Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 28 April–4 May 1868

Date: April 28–May 4, 1868

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:30–32. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Walt Whitman Collection, 1842–1957, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania

Whitman Archive ID: upa.00159

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad




Attorney General's Office,
Washington
Tuesday afternoon
April 28, 1868

Dearest mother,

I have received your letter of Saturday 25th this morning, & glad to hear from you indeed—I suppose by this time you have rec'd the letter I sent yesterday 27th1—I sent you the Galaxy, but I see by your letter that George had already bought one. I have seen the piece in Thursday's Times2—John Swinton sent me one—so you can enclose it to Jeff—I have just received a letter from England, enclosing other notices, &c.—Mr. Conway is very friendly—but my friend Col. Hinton,3 (in his letter some weeks ago in the Rochester Express,) has given him, Conway, some pretty sharp cuts about his ridiculous anecdotes of me & you too4—Still Conway seems to mean all the good he can. But such descriptions of me as, "he was never known to smile or laugh," is altogether too jolly—dont you think so?



Well, mother, I will again write a few lines—I have been out most all the afternoon—went up first to the Impeachment trial, & heard Mr. Evarts5 speak a while, & then left, for it seemed too pleasant outdoors to stay in there—I took a long walk, & ride in the cars away out in the suburbs, & so back to dinner, & now this evening another walk—& have fetched in here at the office, to sit awhile, read the paper &c.—I received to-day another letter from old Mr. Alcott6—I sent him the Galaxy with "Personalism"—& he compliments me highly, & speaks of Mr. Emerson too & his friendliness to me—We have had a warm but very pleasant day—I am feeling very well—I only hope, dear mother, you are feeling well & in good spirits.



Mother, your letter of Wednesday, 29th, came this forenoon—it was too bad you didn't get mine Tuesday, as I put it in the P. O. myself Monday—So you are not going to move at present—I too remain in the same place, but have been going to move all winter & the spring too—I have been in the office all day to-day—all the rest of the clerks wanted to go up to the Impeachment trial, but I didn't care to go.

I have received another paper from England to-day, with a tremendous big favorable notice of my book, between three & four columns, one of the friendliest notices yet written.7 The English publisher of my book, Mr Hotten, sends them to me—

Saturday, noon—I am going off for the afternoon—Mr. Stanbery8 is to speak on the trial, & I may go in & hear him a few minutes, but I guess I shall spend my half-holiday mostly in jaunting around in the open air. Every thing begins to look like summer here—the trees are all green—we are having it pretty warm to-day, but a little hazy—it is now 12 o'clock—the noon-bell has just rung, & I am off for the rest of the day—Take good care of yourself, dear mother—

Sunday afternoon—Mother, you see I am determined to make you out a letter—I have been sitting here in the office all alone, fixing up my new piece9 for the Galaxy—for I have still another piece, besides those that have already appeared—Two have appeared, & now this is the third one, addressed to the literary classes—I want the Galaxy folks to print it in the July number, but they havn't sent me word yet whether they will or no. It is a pleasant day—we have had quite a rain storm yesterday afternoon & last night—I am going out at 6 o'clock to O'Connors to tea—Mother, I hope you are having a pleasant Sunday.



Well, I had a quiet, agreeable sort of Sunday—wrote & read most of the forenoon, & rambled out in the afternoon—& went up to O'Connor's in the evening—he had two or three others there, visitors—O'Connors & Burroughs's are very hospitable to me, the same as they always have been—they are almost the only places I go—I send you a couple of papers same mail with this—I am going to send the MS of my piece to the Galaxy to-day, as I have just rec'd a note from them by mail this morning10 —I suppose George is well, & busy—I should like to see you all. Love to you, dearest mother—I will write again next Monday.


Walt.


Notes:

1. This letter is apparently not extant. [back]

2. On April 23, 1868, "Monadnock" reported under "Affairs in England": "Of course you know that English and French critics admit but one American Poet. Bryant, Longfellow and the rest are only second and third rate English poets—the one American poet is Walt Whitman." The journalist quoted generously from the review of William Michael Rossetti's edition in the Leader by Edmund Yates (for Yates, see Walt Whitman's May 7, 1873 letter). In a dispatch "From Great Britain" in the New York Tribune on May 9, 1868, G. W. Smalley commented hostilely on the favorable review of Walt Whitman in the Athenaeum, and concluded: "Mr. Carlyle likens [Walt Whitman] to a buffalo, useful in fertilizing the soil, but mistaken in supposing that his contributions of that sort are matters which the world desires to contemplate closely." On May 20, 1868, O'Connor wrote to Rossetti to inquire about the authenticity of Carlyle's remarks; see William Michael Rossetti, Rossetti Papers (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1903), 355–356. [back]

3. Richard J. Hinton (1830–1901) was born in London and came to the U.S. in 1851. He trained as a printer, and, like James Redpath (with whom Walt Whitman corresponded on August 6, 1863), went to Kansas and joined John Brown. In fact, but for an accident he would have been with Brown at Harper's Ferry. A man mistaken for Hinton was hanged. With Redpath, Hinton was the author of Hand-book to Kansas Territory and the Rocky Mountains' Gold Region (1859). Later he wrote Rebel Invasion of Missouri and Kansas (1865) and John Brown and His Men (1894). Apparently Hinton had suggested that Thayer and Eldridge print Leaves of Grass; see The New Voice, 16 (4 February 1899), 2. Hinton served in the Union Army from 1861 to 1865, and saw Whitman while lying wounded in a hospital, a scene which he described in the Cincinnati Commercial on August 26, 1871. After the war Hinton wrote for many newspapers. He defended O'Connor's The Good Gray Poet in the Milwaukee Sentinel on February 9, 1866. Hinton's article in the Rochester Evening Express on March 7, 1868, was a lengthy account of Walt Whitman's "Fame and Fortunes in England and America," with quotations from O'Connor and Burroughs. Obviously pleased, Walt Whitman sent it to friends, including Rossetti, who acknowledged it on April 12, 1868. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906–1996), 2:396; William Sloane Kennedy, The Fight of a Book for the World (West Yarmouth, Massachusetts: Stonecroft Press, 1926), 19, 67, 110–111, 242; the Boston Transcript, December 21, 1901. [back]

4. Walt Whitman's friends could not forgive Conway the anecdotes he had related in his article in the Fortnightly Review; Whitman himself referred to Conway's article as "most ridiculous" in his November 13, 1866 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. [back]

5. William Maxwell Evarts (1818–1901) was chief counsel for Andrew Johnson during the impeachment trial. When Walt Whitman heard him, Evarts had just presented the opening arguments for the defense. As a reward for his services, Johnson appointed Evarts Attorney General later in the year; Whitman reported the news in his July 17, 1868 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. Evarts was Secretary of State from 1877 to 1881 and U.S. Senator from New York from 1885 to 1891. [back]

6. On May 5, 1868 Louisa Van Velsor Whitman replied: "poor old alcot he must be very old seems to me (you remember walt that sunday morning we couldent have him)." [back]

7. On April 21, 1868, John Camden Hotten informed Rossetti that he had just sent Walt Whitman "a most flattering review" by Charles Kent, the editor of The Sun (William Michael Rossetti, Rossetti Papers [New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1903], 351). [back]

8. According to the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle, Stanbery began his defense of Johnson on May 1 and concluded his address on May 2. [back]

9. The article, "Orbic Literature," was solicited in Walt Whitman's April 30, 1868 letter to William Conant Church and Francis Pharcellus Church but was not picked up for publication in the Galaxy[back]

10. On May 2, 1868, Francis P. Church advised that Walt Whitman's manuscript would have to be received by the end of the following week if the article were to appear in the July issue. [back]


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