Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [13–18 May 1868]

Date: May 13–18, 1868

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.00176

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



page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4



My dear Walt1

i2 received your letter and money and the chigacago news3 all safe and sound on tuesday4 i suppose you see in the papers of the suspension of roberts the postmaster his being short in his returns5 i believe is the cause of his suspension it seems hard to get honest people in the post offices the very place of all others that ought to be honest men but i have been very luckey lately have not lost any letter or money since the 5) sometimes i think they must have wrote to me from st lo[us?] and the letter has been taken but i dont know that they have written to me i have sent two letters to matty6 since i have got any from her mr Lane7 received one from Jeff8 last week i believ it was saying he was just about leaving for kentucky but i suppose he is home long before this) i must write to han again so as to stir up mr Heyde9 see if i get any more of his inteligent letters i should think it was almost time he blowed off again) well walt you washingtonians aint settled the president question10 yet i wish it was settled one way or the other Edd11 came up stairs yesterday towards evening before the eagle came the eagle came down stairs and the man i think is a democ[rat?] he said to Edd the radicals were all down or something to that affect so eddy came up like mad saying they had cleared the bugge[rs?] and he would never have any thing more to doo withe them i how doo you know he is clear he said it was in the eagle that it wou[ld?] be better to have no congress at all than to doo as they had it was quite amusing to see eddy is such a gale but when i got the paper i see how things were)12 well walt its storming again i suppose georgey13 will be home the poor man has to loose time but those that gets the most wages their time goes on george hasent been very well it is kind of bad work not reall work but it has been so wet and he has to get down in the pit to see to the cementing and he gets all mud sometimes and he dont favor himself much) well walter dear my paper is small i have plenty of paper but i thought i hadent much to write about this time so i wouldent take a whole sheet i dont get over my lamene[s?] yet but i make out to doo around what has got to be done)

mrs glover at east brooklyn14

good bie walter dear

i have since i wrote this letter got one from Jeff and one from Matty Jeff sent me a letter on the 28th on his return home with 10 dollars which i have never received15 and the letter man says i never will get it now he had a letter with him and read it to me that jeff had sent to the post office he said it made him feel very bad as it was on his rout but if the letter ever came to the brooklyn post office it was taken before it came to him i think it is too bad i dont think but what the carrier is perfectly honest he has carried letters for 10 years) he said to day their is lots of theiving somewhere he said if my son to st louis had sent a money order he would have got it for me with my signing my name i am very sorry i dident tell jeff to not send it in a letter he said he should send me some money when he returned i cant16 get it without any from the post office i wish they could have took it from somebody that dident want a new dress it was to get mamma a new gown never mind it might have been worse but its very provoking


Notes:

1. This letter dates to between May 13 and May 18, 1868. The executors did not date this letter, and Edwin Haviland Miller did not list it in his calendar of letters (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:366). The letter dates to the removal of Samuel H. Roberts as the Brooklyn postmaster, which was reported on May 12, 1868, and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman paraphrased the article on his removal. Louisa also acknowledged Walt's most recent letter (not extant) on Tuesday, probably May 12, 1868. Her references to the "president question," which may refer to the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson or to the expected nomination of Ulysses S. Grant as the Republican candidate at the Chicago Convention, corroborate the month and year but are too general to establish a particular date. [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. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman refers to the Illustrated Chicago News, a periodical published by A. M. Farnum and C. A. Church that began a brief run on April 24, 1868 (see Frank W. Scott and Edmund Janes James, ed., Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814–1879 [Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910], 92). [back]

4. Walt Whitman's May 11? or 18?, 1868 (Monday) letter is not extant. Edwin Haviland Miller did not list it among Walt's lost letters (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:361). [back]

5. Postmaster Samuel H. Roberts was removed from office and replaced by Joseph M. Simonson because the former "has been unpleasantly short, and for some reason has been unable to send forward the balances due the government" ("Removal of the Postmaster," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 12, 1868, 3).  [back]

6. 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.

Later, in a portion of her letter written the next day, Louisa acknowledged receipt of a letter from Mattie and one from Jeff. Neither letter is extant. Mattie in her June 8, 1868 letter wrote, "It is a long time since I wrote to you" (Waldron, 54). [back]

7. Moses Lane (1823–1882) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to 1869. He later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer. Lane helped to further the careers both of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman as an engineer and George Washington Whitman as a pipe inspector. That connection was especially useful for George's career: "jeff says as long as lane is in the [Brooklyn] water works georgey will be" (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's June 15 or 16, 1868 letter to Walt Whitman). Lane resigned as Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works in 1869, and he soon became City Engineer of Milwaukee ("Moses Lane," Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers [February 1882], 58).  [back]

8. 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]

9. Charles L. Heyde (1822–1892) a landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–190), Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's second daughter, and they lived in Burlington, Vermont. [back]

10. The "president question" was before the Chicago Republican Convention, which nominated Ulysses S. Grant. Though widely viewed as the only probable candidate, Grant had signaled his unwillingness to be nominated while the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson remained unresolved ("Gen. Grant Declares," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 13, 1868, 2). [back]

11. 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]

12. This passage can be clarified by recalling Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's political sympathies. Her loyalties were in part to Walt Whitman's employ in Washington under Republican presidential administrations, but she performed a complex act of mimicry. She dramatized for Walt in monologue form Edward "Eddy" Whitman's exchange (and his report of the exchange) with the unnamed Democrat. Eddy reported that the Democrat said, "the radicals were all down," a statement which apparently excited Eddy. Louisa repeated Eddy's report of the Democrat's words, and then she interrupted Eddy to seek clarification because she found Eddy's exasperation to be humorous. So "i how doo you know he is clear he said" could be rendered with formal punctuation and explanatory insertions as follows: "I [said], 'how do you know?' Eddy is clear [the democrat] said, 'it was in the eagle. . . .' It [Eddy's reaction] was quite amusing. . . ." Louisa derided often the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's boosterism for the Democratic party. [back]

13. 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]

14. The letter is cut off. The portion that concerns "mrs glover" is not present in the continuation of the letter. Above, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman indicated she was out of paper. She may also have abandoned the thought after acquiring paper to resume the letter.

Mrs. Glover cannot be positively identified. The Brooklyn Directory (1868) lists a "David K. Glover" as an engineer in East Brooklyn. She may have been a spouse or other acquaintance through Thomas Jefferson Whitman or George Washington Whitman at the Brooklyn Water Works. [back]

15. Thomas Jefferson Whitman's April 28, 1868 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman is not extant. [back]

16. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman may have written the word "cant" over "could." [back]


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.