Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walter Whitman, Sr. and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 23–24 April 1848

Date: April 23–24, 1848

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), 10-13. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature at the New York Public Library

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00133

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, April Lambert, and Nicole Gray




New Orleans
Sunday April 23th [1848]

Dear Parents,

Since I wrote to you (the night after we got your only letter) we have heard nothing from you, It is very strange you do not write oftener to us, for we have writtin to you ever so many times, now we have been from home nearly three months, and we have received only one letter from you, I beg of you to write to us often

I received a letter from Mr Brown,1 day before yesterday, but it was a very old one, he says they are all very well, that they like Billy2 quite well, that he sprained his back gardening at his new house, that they are building up around Prince St very fast and that I can write a letter good when I am a mind to (I do not agree with him there at all.) It is one of the greatest newsletters that I ever saw

Walter is very well indeed, he thinks this place agrees with him very much and he says he feels better than ever he did in New York. And I to feel pretty well but not so much so as I intend to be, I have still a kind of summer complaint,3 which does not feel very good but it is very far from being really sick

I hope you are all getting along smoothly and good, Henry4 said Mother felt better than she had for years before, I hope she will continue to feel so, (I think I mentioned in my last letter that Walter had a letter from Henry, from Brooklyn)

Walter is trying to save up all the money he can get, and allready he has quite a sum, as soon as he gets a thousand dollars he is comeing north,5 And I too am saveing all I can get I give Walter five dollars (my wages) every week, and I have sold about five dollars worth of old papers, that you know is all clear gain, all the trouble it is, is to count them out and put them up in hundreds

Yesterday evening and this morning is the finest weather we have had since we have been here. Just warm and just cool enough to make it very pleasant. We took a very long walk last night, way out Camp street beyound the limits of the city. There are no hills like on old Long Island  the whole state is as level as a race course. In some of the streets they have a kind of canal or drain to let the water run off, and even then in some places there is not enough "down-hill" to make it run off good. Just a little farther up town there is a canal (of a larger kind than those in the middle of the street) where sloops &c can come up from the lake (about 7 miles westward of the city). Along by this canal (the new canal they call it) there is a road called shell road6 where we take frequent (and very pleasant) walks, the road is nearly as hard as a brick, and on a pleasant afternoon is covered with carriages of every discription. It seems to be the fashion to drive your horse as fast as he can go.

The price of a good apple here (such a one as you could get in New York for a cent and at some places two for a cent) is the small price of ten cents.

Sometimes I get thinking about you all and feel quite lonesome, but not one fifth as much as I did when we first arrived here, at first I could not make myself believe that we were so far away from home, but it is something of a distance

By this morning's mail Walter received a letter from Mr Wilson7 of the Eagle, but there was nothing in it but what we have heard before, about the election8 &c. He said that "Pat"9 delivered the paper to you very regular and also that you were all well (which I liked best of all he said in his long letter of five pages). We get the Eagle and Brooklyn Star quite often, and also the New York, [:] Tribune, Mirror, Globe, Dispatch, Sunday Times, Atlas, &c, &c. The Sun and Herald seem to think the "Crescent" not worthey their exchange as we have not received theirs yet, altho we have sent to them ever since the paper began. Walter wrote them a letter10 a few days ago and I guess we shall get them before long

You will remember that I said that we were to have a balloon ascension opposite our boarding house, the thing was tried four or five times, but as just enough persons got inside the thing would manage to burst. A few Sundays ago it was said it would go up again, they had got it all ready when it blew all to peices. The persons that had paid to see it thought it was nothing but a suck in (which I think was the case)  As soon as it touched the ground they all laid hold of it, and draging it over the fence tore it all to peices, they did not leave a peice a foot square  So ended all that

Monday April 24th

By this mornings mail I received a letter from my friend "Bill"11 (at Mr Smiths12 store in Fulton st)  it is a very short one however, he says nothing about you so we have not heard from you since you wrote. He said he went out on an excursion and fell overboard but his brothers got him out after a fashion

Walter also got a serman by Mr Johnston13 of Brooklyn. I believe that is all we received  I am certain of one thing, that is we never got any letter from you

To day has been a very fine clear day, the ladys were out in great numbers.  The city has been very lively to day

Mother. Just think what you would think of us if we had writtin you only one letter since we came away. I am afraid you would think pretty hard of us. Father and Hannah need a little "blowing up" too, but I will generously let them off if they will promise to write often in future

I have almost wrote the whole sheet out so I must stop. I shall write to you again pretty soon, untill then good bye


your son Jefferson Whitman

My love to Mary if you see her before I write again

If you do not write to us pritty soon we will do something but I don't know what.14


Notes:

1. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walter Whitman, Sr., Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, George Washington Whitman, Andrew Jackson Whitman, Hannah Louisa Whitman, and Edward Whitman, 14 March 1848[back]

2. Probably William H. DeBevoise; see Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 10 February 1863[back]

3. Regarding Jeff's problem with dysentery, see Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walter Whitman, Sr., Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, Andrew Jackson Whitman, George Washington Whitman, Hannah Louisa Whitman, and Edward Whitman, 27 March 1848[back]

4. Probably Henry Brown; see Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walter Whitman, Sr., Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, George Washington Whitman, Andrew Jackson Whitman, Hannah Louisa Whitman, and Edward Whitman, 14 March 1848[back]

5. Perhaps A. H. Hayes and J. E. McClure, the owners of the Crescent, had decided that Walt Whitman's antislavery sentiments would be an embarrassment in the coming presidential elections. Walt Whitman seemed puzzled at the harsh feelings that developed: "Through some unaccountable means...both H. and M'C, after a while, exhibited a singular sort of coldness, toward me, and the latter an irritability toward Jef., who had, at times, much harder work than I was willing he should do." When the owners refused Walt Whitman's request for a salary advance on May 24, he asked to "dissolve the connection" and then headed home with Jeff on May 27 (Emory Holloway, ed., The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1921], 2:77-78). [back]

6. The First District and Lake Pontchartrain were connected by Shell Road which parallelled the New Canal. [back]

7. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walter Whitman, Sr., Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, George Washington Whitman, Andrew Jackson Whitman, Hannah Louisa Whitman, and Edward Whitman, 14 March 1848[back]

8. In New York's April elections the Whigs were victorious in Brooklyn, the Barnburners in Manhattan. [back]

9. Unidentified. [back]

10. This letter is not extant. [back]

11. Perhaps William Devoe. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walter Whitman, Sr., Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, George Washington Whitman, Andrew Jackson Whitman, Hannah Louisa Whitman, and Edward Whitman, 14 March 1848[back]

12. At this time, four Smiths owned stores located on Fulton Street. [back]

13. Probably Samuel R. Johnson, rector of St. John's church on Myrtle Avenue. [back]

14. For the brief note Walt Whitman added to the end of this letter, see Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence (New York: New York University Press, 1961-77), 1:36. [back]


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