Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 15 October 1863

Date: October 15, 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), 79-80. 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.00426

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Tim Jackson, and April Lambert




Brooklyn
Oct 15th 1863

Dear Walt,

Mother received a letter from you yesterday1  I got one the day before.2 Mother did not let me see her letter3 but Mat says that she understands that you say that you think about coming home. I hope dear Walt, that you will come and that soon  I think if you should come just now you might be able to do Andrew considerable good  He is in a very bad way and I really fear, under the present circumstances that he will not last long. Dear Walt I wish that I could do something more for Andrew, but I have to work all the time, almost day and night and another thing I think he would be guided more by your advice than any one elses  That damed infernal robber the doctor4 that he has been with (Andrew has paid him $95 and been getting worse all the time) told Andrew yesterday that he must not come there again till he brought him $45 more. Only think of it. The infernal son of a bitch. I would like to hang him for a thousand years, ten times a second. I dont care anything about it for the good that I think that he could do Andrew but that he Andrew thinks that perhaps if he could pay him $45 he could do something for him. The very fact that the scoundrel wants the money in advance is enough  Dear Walt do come home if only for a short time  And unless you come quite soon you certainly will never see Andrew alive.5 Will you write me at once if you can come.

Mother Mat and Sis are all suffering from bad colds, Mother particularly I think is failing rapidly. I do so wish that I could see you and have a good talk abt family affairs  I am in an awful hurry or would write more. To day I have to go through the whole line of conduit


Jeff


Notes:

1. See Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from October 13, 1863[back]

2. Walt Whitman's letter to which Jeff refers is not extant. [back]

3. On September 10 (?), 1863, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had instructed Walt Whitman to "write on a piece of paper loose from the letter if you say anything you dont want all to read" (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). It is hard to say why Louisa Van Velsor Whitman might have kept Walt Whitman's letter of October 13, 1863, away from Jeff since it was by no means of a sensitive or private nature. [back]

4. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from September 22, 1863. Jeff seems to be referring to the "Italian Dr" here. But on October 30 (?), 1863, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman noted that Andrew "is doctoring with dr Brody." Perhaps Jeff's complaints led to the change. [back]

5. Writing to his mother on October 20, 1863, Walt Whitman commented: "If I thought it would be any benefit to Andrew I should certainly leave everything else & come back to Brooklyn." Nonetheless, despite Jeff's repeated pleas and his assurances that Andrew would listen to Walt Whitman's advice above that of all others, the poet refused to return home. As Edwin Haviland Miller comments, Walt Whitman had "little excuse for delay" (Walt Whitman: The Corespondence, [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:165, n. 90). Perhaps the poet was loathe to return to an upsetting and hopeless situation at a time when he was "very happy [in the hospitals]. I never was so beloved." So many men were wounded at this time that he had "to bustle round, to keep from crying." The poet may also have been trying to avoid further strain to his already overcharged emotions. See Correspondence, 1:164, 166). [back]


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