Church (1836–1917) and his brother Francis Pharcellus Church (1839–1906) established the Galaxy in 1866. For a time, the Churches considered Walt Whitman a regular contributor, printing several of his poems, including "A Carol of Harvest for 1867," "Brother of All, With Generous Hand," "Warble for Lilac-Time," and "O Star of France." For more on Whitman's relationship with the Galaxy, see "Whitman's Poems in Periodicals—The Galaxy." [back]

6. Elijah Bruce (b. 1808) and Ruth Bruce (b. 1812) were the parents of Grace Haight (b. 1839), and they were neighbors near Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's residence at 71 Portland Avenue (see United States Census, 1880, New York, Brooklyn, Kings; and see Helen Price's October 13, 1872 letter to Louisa, Trent Collection, Duke University). Grace Haight's familiar and chatty February 7, 1872 letter to Louisa in Camden, New Jersey, suggests they were quite close friends (Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress). [back]

7. John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Walt Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a lifelong correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs wrote several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Birds and Poets (1877), Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person (1867), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). Ursula North (1836–1917) married John Burroughs in 1857 and also became a friend to Walt Whitman. For more on Whitman's relationship with the Burroughs family, see "Burroughs, John (1837–1921) and Ursula (1836–1917)." [back]

8. William D. O'Connor (1832–1889) was one of Walt Whitman's staunchest defenders, and Walt was also close with William's wife Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor. Whitman dined with the O'Connors frequently during his Washington years, and he wrote often in his letters of their daughter Jean "Jenny" or "Jeannie." Though Whitman and William O'Connor would break in late 1872 over Reconstruction policies with regard to emancipated black citizens, Ellen remained friendly with Whitman. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)." [back]

9. 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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