Title: Walt Whitman to Bethuel Smith, [December 1874]
Date: December 1874
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:318–319. 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.02348
Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad
Your letter has reached me here, & it is a real comfort to hear from Bethuel once more. Years have passed away but I find there is something in the friendship formed amid sickness, or with the wounded in hospital that comes up again fresh and living as ever and remains as if it cannot pass away. Bethuel, dear comrade, I must write a few how I should like to see you. I want to hear all about you, & how you are getting along—all the particulars will be interesting—when I think of those old times in the hospital & our being together, you seem to me like my own son.3
I worked in Washington after the war—had a stroke of paralysis now two years since, was getting better, then some serious troubles happened to me, & I fell back again—I have left Brooklyn & Washington for good—& am now laid up here—I am neither well enough to do any work, nor sick enough to give up—go out some though lame, & keep a pretty good heart, hoping for better times. Bethuel, I enclose an envelope for you—dear boy, I want you to write me a good long letter—my best best love to you, & a happy new year—
Mrs. Smith, I thank you for writing to me,4 it has done me good—I send my best respects & love to you—& my love to the youngest son living with you. I will send some papers.
3. Bethuel, who replied on March 12, 1875, had four children, hauled wood for a paper mill near Queensbury, N.Y., and had grave financial problems: ". . . this spring I am owing some debts that I dont no whether I can pay them or not." [back]
4. Maria Smith wrote about her family on December 10, 1874. Whitman's draft was written on the verso of her letter. In reply to Whitman's letter and later ones, she wrote again on February 1 and March 14, 1875. In the latter she said: "it always seemed to me that god sent you to save the life of our son that he might Come home and see his parents once more." [back]