Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [29 March 1873]

Date: March 29, 1873

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.00617

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



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Saturday1

My dear Walt

i2 have received severall paper[s?] this week but no letter that has been written this week i got one wrote last friday a week ago yesterday3 but i hope you are right well as they say here lou4 has had quite a run of company this week mostly girls from the place where she used to work all have to be taken up in my room i stayed down in the kichen part of the time their discourse was not interesting to me but i got through it every body that comes has to be taken up here i dont like it sometimes

there is no fire any where else to take any one but let it slide i have had a letter from helen price5 very good one she says mrs davis6 wont return till next spring and then katy is hinds7 is going to urope the quen that josepheine8 sailed in has arrived so i hope Jo is all safe so far) george9 has a prospect of getting the brooklyn work he went on there last monday to see and adams10 gave him encouragement to think he would get it i hope of course he will but to hear the talk about money you would think their means was limited) lou says the rent is more than it costs for provisions) write walter dear the first of the week

you got hans11 letter and Jeffs12

poor matt i feel so bad about her i cant keep her out of my mind13

there is a roof on the house so it don leak14


Notes:

1. Edwin Haviland Miller dated this letter March? 1873, but it dates to March 29, 1873, a Saturday at the end of a week-long gap since Walt Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:370). Louisa had received newspapers from Walt during the most recent week, but she had had no letter since "one wrote last friday a week ago yesterday." That extended gap between letters from Walt—to be consistent with Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman's recent death, with Louisa's receipt of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman's March 26, 1873 letter, with George Washington Whitman's efforts to acquire a job as an inspector in Brooklyn and his progress on the new house at 431 Stevens Street, and with Helen Price's March 27, 1873 letter on Paulina Wright Davis—can only fall between her receipt of Walt's March 21, 1873 and his March 28, 1873 letters. [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. See Walt Whitman's March 21, 1873 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. [back]

4. Louisa Orr Haslam (1842–1892), called "Lou" or "Loo," married George Washington Whitman in spring 1871, and they were soon living at 322 Stevens Street in Camden, New Jersey. At the insistence of George and his brother Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and son Edward departed from Brooklyn to live with George and Lou in the Stevens Street house in August 1872, with Walt Whitman responsible for Edward's board. Her health in decline, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman was displeased with the living arrangement and confided many frustrations, often directed at Lou, in her letters to Walt. She never developed the close companionship with Lou that she had with Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman. [back]

5. See Helen Price's March 27, 1873 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (Trent Collection, Duke University). During the 1860s, Abby Price and her family, especially her daughter Helen, were friends with Walt Whitman and his mother, and the Price family began to save Walt's letters. Helen's reminiscences of Whitman were included in Richard Maurice Bucke's biography, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and she printed for the first time some of Whitman's letters to her mother ("Letters of Walt Whitman to his Mother and an Old Friend," Putnam's Monthly 5 [1908], 163–169). [back]

6. Paulina Wright Davis (1813–1876) was a noted feminist who presided over the first National Woman's Rights Convention. See Sherry L. Ceniza, Walt Whitman and 19th-Century Women Reformers (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998), 96–139. Wright Davis and her husband Thomas Davis (1806–1895), a jewelry manufacturer, resided in Providence, Rhode Island, and Walt Whitman had visited them during his October 1868 vacation. Helen Price reported that Paulina "is expected home in May" (see her March 27, 1873 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman [Trent Collection, Duke University]). [back]

7. Katy Hinds, the niece of Paulina Wright Davis and Thomas Davis, was also close to Abby Price. See Sherry L. Ceniza, Walt Whitman and 19th-Century Women Reformers (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998), 94. [back]

8. Josephine Barkeloo, daughter of Tunis S. Barkeloo, was a Brooklyn friend of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, and Josephine sailed to Belgium in winter 1872 on the Queen, a ship owned by the National Steam Navigation Company. For Josephine's impending departure and her hope to "perfect myself in the French and German languages," see her December 16, 1872 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (Library of Congress). With her April 8, 1873 letter to Walt, Louisa forwarded Josephine's letter from Belgium. [back]

9. 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. He married Louisa Orr Haslam in spring 1871, and they moved to 722 Stevens Street in Camden. At the time of this letter, George was already or would soon be inspecting pipe for Moses Lane at the R. D. Wood Foundry sites in Camden and Florence, New Jersey, and at the Gloucester Iron-Works (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 23?, 1873 letter to Walt Whitman). For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

10. This Adams is not Julius W. Adams, the noted Brooklyn engineer, but a Brooklyn City Works Commissioner named Henry Adams, who is listed in a public call to property owners on the altering of water lines on Lee Avenue ("Notice," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 5, 1872, 1). See Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's December 3, 1872 letter to Walt Whitman, in which an Adams, the same man, is described as a commissioner. [back]

11. 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]

12. See Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman's March 26, 1873 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (Dennis Berthold and Kenneth Price, ed., Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, [Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984], 164–165). [back]

13. Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman (1836–1873) died on February 19, 1873 from complications associated with a throat ailment that had first been noted by her husband Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman in February 1863. Mattie 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. The letters after Mattie's death show that emotional acceptance of the fact was difficult for Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. 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. Waldron reports that a physician identified the cause of death as cancer (3). Robert Roper has speculated that Mattie's accompanying bronchial symptoms may have been associated with tuberculosis (Now the Drum of War [New York: Walker, 2008], 78–79). [back]

14. George Washington Whitman was building a house on a corner lot at 431 Stevens Street in Camden, New Jersey (see Jerome M. Loving, ed. "Introduction," Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975], 31). [back]


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