Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 19? January [1870]

Date: January 19?, 1870

Editorial note: The annotation, "1870," 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.00588

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



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Janry 191

My dear walt

i2 am like you this week i dont seem to have any thing new to write i have not had any word from st lou is nor han3 nor george4 since he went away i got your letter all safe tuesday5 was glad to hear you had such good times getting such nice breakfasts and teas) i hope i shall hear from matty6 before i write again i dont think its good to have her coughf stop so suddenly poor matt i hope she may live to bring up her children)7 i have been in the house so much i thought i would go out and get in the cars and so i went up to spencer st and called on mrs moore samuel moores mother8 you remember they lived in the big house9 with us a while they own their house seem to live very comfortably samues still is in the Jewelry business the old man is out the navy yard this long tim[e?] the worst of it was they had two dogs and before they could get them away i thought they would have torn my gown off of me first one jumped up on me and then the other finally the old man had to take them by the neck and legs and put them out in the yard the old man and mrs more wished to be remembered to all of you boys) i see the death of mrs fleet Johns mother10 they lived on the south side where she died) there is quite a stir about the small pox ordering every one to be vasinated)11 well walter dear my sheet is nearly filled so i must say good bie

i get so lame every time i go out if it wasent for that i should feel quite smart


Notes:

1. The date January 19 is in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand, and Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the year 1870. Edwin Haviland Miller accepted Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:367). However, the delay in Louisa's comments on the death of Hannah Fleet and on a public outcry over smallpox vaccination raises some doubt about the date. Louisa almost always comments on recent local news within days, but the two matters that she mentions in this letter date to newspaper stories on January 6 and 7. The year 1870 is certain, but the letter may date earlier than January 19. Nonetheless, because the date is in Louisa's hand, the letter is assigned the date January 19, 1870. [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. 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]

4. 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]

5. Walt Whitman's January 17?, 1870 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman is not extant (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:362). [back]

6. 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]

7. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's fear that her daughter-in-law would not live long enough to see her children reach adulthood would prove prophetic. Mattie suffered a throat ailment that led to her death in February 1873. At the time of her death, her daughter Manahatta was aged 12 years and her daughter Jessie Louisa 9 years. For Louisa's anguish over Mattie's death, see her April 21–May 3?, 1873 letter to Walt Whitman. [back]

8. Samuel H. Moore is listed in the Brooklyn Directory (1871) as residing at Spencer near Willoughby. The Moore family's intended move is mentioned briefly in Thomas Jefferson Whitman's April 16, 1860 letter to Walt Whitman, but they are otherwise unknown except that two other Moores, E. D. and John, also lived on Myrtle. [back]

9. The Moore's "big house" was near the Whitman home on Portland Avenue near Myrtle, where Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had resided with Thomas Jefferson Whitman and family during the Civil War. [back]

10. Hannah (Strong) Fleet (b. 1789), widow of Gilbert Fleet (1783–1854), died in early January 1870 in Babylon, Long Island ("Died," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 7, 1870, 3). A John Fleet, probably their son, worked with Walt Whitman on the Long Islander ("Whitman, Editor Good Gray Poet," Long Islander, June 9, 1905, rpt., Whitman Supplement [1978]). [back]

11. For the vaccination procedures and the public outcry, see "The Public Health," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 6, 1870, 2. [back]


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