Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 28 December [1868]

Date: December 28, 1868

Editorial note: The annotation, "1868 (?)," 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.00636

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



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Decembe 281

well walter dear

i couldent let the week pass without writing a line or two i got your letter last week2 with the money order and the big book and wasent i glad it has so much to read about it will keep me quite a long time3 i doo so like to have somethg to read i am alone so much i have been down and got the order cashed and am going to have something good for the new year s dinner i dident make any preperations for christmas) O walt aint it sad about that young woman perhaps if she hadent got married she would have got over it the excitement probably aggravated the disease)4 it is sad indeed to read although strangers) i got the letter this morning5 all letters come first rate) i gave the carrier a dollar for his christmas he was much pleased such things go a great ways in having him punctual) i am as well as usual sleep pretty well i went down to gill s and got a stove6 for the back room7 on georgeys8 credit i have some company not very much i see a short account of the richm9 fire but i had no idea it was so horrible)10 with many thanks for money and books i remain yo11 affectionte mother12

Love to mrs and mr Oconer13


Notes:

1. This letter dates to December 28, 1868. "December 28" is in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand, and Richard Maurice Bucke added the date notation "1868 (?)" on the first page. Edwin Haviland Miller cited Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977], 2:366). The year 1868 is corroborated by Louisa's reference to a tragic fire in Richmond: a housekeeper and at least five men died ("The Richmond Calamity," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 28, 1868, 3). [back]

2. Walt Whitman's late December 21–25?, 1868 letter ("last week") is not extant. [back]

3. The "big book" that Walt Whitman sent his mother is not known, but it may have been another almanac. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote in her February 27, 1867 letter to Walt that he had sent her two almanacs the previous year, and she acknowledged the receipt of a "franklyn almanack" in her February 12, 1868 letter. [back]

4. The "young woman" has not been identified. [back]

5. Walt Whitman's late December 26?, 1868 letter is not extant. It is possible that this letter from Walt is the same as the one mentioned above, but Louisa Van Velsor Whitman later refers to "all letters." Therefore, Walt probably sent two letters to his mother between December 21 and December 26, 1868. [back]

6. The Brooklyn Directory (1868) lists a Cephas Gill at 188 Myrtle Avenue as a dealer in stoves. The stove is a coal-burning stove for heating, and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had purchased a supply of coal the previous month (see her November 2 or 3?, 1868 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]

7. The back room was in the new larger house at 1149 Atlantic Avenue, which was probably the occasion also for the need to purchase the coal-burning stove (see previous note). Walt Whitman had assisted his mother during the move (see Walt Whitman's September 25, 1868 letter to Peter Doyle). [back]

8. 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]

9. The "ond" is omitted in "richmond" at the paper's edge to shorten the word. [back]

10. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle printed a graphic letter from a man to his wife, which detailed his experience on the night of December 24 during a fire at the Spotswood Hotel in Richmond, Virginia. The fire claimed the lives of a housekeeper and at least five men ("The Richmond Calamity," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 28, 1868, 3). [back]

11. The "ur" is omitted in "your" to shorten the word at the paper's edge. [back]

12. 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]

13. For a time Walt Whitman lived with William Douglas and Ellen M. O'Connor, who, with Charles Eldridge and later John Burroughs, were to be his close associates during the early Washington years. William D. O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the pro-Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet" in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). Ellen "Nelly" O'Connor, William's wife, had a close personal relationship with Whitman. The correspondence between Walt Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)." [back]


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