Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [15–26 September 1871]

Date: September 15–26, 1871

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: The Walt Whitman Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Whitman Archive ID: tex.00172

Contributors to digital file: Felicia Wetzig, Heather Kaley, Wesley Raabe, and Elizabeth Lorang



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My dear walt1

i2 have just got your two letters this monday morning one was written last thursday and the other on friday why they havent arrived before i cannot tell i looked for a letter saturday and wondered i dident get one but as they have come its all well Jeff3 came here yesterday sunday he stayed to georges4 saturday night and came on yesterday) there was a letter awaiting him here it was from matt5 she has started for home will be home the first of this week she says for jeff to not shorten his visit to brooklyn she is quite well and can get along very well but walt the next is mary6 has7 written to know if they can come here for a week as minne is going to be married8 and they want to get some things she wants me to write if its conveinent to let them come she says they will get their own grub so i suppose it would be best to let them come or have an everlasting coldness between us all walter dear i dont like to impose on good nature but walt if you could send me the order the first of next week i would be glad as my other sons dont seem to think money is nessessary for me to have george and loo9 is coming the 1 of the month

good bie walt

i havent heard [more?] mrs Hinde10 if she got the money


Notes:

1. This letter dates to between September 15 and September 26, 1871. The letter dates to mid- or late-September 1871 based on the approaching visit of Mary Isadore "Minnie" Van Nostrand and family. Minnie was the younger daughter of Mary Elizabeth Van Nostrand, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's elder daughter. Louisa was anxious about the Van Nostrands' visit because her daughter Mary proposed that she, her husband Ansel, and two daughters would spend approximately a week in Brooklyn to shop in preparation for Minnie's upcoming marriage on October 17. Louisa acquiesced to the proposal, and the visit began on September 27 (see Louisa's September 28, 1871 letter to Walt Whitman). A late-September date for this letter is corroborated by Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman's visit to Brooklyn in fall 1871. Though two of Walt Whitman's letters to his mother and a letter from Martha Mitchell "Mattie" to Jeff are mentioned, which if available could narrow the range of dates, not one of the letters is extant. Randall H. Waldron dated the letter "about September 17, 1871" (Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman [New York: New York University Press, 1971], 72, n. 1), but it could date up to a week later and still anticipate the Van Nostrands' visit. [back]

2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt Whitman was the second. For more information on Louisa and her letters, see Wesley Raabe, "'walter dear': The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt" and Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]

3. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was the son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and Walt Whitman's favorite brother. In early adulthood he worked as a surveyor and topographical engineer. In the 1850s he began working for the Brooklyn Water Works, at which he remained employed through the Civil War. In 1867 Jeff became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and became a nationally recognized name in civil engineering. For more on Jeff, see "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)." [back]

4. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and remained on active duty until the end of the Civil War. He was wounded in the First Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862) and was taken prisoner during the Battle of Poplar Grove (September 1864). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with a partner named Smith and later a mason named French. George eventually took up a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

5. Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873), known as "Mattie," was the wife of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother. She and Jeff had two daughters, Manahatta and Jessie Louisa. In 1868, Mattie and her daughters moved to St. Louis to join Jeff, who had moved there in 1867 to assume the position of Superintendent of Water Works. For more on Mattie, see Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman (New York: New York University Press, 1977), 1–26. [back]

6. Mary Elizabeth (Whitman) Van Nostrand (1821–1899) was the oldest daughter of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and Walt Whitman's younger sister. She married Ansel Van Nostrand, a shipwright, in 1840, and they subsequently moved to Greenport, Long Island. They raised five children: George, Fanny, Louisa, Ansel, Jr., and Mary Isadore "Minnie." See Jerome M. Loving, ed., "Introduction," Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975), 10–11. [back]

7. Only the first two letters of the word "has" are visible in the image. The letter is pasted into a manuscript book, and the final letters on the edge closest to the binding in the page image are often obscured. Most of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman manuscript letters in the bound volume entitled Walt Whitman: A Series of Thirteen Letters from His Mother to Her Son, held at the Harry Ransom Center, have obscured text on at least one page. Text from this page was recorded based on an examination of the physical volume, which allowed more text to be recovered. [back]

8. Mary Isadore "Minnie" Van Nostrand (1851–1938) married Leander Jay Young (1846–1937) on October 18, 1871 (Gertrude A. Barber, compiler, "Marriages of Suffolk County, N.Y. Taken from the 'Republican Watchman': A Newspaper Published at Greenport, N.Y. Years 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1876," [1950], 1:3, http://longislandgenealogy.com/MarriagesofSuffolk.pdf). For Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's annoyance during the Van Nostrands' visit and her relief at their expected departure, see her September 28, 1871 and October 5, 1871 letters to Walt Whitman. [back]

9. George Washington Whitman married Louisa Orr Haslam (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," in spring 1871, and they were soon living at 322 Stevens Street in Camden. At the insistence of George and his brother Thomas Jefferson 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. [back]

10. Charles Hine (1827–1871), an artist, had died on July 31, 1871, only days after a visit by Walt Whitman. Julia Hine indicated her plan to visit Walt's mother in Brooklyn in an August 4, 1871 letter to Walt. After Julia Hine's earlier visit, Louisa wished she had been able to give her money (see Louisa's August 22, 1871 letter to Walt).

Charles Hine's painting of the poet was the model for the engraving that became the frontispiece for Leaves of Grass in 1860 (see Walt Whitman's July 14, 1871 letter to Charles Hine, The Correspondence, ed. Ted Genoways [Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004], 7:31; and see Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650–1934 [Salt Lake City: FamilySearch, 2009]). [back]


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