Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [3 December 1872]
Date: December 3, 1872
Editorial note: The annotation, "Dec 3 '72," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.
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: Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde Papers, 1853–1892, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.00659
Contributors to digital file: Felicia Wetzig, Wesley Raabe, Cathryn Humes, Cathy Tisch, Elizabeth Lorang, and Nicole Gray
i received the money order this day tuesday lou will get the money to morrow)2 i am pretty smart i am troubled at times with a dissiness in my head i think sometimes it is owing to hav[ing?] the stoves open and the gass) i had mr and mrs bruce and grace to see me3 the day after thanksgiving they only stayed a short time as they were going home that day at 12 or 1 oclock i was very glad to see them very indeed George went to brooklyn yesterday and returned last evening his work stopped on the water board the 1 of this mon[th?] he was notified last week by mr adams from the commishons4 he has had his pay for three months without their having any work done at stars5 i beleeve he thinks he will have it again but i dont think its so dreadfull to only get 8 dollar per day but its put the house question down6
i have got a letter from han7 i beleeve i told you in my last letter) so i wrote to her [tell?]ing8 her i would send her a box shortly that when the box was sent i would let her know so the day before the box went i got lou to write a few lines as my hand was so bad i coul[d?]ent i sent a very nice box of things walt the 25 dollars jeff sent me9 i laid 20 of it out for comfortable things for han and i dont doubt but she appreciates them) but just as the box went i got a letter from mr Heyde10 i dont know but what i have had as bad ones from him before but the most insulting things he wrote that any one could think of he wrote to me what his obgect was i cannot tell after he had said every thing that was insulting he said if there was any thing in the box worth it he would let me know if it came) i sent it a week ago last friday and i havent heard any thing from them since i paid a dollar and a half for the freight) i have your picture laying beside me as i write11
you must come christmas
1. This letter dates to December 3, 1872. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated the letter Tuesday. A note on the first page in Walt Whitman's hand dated it December 3, 1872, a Tuesday. Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with the assigned date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:369). The assigned date is corroborated by multiple details in the letter and is correct. Louisa, who was in Camden, New Jersey, had received a money order from Walt to pay Edward's board to Louisa Orr Whitman, so the letter must date in the first week of a month. The holiday Thanksgiving has just passed, so the month is December. And George Washington Whitman's most recent stint as an inspector for the Brooklyn Water Works has come to an end, also consistent with December 1872. [back]
2. Louisa Orr Haslam (1842–1892), called "Lou" or "Loo," married George Washington Whitman in spring 1871. At the insistence of George and his brother Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and son Edward departed from Brooklyn to live with George and Lou at 322 Stevens Street in Camden in August 1872. When Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and son Edward began living with George and Lou, Walt Whitman sent his mother $20 per month, $15 for Edward's board (see Walt's January 29, 1873 and February 26, 1873 letters to Louisa). [back]
3. Elijah Bruce (b. 1808) and Ruth Bruce (b. 1812) were the parents of Grace Haight (b. 1839), and they were neighbors near Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's residence at 71 Portland Avenue (see United States Census, 1880, New York, Brooklyn, Kings; and Helen Price's October 13, 1872 letter to Louisa [Trent Collection, Duke University]). The 1871 Brooklyn City Directory lists Elijah Bruce, surveyor, at 90 Portland Avenue. Grace Haight's familiar and chatty February 7, 1872 letter to Louisa shows that they were quite close friends (Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress). [back]
4. This Adams is presumably a Brooklyn City Works Commissioner named Henry Adams, who is listed as a commissioner in a Brooklyn public call to property owners on the opening and altering of water lines on Lee Avenue ("Notice," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 5, 1872, 1). Adams is also named as a commissioner in another letter (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 29, 1873 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]
5. In early 1873, George Washington Whitman inspected pipe at Star's Foundry (Walt wrote "Starr's") in Camden, New Jersey. For a few months he had no work through the Brooklyn Water Works. George made multiple trips to Brooklyn in early 1873 to seek additional work inspecting pipe and secured another job (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 29, 1873 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]
6. George Washington Whitman's plan for a new house was delayed for only a few months. Between early March and mid-April 1873, George purchased a lot and began building, and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman provided regular updates on the house (see her March 1, 1873, March 17, 1873, and April 8, 1873 letters to Walt Whitman). The new house was on a corner lot at 431 Stevens Street in Camden, New Jersey (see Jerome M. Loving, ed., "Introduction," Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975], 31). [back]
7. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908), Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's younger daughter, resided in Burlington, Vermont, with husband Charles Louis Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter. Louisa sent gift boxes to her daughter regularly. For a list of contents in another such box, see Louisa's January 19, 1869 letter to Walt Whitman. For her preparation of gift boxes, which Sherry Ceniza has designated "care packages" and compared to Walt's poetry, see Walt Whitman and 19th-Century Women Reformers (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998), 10–12. [back]
8. The crossbar that was intended for the first letter "t" is written over the "ll" pair, so the word "telling" on a letter-by-letter basis looks more like "letting." Based on context, the intended word is telling. [back]
9. Both Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890) and his wife Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman (1836–1873) wrote in November to urge Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to visit St. Louis (see Jeff's November 10, 1872 letter to Louisa in Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price, ed., Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman [Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984], 146; and Mattie's November 15, 1872 letter in Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman [New York: New York University Press, 1977], 88). Neither letter mentions the $25 money order that Jeff had sent. Jeff, a civil engineer, had relocated to St. Louis in 1867 to serve as Superintendent of Water Works and would become a nationally recognized name. For more on Jeff, see "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)." [back]
10. Charles Louis Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–1908), Walt Whitman's sister. They lived in Burlington, Vermont. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. [back]
11. The picture of Walt Whitman that Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had beside her was probably G. Frank Pearsall's September 1872 photograph (see Gallery of Images), which later served as the frontispiece for Two Rivulets (1876). [back]