Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 6 April 1863

Date: April 6, 1863

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), 44-45. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00406

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Vanessa Steinroetter, Kathryn Kruger, and April Lambert




[April 6, 1863]1

[Dear Brother Walt,]

As I was abt putting these in the envelope my eye caught this blank place and I thought that 'twas a pity to let such an opportunity go. It looked like waste.

Walt, how I should like to see you, do you look the same as ever or has the immense number of unfortunate and heartworking cases given you an sobre and melancholy look.2 I sometimes think, when I get thinking abt you, that it must have that effect upon you. But then the cases that you releive and those dear lives that you save must bring back the old look again. Do you suppose that you will long continue where you are? Do you think Anything will come of your trying to get office?3 I suppose it is merely a question of time and patience as regards the office. I am in hopes to be able to have a small some of money sent you every week hereafter in this way  I will ask Lane4 to see how many names of those around in and abt. the W. W.5 will consent to give $1 per month regularly to be sent to you for Hospital purposes. I have no doubt but that some 25 or 30 names could be had and if we could send you $6 or $7 weekly twould be quite a big thing. We think then that we shall call you "The B. Watr Works soldiers Aid society" with power. Seriously, I think twould be a good thing and that I can come [by] it. I sent you $5 last week, did you get it. Twas from Mr Lane.

Twould make you laugh to see little Hattie brush her hair and teeth. I am almost afraid she will clean them to death. She is tremendious proud of her things that Uncle Walt sent her. Twould please you to see how finely she is growing. Every day I give her a little exercise in singing two or three notes only. I think she could be made a fine musician and am going to try it.6 She often asks when you are coming home to take her out on Fort Greene.7 She often gets one of you[r] pictures and calls it her dear Uncle Walt. She knew Georges picture at once, which I think proves it to be pretty good. Mattie is as well as usual, she has no work and has not had hardly since you went away, and I am glad she has not8  Mother is first rate except she works to hard  I wish she wouldnt  she is foolish to clean house so much. Walt do write me a good long letter


Jeff.

The enclosed $10 I got from Van Anden9


Notes:

1. This letter is written on the verso of George's letter of April 2, 1863 . Walt Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman of April 15, 1863, suggests that Jeff wrote this on April 6, 1863. [back]

2. On April 15, 1863, Walt Whitman assured Jeff that he was "as much of a beauty as ever…well, not only as much, but more so—I believe I weigh about 200 and as to my face, (so scarlet,) and my beard and neck, they are terrible to behold…like a great wild buffalo, with much hair." [back]

3. See Jeff's letter to Walt from March 9, 1863[back]

4. Moses Lane (1823–1882) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to 1869. He later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer. [back]

5. The Brooklyn Water Works. [back]

6. On April 15, 1863, in a letter which also provided Andrew with detailed advice on how he should care for his throat, Walt Whitman instructed Jeff as well: "Jeff must not make his lessons to her in music any ways strong or frequent on any account—two lessons a week, of ten minutes each, is enough—But then I dare say Jeff will think of all these thigs, just the same as I am saying." [back]

7. Fort Greene stood opposite the Whitman's Portland Avenue home. Whitman believed that one of his two finest achievements as a journalist was "the securing to public use of Washington Park (Old Fort Greene,)…against heavy odds, during an editorship of the Brooklyn Eagle" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 3:386). For one of Walt Whitman's editorials on the subject, see The Gathering of the Forces, ed. Cleveland Rogers and John Black (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1920), 2:46–50. [back]

8. Mattie made shirt fronts for New York manufacturers (Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman [New York: New York University Press, 1977], 2). [back]

9. Isaac Van Anden was the publisher and proprietor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Walt Whitman edited this paper (March 1846–January 1848) until he quarreled with Van Anden over political issues. For more on Van Anden see Raymond A. Schroth, "The Eagle and Brooklyn," in Brooklyn USA: The Fourth Largest City in America, ed. Rita Seiden Miller (New York: Brooklyn College Press, 1979), 99–119. [back]


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