Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 17 [March? 1869]

Date: March 17, 1869

Editorial note: The annotation, "Brooklyn Feb. 1869," 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.00640

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



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wensday 171

dear walt

i2 write to say every thing has come all safe your letter with 2 dol came on tuesday and the dispach cam about a couple of hours later and the draft came to day wensday3 the dispach came just as George was going to start to go to Pheladelpha he went with a contract for the foundry men to sign they are to make pipe for the water works4 i was very glad it came before he left it made him feel much better when he knew you could let him have the money) he had been around to the agents but dident make out any thing lott and several other agents5 are looking out for him i hope they will suc[eed?] Georgey6 has had trouble enoughf all owing to not getting a loan on smiths house7 the houses is both insured and no mortgag nor nothing on smiths house it seems almost incredible to tell but so it is) i will get george to doo what you say) he is having the morgage made out to Jeffy8 there will be no other claim on it and i think it has been a good thing for Jeff as well as george i suppose the masons will commence as soon as georg[e?] comes back which will be to morrow i suppose) i hope you are well walt i dre[ame?]d about seeing you last night walt what is it you alluded to that was disagreab[le?] in the office)9 love to Oconors and yourself10

good bie walter dear

i am as well as usual11


Notes:

1. This letter dates to March 17, 1869. The calendar date, 17, and day of the week, Wednesday, are in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand, but Richard Maurice Bucke dated the letter to the month February in the year 1869. Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:367). However, George Washington Whitman's satisfaction upon his receipt of a bank draft from Walt Whitman in this letter conflicts with George's frustration at not receiving a bank draft just before his departure in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's February 16, 1869 letter to Walt. Therefore, February 17, 1869 is an impossible date for this letter.

This letter dates to a month later, March 17, 1869, which is corroborated by Louisa's March 15, 1869 letter to Walt and by Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman's letter to Walt the following week. Louisa in her letter from two days earlier requested on George's behalf that Walt forward "five or six hundred." George also asked Walt to send a telegraph acknowledgment upon receipt of Louisa's letter because he had to depart for a foundry soon (see her March 15, 1869 letter to Walt). According to this letter, George received Walt's telegraph dispatch just before he was to depart for Philadelphia, and he was pleased that he could expect a bank draft from Walt. A week later, Jeff had received a letter from Louisa (not extant) in which she explained that Walt has "stepped in" to assist George after his "troubles in getting money for the house" (see Jeff's March 25, 1869 letter to Walt). Because this letter notes George's receipt of the telegraph dispatch and his relief that a "draft came to day" (March 17), Walt's actions during the past two days (telegraph dispatch and bank draft) are consistent with the requests that Louisa made on George's behalf in her March 15 letter. Jeff's March 25 letter to Walt confirms this series of events from March 15 to 17, 1869. [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 March 15?, 1869 letter is not extant. Because Edwin Haviland Miller dated this letter from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman February 17, he dated Walt's missing letter February 15, 1869 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:361). [back]

4. George Washington Whitman asked Walt Whitman to send a telegraph dispatch to acknowledge receipt of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 15, 1869 letter. George, according to the same letter, was to depart for the R. D. Wood Foundry site in Camden, New Jersey, to inspect the "new main" for Moses Lane, chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works. [back]

5. The Brooklyn Directory (1871) lists two Lotts as lawyers, Abraham and John Z., at 13 Willoughby Street. A man named Lott is also mentioned concerning title troubles for a property that George Washington Whitman sold to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's Atlantic Street neighbor Margret Steers (see Louisa's January 3–24?, 1871 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]

6. 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]

7. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had described George Washington Whitman's efforts to get a loan with his partner Smith's house as collateral in her February 16, 1869 letter to Walt Whitman. Walt described George's partner Smith as "a natural builder and carpenter (practically and in effect) architect," and he advised John Burroughs that Smith was an "honest, conscientious, old-fashioned man, a man of family . . . . youngish middle age" (see Walt's September 2, 1873 letter to John Burroughs). [back]

8. George Washington Whitman offered Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman a mortgage on Smith's house, valued at $3,000, as collateral or, if Smith's house were sold, to repay Jeff's loan. Jeff began sending George monthly installments of $200. However, some confusion ensued about the relationship between this set of loans for $3,000 on Smith's house and an original $1,000 loan in two installments that Jeff and George had agreed upon when Jeff visited in December 1868 (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's June 23, 1869 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]

9. Edwin Haviland Miller suggested that this reference to something disagreeable in the office of the attorney general was related to Richard Maurice Bucke's description of "dastardly official insolence" from a high-ranking government official in the year 1869. See John Burroughs, Notes on Walt Whitman, As Poet and Person (New York: Redfield, 1871), 123; Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:80, n. 12. [back]

10. 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]

11. The postscript is written in the right margin of the page. [back]


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