Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 14 or 15 [February 1870]

Date: February 14 or 15, 1870

Editorial note: The annotation, "Feb — 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.00633

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



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tuesday 141

well walter dear

we are permitted to see another rainy day but rather warm i2 am so glad walt to hear you say you are so well i got your letter to day and the book came all safe3 i was very glad to have it i have read it partly through and like it very much i stay at home so much that i want something to read i shall show georgey4 the letter about the interest he always gives me some money when he comes but he has had so much to pay every time he has been home that i dident ask him for as much as i should if he hadent had so much to pay the taxes was i think 180 doller and he has to have money to pay his expences walter you go around so much you must get some new cloths i think that gray satinet would make you a couple of pairs of pantaloons and vest but i dont think you would like it for a coat i think the pantaloons should be lined with thin muslin walter i gess you dont want to see me more than i doo you) i have just been reading about vanvories the ex supervisor that was shot sunday night in south brooklyn you will see it i suppose in the papers)5 i am glad you wrote to han6 and sent her the harpers i get it every saturday) you must tell me when you write how many valentines you got

good by [my?] dear walter

i havent heard from st louis7


Notes:

1. This letter dates to February 14 or February 15, 1870. The day Tuesday and "14" are in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand. Richard Maurice Bucke dated the letter February 1871. February 14 fell on Tuesday in 1871, and Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (see Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:368). The evidence for the month of February is Louisa's query about Walt Whitman's Valentines at the letter's close. However, Bucke's and Miller's assigned year is incorrect, and because the year is incorrect, the day of week and calendar date are off also. Louisa noted the death of "vanvories the ex supervisor," and Dominicus S. Vorhees, a builder, was shot not in 1871 but on February 13, 1870, a Sunday. Valentine's Day, February 14, fell on Monday in 1870. Therefore, the letter dates not to February 14, 1871 but to February 14 or 15, 1870. [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's February 12 or 13?, 1870 letter is not extant, and the book that he sent is not known. The date that Edwin Haviland Miller assigned for Walt's lost February 13(?), 1871 letter, which is attested by this letter from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, must also date the previous year (see Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:362). [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 eventually took up a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

5. Dominicus S. Vorhees, a builder and former Supervisor for the Tenth Ward in Brooklyn, was shot on Sunday, February 13, 1870 ("Startling Assassination," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 14, 1870, 3). According to witnesses, the alleged shooter, William Chambers, was intoxicated and declared himself a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, which advocated Irish independence. According to the article, Vorhees and his companions invited Chambers to share a glass, and Chambers allegedly shot Vorhees without provocation. [back]

6. 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]

7. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's son Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, his wife Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman, and their two daughters lived in St. Louis, where Jeff had relocated in 1867 to assume the position of Superintendent of Water Works. For more on Jeff, see "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)." 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]


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