Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 22 October 1863

Date: October 22, 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), 80-82. 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.00427

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




Brooklyn
Oct 22nd 1863

Dear Walt,

This morning I mail with this a letter to you from Mother and also a letter to George from Mother. I suppose Mother has told you fully abt Andrew. My own opinion is that he will not recover, that he cannot last long. However I think that it is owning more to the circumstances that surround him than to his disease. There is no use trying to disguise the matter, Andrew is very unfortunately situated in regard to his home. His wife, I guess is not one of the doing kind, and posessed with rather an ugly high temper.1 His disease of course makes Andrew fretful and discouraged, and instead of soothing and nursing him Nancy does the reverse. As to his disease I really think that had I the same disease that I could recover from it.2 However I dont know. I sincerely wish that you would come hom for a short time anyway. I think that you could do Andrew a great deal of good  In the letter3 that Mother received yesterday from you, you speak abt my having been reduced in pay. I am sorry Mother wrote you abt it for it only worries you without doing any good, and another thing it is not like you think in regard to cutting down my wages. I was working for the two boards of Commissioners, one at $40 and the other at $50 per month, and I have got all the work for one board finished (the one at $40) [and?] as the Sal. of the office I hold for the Permanent board (that of Map clerk at $50) is put down in their annual appropriation at $50 why of course I have to get along with it for the present. It is not the meanness4 or anything of that kind of anybody and they would pay me more if they could and will probably in a short time. I shall get some appointment again from the old board I have no doubt, and soon too. As to the worry part, I never think of that  A man with a wife like I have got cant worry even if he wanted to. Give yourself no thought abt my worring. Something that I have got entirely past.5 I have every reason to think that the Commissioners (both boards) think well of me, and I know that Mr Lane6 will ever do everything in his power for me, and I undoubtedly in a short time shall be getting more.

In regard to the Pacific R. R.7 I am real obliged to you. I learned this morning that our friend J. W. Adams8 was appointed chief and I've no doubt but I could get a place at once on it, yet I think that in the end I will make more by staying where I am but its rather pleasant to have that to fall back on. I wish you would write me  Ruggles9 sends his regards.


Jeff


Notes:

1. In her letter to Walt Whitman of October 30 (?), 1863, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman condemned Nancy's inactivity more explicitly: "i asked him [Andrew} to day what nancy was dooing if she was dooing any sewing...i dont know but i think she is about the lazyest and dirtiest woman i ever want to see...shes as ugly as she is dirty  i dont wonder he used to drink" (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]

2. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from September 5, 1863[back]

3. See Walt Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from October 20, 1863[back]

4. Walt Whitman had referred to the waterworks people as "mean old punkin heads" and "mean low-lived old shoats" for reducing Jeff's pay after "faithful &...really valuable" work (see Whitman's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman from October 20, 1863). [back]

5. This is one of a number of oblique references in the family correspondence to a period when Jeff's emotional state was less stable. Such references support the idea that Jeff's illness in the mid-1850s may have been psychosomatic. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from September 5, 1863[back]

6. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from January 13, 1863[back]

7. Perhaps Walt Whitman sent Jeff additional volumes of the Pacific Railroad reports (see Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from April 2, 1863). [back]

8. A member of the Adams family of Boston, Julius Walker Adams (1812–99) distinguished himself as an engineer working on both railroads and water systems. He designed the Brooklyn sewer system, the first one in America constructed on a general plan according to scientific principles, and is credited with having drawn up the first plans for the Brooklyn Bridge (1866). He also commanded the Fifty-sixth Regiment of the Brooklyn National Guard which defended the New York Times and Tribune offices during the draft riots of July 1863. He wrote several standard textbooks on engineering and served as chief engineer of Brooklyn from 1869 to 1877 and president of the American Society of Civil Engineers from 1873 to 1875. There is no evidence that he worked for any of the Pacific Railroad companies. [back]

9. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from April 2, 1863[back]


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