Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [21 April 1873]

Date: April 21, 1873

Editorial note: The annotation, "21 April 1873," 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.00626

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



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monday1

My ever dear walt

i2 thought i would write to you to day as i dident know what to doo with myself i dident hardly expect a letter to day as i got one saturday3 we have just had our dinner after waiting for george4 2 or 3 hours we had a peice of beef yesterday and had it again to day and shall have it till wensday or thursday sometime we have a good peice then it aint so bad to have it last so long but this peice is not very good Lou5 sends orders and eddy6 goes the errands she is down stairs now gets up to breakfast when we are nearly over walk[e?] around and lays on the sofa yesterday she went up to the lot7 to see it george and she it was as much as she could doo she said i dont know whether she will make out any thing or not8

i get very much annoyed someti[m?] and very nervious little things affects me more than it does some people i think since her aunt is here9 she could dispence with me very easily) the other day Lou was saying how much butter we used in a week and it was so dear she said she was shure aunt libby dident eat much butter i said dont get any butter when its so high) i dont think edd and i together eats a quarter of a pound in a week he dont get it to eat

the aunty is helpet to the best and the largest sometime i feel bad enoughf if i was younger i should show some of my dignity now10 walt write to me to morrow and tell me how you are getting along walt if you think you cant get a house for us to live in dont worry about me i shall live my allotted time) if you ever do get one i think one about the size of what i wrote about11 would do and wouldent cost very much with a cellar under the 2 rooms and not under the shed kichen

but walter dear if you was only well how glad i would be and i gess you would be as glad as i

good bie walt12


Notes:

1. This letter dates to April 21, 1873. Richard Maurice Bucke dated this letter April 21, 1873, which fell on Monday, the day of the week in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand, and Edwin Haviland Miller concurred with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:215, n. 70). Bucke's and Miller's date is correct. Louisa Whitman acknowledged two recent letters from Walt Whitman, one received on the date of this letter and one received the previous Saturday. The letters that she received were Walt's letters of April 16, 1873 (received Saturday) and April 19, 1873[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 April 16, 1873 and April 19, 1873 letters to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. [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. 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]

6. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death. During Louisa's final illness, Eddy was taken under the care of George Washington Whitman and his wife, Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman, with financial support from Walt Whitman. [back]

7. George Washington Whitman was building a larger 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). For an extended description of George's planned house, see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's April 8, 1873 letter to Walt Whitman. [back]

8. The phrase "anything or not" is written in the right margin. [back]

9. The "aunt Lib" or "aunt Libby" who was engaged to assist Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman has not been identified but was probably named Elizabeth. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman described her daughter-in-law Louisa Orr's aunt as English, and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman was not fond of the aunt's company: "i wouldent be very sorry if aunty wasent here" (see her April 21–May 3?, 1873 letter to Walt Whitman). The aunt is designated "aunt Lib" in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's April 10Ὰ15, 1873 letter to Walt. [back]

10. Between the words "dignity" and "now" Louisa Van Velsor Whitman canceled the phrase "it would bee all good to have my." [back]

11. For an extended description of the house that Louisa Van Velsor Whitman imagined she, Walt Whitman, and Edward could share, see her April 8, 1873 letter to Walt. Walt may have initiated this fantasy with the remark "if you & I had a house here" (see his February 23, 1873 letter to Louisa). [back]

12. The conclusion is written inverted in the top margin of the first page. [back]


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