Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [7 October 1871]
Date: October 7, 1871
Editorial note: The annotation, "30 Sept 1871," 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.00605
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Cathy Tisch, Felicia Wetzig, Wesley Raabe, and Natalie Raabe
My dear walt
i2 thought i must send you a line to tell you i have got all the letters and the order came very good and the book by georg sand3 and all the papers and best of all the green porters4 has left early this morning for home george and loo5 came last night friday night quite late and have gone over to the institute6 to day Jeff7 has gone to boston look for him home to knight or to morrow he went fishing wensday and caught lots of very large blue fish he brought home 2 it was first rate one of the men8 from st louis was here with Jeff matt9 must be home by this time O walt i am so thankful to you for your kindness to me in sending me money at all times good bie walter dear)
1. This letter dates to October 7, 1871. Richard Maurice Bucke dated the letter September 30, 1871, and Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:369). Bucke's and Miller's date is incorrect because the letter states that the "green porters has left early this morning." The "green porters" are the family of Mary (Whitman) Van Nostrand, who lived in Greenport, Long Island. In late September 1871, Louisa's daughter Mary, Mary's husband Ansel, and their two daughters Louisa and Mary Isadore "Minnie" came to Brooklyn and shopped in preparation for Minnie's marriage. This letter must follow Louisa's October 5, 1871 letter to Walt Whitman, in which she reported that her "company is here yet and i dont know how long they will remain." Since Louisa did not mention the Van Nostrands in her October 10, 1871 letter to Walt, this letter dates to the Saturday between the October 5 and the October 10 letters, October 7, 1871. [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. Walt Whitman was an enthusiastic reader of the novelist George Sand. He favorably reviewed Le Compagnon du Tour de France (1840) in Francis George Shaw's English translation, The Journeyman Joiner: or the Companion of the Tour of France (1847). Walt counted both Sand's Consuelo (1845) and her La Comtesse de Rudolstadt (1845) among his favorite novels (see K. H. Francis, "Walt Whitman's French," Modern Language Review 51:4 , 504). Louisa Van Velsor Whitman shared her son's enthusiasm for Sand. Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman had sent this request to his brother Walt a decade earlier: "Mother wants me to be sure and tell you that you must bring her one of those books by the authoress of 'Consuelo'" (see Jeff's April 16, 1860 letter to Walt). The Sand title that Walt forwarded in October 1871 is not known. [back]
4. The "green porters" are Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's elder daughter Mary Elizabeth (Whitman) Van Nostrand (1821–1899), Mary's husband Ansel Van Nostrand, and two of their daughters, Louisa and Mary Isadore "Minnie" (1851–1938). Louisa announced their arrival with "bag and baggage" in her September 28, 1871 letter to Walt Whitman. The shopping trip, which relied on Louisa's Brooklyn residence as a home base, was in preparation for Minnie's marriage to Leander Jay Young (1846–1937) on October 18, 1871 (see Gertrude A. Barber, compiler, "Marriages of Suffolk County, N. Y. Taken from the 'Republican Watchman': A Newspaper Published at Greenport, N. Y. Years 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1876." , 1:3). For Louisa's anxiety regarding the impending visit and the extended stay, see her September 15–26, 1871 letter to Walt. For more on the Van Nostrand family, see Jerome M. Loving, ed., "Introduction," Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975), 10–11. [back]
5. 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]
6. The American Institute was a long-running Brooklyn fair that displayed flowers, plants, fruits, and products of American industry and manufacture. The fair buildings, which occupied 100,000 square feet, were located on the block enclosed by Second and Third Avenue and Sixty-third and Sixty-fourth Street (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 14, 1871, 1). Walt Whitman opened the American Institute on September 7, 1871, with a recitation of "After All, Not to Create Only." The poem was widely reprinted (see "Poems in Periodicals" and Whitman's August 5, 1871 draft letter to the American Institute Committee on Invitations). [back]
7. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was the son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and Walt Whitman's favorite brother. In early adulthood he worked as a surveyor and topographical engineer. In the 1850s he began working for the Brooklyn Water Works, at which he remained employed through the Civil War. In 1867 Jeff became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and became a nationally recognized name in civil engineering. For more on Jeff, see "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)." [back]
8. The man accompanying Thomas Jefferson Whitman has not been identified. He may be a member of the St. Louis Water Works Board of Water Commissioners (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's April 13, 1870 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]
9. 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]
10. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letter from Julia Hine, widow of Charles Hine, is not extant. Charles Hine was an artist, and he had died on July 31, 1871, only days after a visit by Walt Whitman. Hine's painting of the poet was the model for the engraving that became the frontispiece for Leaves of Grass in 1860 (see Walt Whitman's July 14, 1871 letter to Charles Hine, The Correspondence, ed. Ted Genoways [Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004], 7:31; and see Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650–1934 [Salt Lake City: FamilySearch, 2009]). Julia Hine indicated her plan to visit Walt's mother in Brooklyn in an August 4, 1871 letter to Walt. After Julia Hine's earlier visit, Louisa wished she had been able to give her money (see Louisa's August 22, 1871 letter to Walt). [back]
11. The poem that Walt Whitman sent is not known. Julia Hine in her August 4, 1871 letter to Walt Whitman explained that she would have difficulty caring for three children because her financial means have been exhausted by her husband's illness and death. She asked Whitman if he could assist her to find copying work. She also wrote, "Mr. Townsend, a dear friend of Charley's, has sent you a paper with a pleasant article written by himself." The review of Whitman's work by a Townsend in a Providence, Rhode Island, newspaper has not been identified. [back]
12. Tom Rome (b. 1836) was a printer with A. H. Rome and Brothers, later Rome Brothers. His brother Andrew Rome, a friend of Walt Whitman, printed the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855. See Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]
13. The final four words of
the letter are written in the right margin.
Tom Rome married Agnes Rogerson (b. 1848) in 1871 (see United States Census, 1900). According to a genealogy prepared by John Malcom MacDonald, Agnes Rogerson, born in Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, married Tom Rome on Portland Avenue, Brooklyn, on September 11, 1871 (MacDonald/Rome/Reardon/Coleman/Smith/Stevens/Lanning/Novak, http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/m/a/c/John-M-Macdonald/index.html). [back]