Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Orr Whitman To Walt Whitman, 22 July 1880

Date: July 22, 1880

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: Charles Sixsmith Collection at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester

Whitman Archive ID: man.00048

Contributors to digital file: Courtney Rebecca Lawton, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein



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Camden1
July 22nd

Dear Walt.

I found your letter and Mrs Gilchrists2 and Mr Carpenters3 on my return, and we were much alarmed at first by reports, that you were very sick, but yesterdays Ledger, I think gave the true thing, just about what you wrote to us. I hope by this time you are on the mend, and will be able to make your trip. I have had such a delightful time, no heat, and we had no trouble on our trip, every thing passed along pleasantly. It seems to me that if one were to travel the world over one could not find anything to compare with the Falls. Watkins Glen4 is wonderful too, we were fortunate in Hotels, and every thing, I brought home some views of the Glen and Falls. Aunt Libbie5 is here still. Geo is well, in fact I never saw him look better, busy as ever, no time to ride much. Mrs Berry and family, have gone to Moorestown to board this summer. Mrs Wetherbee is away in Boston, [Wht Marian Pains?], so our place is quiet. Mrs Wilson's infant is getting well. When I came home and found that the report was that you were very sick, I said that if I had known that, I would have gone to Canada, but the next day it was put in a milder way. I saw Mr Scovel6 in a street car the other day, I beleive there is nothing else new. I can hardly tell about my trip, but when you return, it will be as well, and you have passed over so much of the same country.

We all send love.
Lou

hope you will write soon and tell us how you are


Notes:

1. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (d. 1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Walt's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. Their son, Walter Orr Whitman, was born in 1875 but died the following year. A second son was stillborn. [back]

2. Anne Burrows Gilchrist (1828–1885) was the author of one of the first significant pieces of criticism on Leaves of Grass, titled "A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman (From Late Letters by an English Lady to W. M. Rossetti)," Radical 7 (May 1870), 345–59. Gilchrist's long correspondence with Whitman indicates that she had fallen in love with the poet after reading his work; when the pair met in 1876 when she moved to Philadelphia, Whitman never fully returned her affection, although their friendship deepened after that meeting. For more information on their relationship, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Anne Burrows (1828–1885)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) was an English writer and Whitman disciple. Like many other young disillusioned Englishmen, he deemed Whitman a prophetic spokesman of an ideal state cemented in the bonds of brotherhood. Carpenter—a socialist philosopher who in his book Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure posited civilization as a "disease" with a lifespan of approximately one thousand years before human society cured itself—became an advocate for same-sex love and a contributing early founder of Britain's Labour Party. On July 12, 1874, he wrote for the first time to Whitman: "Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart. . . . For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 1:160). For further discussion of Carpenter, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Carpenter, Edward [1844–1929]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).  [back]

4. Watkins Glen is a gorge twenty miles west of Ithaca, New York, famous for its picturesque waterfalls. [back]

5. The "aunt" who was engaged to assist Louisa "Lou" Orr Haslam has not been identified. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman described Lou's aunt as English, and Louisa was not fond of the aunt's company: "i wouldent be very sorry if aunty wasent here" (see Louisa's April 21–May 3?, 1873 letter to Walt Whitman). She is named "aunt Lib" and "aunt Libby" in Louisa's April 10–15, 1873 and April 21, 1873 letters to Walt. [back]

6. James Matlock Scovel began to practice law in Camden in 1856. During the Civil War he was in the New Jersey legislature, and became a colonel in 1863. He campaigned actively for Horace Greeley in 1872, and was a special agent for the U.S. Treasury during Chester Arthur's administration. In the 1870s Whitman frequently went to Scovel's home for Sunday breakfast, as he did on December 2 and 9, 1877 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). For a description of these breakfasts, see Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada, ed. William Sloane Kennedy (Boston: Small, Maynard, 1904), 59–60. For Scovel, see George R. Prowell's The History of Camden County, New Jersey (Philadelphia: L. J. Richards, 1886). [back]


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