Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Samuel W. Thayer, 8 December 1868

Date: December 8, 1868

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:73–74. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

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

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01683

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad




sent
Dec 8, '681

Dr. Thayer,
Dear Sir:2

Won't you do me the very great favor to write me a few lines regarding the condition of my sister, Mrs. H. L. Heyde. I am sure, from what I hear, that it is mainly to your medical skill, and your kindness as a good man, that she got through her late illness. She seems by her letters to be left in an extremely nervous state. Doctor, please write me as fully as you think proper. Though we have never met personally, I have heard of you from my mother & sister. I must ask you to keep this letter, and the whole matter, strictly confidential, & mention it to no person. My sister in a late letter, wished me to write you & thank you for your great kindness to her.3


Notes:

1. This draft letter is endorsed, "sent to Dr. Thayer, | Dec 8, '68." [back]

2. Relations between Hannah Heyde and her husband and between Heyde and the Whitmans remained the same. On March 3, 1868, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman informed Walt Whitman of the receipt of "the most awful" letter from Heyde (The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library), and on March 6, 1868, she mentioned writing "a pressing letter to hannah urging her to come and make us a visit" (The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). Nothing of course happened; after her marriage Hannah never left her husband. On March 24, 1868, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman noted "a letter or package from charley heyde, three sheets of foolscap paper and a fool wrote on them." Later in the year, on November 4(?), 1868, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote that Hannah was ill. On November 13, 1868, Hannah herself wrote to Walt Whitman about excruciating pain in her thumb: "Charlie was very ugly. He would not get a nurse…Dr. Thayer I believe thinks all my thumb wont get well. I feel very anxious about it. dear brother write to Dr. Saml. B. Thayer…but dear brother of all things in [the world?] I beg you to not let Charlie know I have wrote to you & run a great risk.…be pleasant to Charlie while I am sick on my account" (The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). On November 24, 1868, Hannah wrote to her mother about her illness, somewhat more calmly than she had to her brother, perhaps because her letter was part of Heyde's (The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). According to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letter of December 5(?), 1868, Heyde wrote to her about "a very stupid letter from Walt addressed to han which he humanely concluded not to deliver to her" (The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). About December 8, 1868, Heyde reported to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman the amputation of Hannah's thumb, refused to "withdraw" his remarks about Walt, and explained: "I have no desire to annoy or give you unnecessary concern.…Besides Han's illness, I was exceedingly annoyed at the unnecessary, miserable condition of our domestic affairs" (The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]

3. After listening to Horace Traubel read this letter in 1889, Whitman commented on Heyde: "He is a cringing, crawling snake: uses my sister's miseries as a means by which to burrow money out of her relations.…I think if Charlie was a plain everyday scamp I'd not feel sore on him: but in the rôle of serpent, whelp, he excites my active antagonism" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 3:500). [back]


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