Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [13 June 1871]

Date: June 13, 1871

Editorial note: The annotation, "13 June 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.00607

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



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tuesday afternoon1

well walt

i2 will write a few lines once more before you come i got your letter on saturday i havent heard from st louis since i wrote to you so i suppose they are about the same or perhaps better than when i last heard) neither have i heard from georgey3 he left some money for me to put in the bank as the bank was shut when he came from new york after i put it in he wanted me to send him a line of the amount invested as the bank book was at the bank to have the interest cast up so i got the man to put it on a paper the whole amount and i sent it to him

there aint much new walter dear with me i am limping around as usual the paper man is fixing the hall has been a week at it but is nearly finished i have had a real job had to take up all the stair carpit have had a woman to scrub and i hope to get it down this week georgeys house is kept in good condition it wouldent be if i wasent here it would soon look like a tenant house i have kept the two last months rent but have paid every cent of it on the house)4 and he dident give me a cent the two last times he was home he asked me if i wanted any of course i said no as he took out 30 dollars and said to his wife that had to last or asked her if it would last them a month she said they would get some from lowel5 i said i had an order from walt that would last me) but walt for all that George would never se me want i have too high an opinion of him to think he would ever shirk in any way if i was needy) but they want very much to get this house clea[r?]6 and i want him too as its a nice place

write in your this weeks letter what day you will come walter

burn this letter walt


Notes:

1. This letter dates to June 13, 1871. Richard Maurice Bucke dated the letter June 13, 1871, and this date is almost certain. Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:368). At the close of the letter, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman asks Walt to "write in your this weeks letter what day you will come." Walt arrived in Brooklyn for his vacation on Wednesday the following week (see his June 21–23, 1871 letter to Peter Doyle). If Louisa wrote on Tuesday afternoon and Walt received this letter before he left Washington, it had to be sent on Tuesday, June 13 (rather than June 20). As Walt generally notified Louisa of his planned visits well beforehand—and he notified Abby Price of his intent to take an early summer vacation this year in his April 21, 1871 letter—the June 13, 1871 date is the only one that accords with Louisa's being aware of when Walt would take his summer 1871 vacation. [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. 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]

4. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman claimed that the work she performed on the renovation or upkeep of "georgeys house," probably the house at 71 Portland Avenue but possibly another property in his speculative housebuilding business, entitled her to withhold the rent that she had paid the two previous months. [back]

5. The source of income for George Washington Whitman was work completed for Joseph Phineas Davis (1837–1917), chief engineer of the Water Works in Lowell, Massachusetts, between 1870 and 1871. Davis, a close friend of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and the Whitman family, employed George to inspect pipe. For Davis's work with Jeff Whitman in St. Louis, see the following letters from Jeff to Walt Whitman: May 23, 1867, January 21, 1869, and March 25, 1869. Louisa was also friendly with Davis, who stopped by her house in Brooklyn after he departed St. Louis when working in Lowell (see her June 22, 1870 letter to Walt). For Davis's career, see Francis P. Stearns and Edward W. Howe, "Joseph Phineas Davis," Journal of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers 4 (December 1917), 437–442. [back]

6. Louisa's letters "r" and "n" at the end of words are sometimes nearly indistinguishable: this is one of those cases. The letter looks more like her typical "r," which might place emphasis on fixing up the house (removing carpet, putting up paper, cleaning) so that George Washington Whitman could sell it and "clear" a profit. Or she may have considered carpet removal and scrubbing as making the section of the house more presentable for tenants, as cleaning it. Whether new tenants were sought for a section of the Portland Avenue house or she was working on another property in George's housebuilding business is not known. [back]


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