Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 13–17 August 1868

Date: August 13–August17, 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), 2:38–39. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia

Whitman Archive ID: uva.00352

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

Attorney General's Office,
Thursday noon,
Aug. 13, 1868.

Dearest mother,

Your letter has come this morning—I always read it through, & then in the afternoon read it through a second time—every little item is interesting—poor Mat, she has indeed had a narrow escape1—to think how it might have happened by another hair's breadth—We are having beautiful weather here—quite cool, except in the middle of the day—I am feeling well as usual—nothing special or new in the office—all seems to go on smoothly—Mr. Evarts2 is here—Ashton3 has gone to New York for a few days—I have just sent off quite a batch of letters to Hannah—

Saturday 15th—I took a sail down to Alexandria yesterday—it is six or eight miles—you go down in a steamer, something like the Brooklyn ferry boats—& to-day I have just been out for nearly two hours—so you see I am not confined very closely—We have not much to do in the office—It is beautiful weather again to-day, cool enough, and I feel very well—It is probable that I shall not take my leave of absence for a few weeks yet—I will send you good word—

There are a great many clerks dismissed, from the Treasury, War & other Departments—several hundreds—& more to be dismissed—it makes a good deal of distress—many have families—as far as appears at present, I expect to stay on as usual—

It is now about one o'clock—a cool breeze is blowing in from the river—Mother dear, I hope you are feeling well to-day, & every thing is going smoothly—I hope George is well, & having good times—I suppose the house must be most finished—You must tell me all about it, when you write4

Sunday forenoon—16th—I am sitting here by myself in the office—it is warm, but pleasant—It is pretty dull here in Washington now that Congress is away—

Afternoon—½ past 3—We have had a hot day so far—had a good dinner—good roast beef & apple pie—had company to dinner—I have come around to the office to sit in quiet awhile, by my big open window—nice old window—I have spent so many quiet comfortable hours by it, I shall be sorry enough when I leave it—I never get tired looking out, there is river & hills & gardens & trees—can see ten or twelve miles—& boats sailing—I am going up to O'Connors towards 7 o'clock as usual—I am working at my leisure on my little book5—I dont know whether I have spoken of it before—in prose—those pieces in the Galaxy form portions of it—it is on political & literary subjects—It is a real pleasure to me—the new edition of Leaves of Grass is all ready fixed—so I don't bother with it any more—

Monday forenoonAug 17—Well, Mother, I will close up my letter, & send it off to-day—I went out to O'Connors as usual last evening & staid till after 11 o'clock—They have got another house, & move in about a month—We are all quite busy to-day in the office—Mr. Evarts & Ashton are both here now, & we have to fly around—Well I enjoy it just as well when I am busy during office hours, or rather I like it better—the pleasant weather continues—we need rain—dear mother, how are you getting along, & how is the rheumatism?

Love to you & all.


1. The letters describing Martha's accident are evidently lost; probably Walt Whitman sent them to Hannah. On August 10, 1868, Jeff wrote to George: "Mat is pretty bad yet, can just get around a little—very lame—but I think 'twill get away in a week or two" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

2. William Maxwell Evarts (1818–1901) was chief counsel for Andrew Johnson during the impeachment trial of 1868. As a reward for his services, Johnson appointed Evarts Attorney General later in the year; Evarts was Secretary of State from 1877 to 1881 and U.S. Senator from New York from 1885 to 1891. [back]

3. J. Hubley Ashton, the assistant Attorney General, actively interested himself in Walt Whitman's affairs, and obtained a position for the poet in his office after the Harlan fracas. [back]

4. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman replied on August 19, 1868, that she expected to move into the new house on October 1, 1868. [back]

5. Democratic Vistas, which was printed in 1871. [back]


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