Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 13 [April 1870]

Date: April 13, 1870

Editorial note: The annotation, "13 april 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.00592

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



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My dear walt1

i have received your letter2 to day the 13t i also got the papers on saturday i am pretty well but my lameness that is bad enoughf my legs pains me real bad some nights i cant sleep if i am on my feet much through the day i try to favor myself as much as i can i have got a woman to clean house but it all dont seem to doo) Jeff3 is here or he aint just here now but he was here this morning he came to new york with mr Crosier4 one of the commissioners they think of starting to night for st louis i expect him back now very soon he left home last thursday a week ago to morrow

he says matty5 is quite smart that the children aint half as good as they were when matt was away i had a few lines from charley Heyd6 the other day he says han7 is as well as she ever will be that she is not very well that she will write me a letter that she had got mine and your letters it is real warm to day here no more this time george8 is away i have had a letter from mary9 also i wrote to her of Jesses death10


Notes:

1. Richard Maurice Bucke dated this letter April 13, 1870, and Edwin Haviland Miller cited Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:368). Louisa Van Velsor Whitman received a letter from Walt Whitman "today the 13t" (not extant), and she had received a letter from her daughter Mary Van Nostrand, to whom she had written about the death of Jesse Whitman. The letter also refers to Thomas Jefferson Whitman's departure from St. Louis as "last thursday a week ago tomorrow," which would mean that Louisa wrote on a Wednesday. Louisa had anticipated a possible visit by Jeff in her April 5, 1870 letter to Walt. Because a letter from Mary Van Nostrand after her brother Jesse's death would be expected, because Jeff's visit is consistent with her earlier letter, and because April 13 fell on Wednesday, this letter dates to April 13, 1870. [back]

2. Walt Whitman's April 11?, 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]

3. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had written the previous week of a possible visit by her son Jeff during his trip to Pittsburgh (see her April 5, 1870 letter to Walt). As a civil engineer, Jeff in 1867 became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized name. For more on Jeff, see "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)." [back]

4. Alexander Crozier was a member of the St. Louis Water Works Board of Water Commissioners (see M. L. Holman, "The St. Louis Water Works," Association of Engineering Societies 14:1 [January 1895], 7). [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. Charles Louis Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–1908), Walt Whitman's sister. They lived in Burlington, Vermont. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. [back]

7. 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]

8. 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]

9. Mary Elizabeth (Whitman) Van Nostrand (1821–1899) was the oldest daughter of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and Walt Whitman's younger sister. She married Ansel Van Nostrand, a shipwright, in 1840, and they subsequently moved to Greenport, Long Island. They raised five children: George, Fanny, Louisa, Ansel, Jr., and Mary Isadore "Minnie." See Jerome M. Loving, ed., "Introduction," Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975), 10–11. [back]

10. This postscript continues in the right margin of the page.

Jesse Whitman (1818–1870), Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's eldest son, died at Kings County Lunatic Asylum on March 21, 1870. Jesse had suffered from mental illness that included threats of violence for several years before he was committed to the asylum. Walt Whitman was notified of his brother's death (see E. Warner's March 22, 1870 letter). For a short biography of Jesse Whitman, see Robert Roper, "Jesse Whitman, Seafarer," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 26:1 (Summer 2008), 35–41. [back]


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