Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [31 July or 7 August 1872]

Date: July 31 or August 7, 1872

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.04776

Contributors to digital file: Felicia Wetzig, Wesley Raabe, Cathryn Humes, Elizabeth Lorang, and Nicole Gray



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wensday morning [abt 6?]1

my dear walt

i receive[d?] your letter this morning2 and also got one on saturday i will write the first thing about the packages for fear i shall forget it again well walt i sent them the same day you left home3 the man came for your trunk) edd4 had left word for him as he has a slate to newmans5 he has been here before and is said to be very carefull he took them and said he would deliver them as directed i gave him the 25 cts and told him to get the pay for the one to go to the herald office6 i havent seen him since but he delivered them safe i have no doubt in the least

we have extreme hot wea[ther?] here7 but i dont feel it so much as i should think i dont work any more than just to get something to eat we had a little shower last night but it dont seem to cool the air much i had a letter from lou8 she speaks very encourag[ing?] of Jimmy9 she says he tries to be as good as he can and minds her and is a great help to her she says his little pinched face is quite fatted up and he seems pleas[ed?] to be fixed up if he only is as good as he is now she says she shall be glad she worries about little georgey)10 she is better some of her lameness) i see an account in the sun that the shakers11 would take any children and keep them till they were grown if they wished to leave they could if we could only get Georgee the[n?] it would be good) walter dear if you will send me a little change as usual in the letters you need not send the money order till you come12 write what time you will come

i must try to write to hanna13 as soon as i can


Notes:

1. This letter dates to either July 31 or August 7, 1872. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated the letter Wednesday, and the marking in the upper right margin of the first page may be the time of the day, "abt 6." That mark, however, is unreliable because it is illegible. Edwin Haviland Miller did not note this summer 1872 letter (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:367).

When requesting a two-week extension of his summer leave, Walt Whitman planned to return to the office of the attorney general on July 25, 1872 (see his July 9, 1872 letter to Webster Elmes). According to Louisa's letter, a packet service came to gather Walt's trunk just after he departed for Washington, D.C. However, Louisa at the close of the letter seems to expect that Walt would visit soon. He planned to visit on August 31, 1872 (see his August 22–23, 1872 letter to Louisa). If Walt returned to Washington as planned on July 25, this letter probably dates to the following Wednesday, July 31, 1872. But since Louisa expected Walt to visit again shortly after her arrival in Camden, this letter may date a week later, to August 7, 1872. [back]

2. Walt Whitman's July 30 or August 6, 1872 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman is not extant (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:362). [back]

3. Walt Whitman probably departed Brooklyn on July 23 or 24, 1872. Upon requesting a two-week extension of his summer leave, he planned to return to the office of the attorney general on July 25, 1872 (see his July 9, 1872 letter to Webster Elmes). [back]

4. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death. During Louisa's final illness, Eddy was taken under the care of George Washington Whitman and his wife, Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman, with financial support from Walt Whitman. [back]

5. The phrase "slate to newmans" is unclear. Perhaps the delivery service had a regular pickup that included a nearby grocery, John Newman at 381 Myrtle (Brooklyn Directory [1870]). [back]

6. It is not known what Walt Whitman sent to the office of the New York Herald (1840–1920) in late July or early August 1872. The newspaper had recently published a poem by Whitman for the first time, "As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free." For more on James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald and the many poems by Whitman that were published in the paper, see "The New York Herald." [back]

7. The high temperatures in Brooklyn on July 30 and July 31, 1872, were 89°F (31.7°C) and 87°F (30.5°C). The high temperatures on August 6 and August 7, 1872, were 86°F (30°C) and 81.5°F (27.5°C). See "Heat Record," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 30, 1872, July 31, 1872, August 6, 1872, August 7, 1872. [back]

8. Louisa Orr Haslam (1842–1892), called "Lou" or "Loo," married George Washington Whitman in spring 1871, and they were soon living at 322 Stevens Street in Camden, New Jersey. 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 in the Stevens Street house in August 1872, with Walt Whitman responsible for Edward's board. Her health in decline, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman was displeased with the living arrangement and confided many frustrations, often directed at Lou, in her letters to Walt. She never developed the close companionship with Lou that she had with Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman. [back]

9. James "Jimmy" Whitman was the older son of Walt Whitman's deceased brother Andrew Jackson Whitman (1827–1863) and his wife Nancy McClure. Nancy released her son Jimmy to the care of George Washington Whitman and Louisa Orr in late 1871 (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's October 23, 1871 letter to Walt). For Andrew's wife and children, see Jerome M. Loving, ed., "Introduction," Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975), 12–14. [back]

10. George "Georgy" Whitman was the younger son of Walt Whitman's deceased brother Andrew Jackson Whitman (1827–1863) and his wife Nancy McClure. Though the Whitmans as early as spring 1868 sought actively to remove Nancy McClure's children from her care and place them in an orphan asylum, Nancy first indicated her willingness to release Georgy into their care in late 1871 (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's October 23, 1871 letter to Walt). Georgy's older brother Jimmy was placed into the care of George Washington Whitman and wife Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman for a time, but this letter seems to indicate that Georgy still remained with his mother. The cause of his death is not known, but Georgy Whitman was killed in October 1872 (see Manahatta Whitman's October 26, 1872 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman). [back]

11. The article that Louisa Van Velsor Whitman read on the Shakers, presumably in a July 1872 issue of the New York Sun, has not been identified. The Shakers, the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Coming, originated in mid-eighteenth century England by separating from the Quakers. The movement was concentrated in New England states, and the Shakers practiced communal worship and emphasized communal property ownership. The Shakers practiced formal equality between male and female members. The movement reached a peak membership of six thousand in the late 1840s, and it thereafter went into gradual decline (Lawrence Foster, "Shakers," Encyclopedia of Religions [Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2005]). [back]

12. Walt Whitman visited Louisa Van Velsor Whitman in Camden, New Jersey, at the end of August, shortly after her move. See his August 22–23, 1872 letter to Louisa. [back]

13. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908) was the youngest daughter of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. She lived in Burlington, Vermont with her husband Charles L. Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his often offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. [back]


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