Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Orr Whitman, 19 November 1888

Date: November 19, 1888

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 235. 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.00591

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
noon Nov: 19 '881

Dear Lou

I continue getting along pretty well considering—Eat my rations & sleep fairly—(the Graham biscuits taste good—have them most every meal—I only take two meals daily)—the publisher got an order for 250 copies Nov: Boughs yesterday from Scotland2—the enclosed (I send to George)3 was forwarded to me by Capt. Wright4—(I don't know what he wants George's address for—have not written myself)—Coolish, dark, rainy here to-day—I am sitting here yet by the stove in my sick room. The big book (all my writings collected complete)5 will be done in ab't a fortnight—I shall send you one—


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Walt's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. Their son, Walter Orr Whitman, was born in 1875 but died the following year. A second son was stillborn. Walt lived in Camden, New Jersey, with George and Louisa from 1873 until 1884, when George and Louisa moved to a farm outside of Camden and Whitman decided to stay in the city. Louisa and Walt had a warm relationship during the poet's final decades. For more, see Karen Wolfe, "Whitman, Louisa Orr Haslam (Mrs. George) (1842–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Mrs: Louisa Whitman | Burlington | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Nov 19 | 8 PM | 88. [back]

2. Alexander Gardner was the publisher (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, November 17, 1888). See also Whitman's December, 3–4, 1888, letter to William Sloane Kennedy, John Burroughs, William Douglas O'Connor, and Richard Maurice Bucke. [back]

3. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted 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). As a Civil War correspondent, Walt wrote warmly about George's service, such as in "Our Brooklyn Boys in the War" (January 5, 1863); "A Brooklyn Soldier, and a Noble One" (January 19, 1865); "Return of a Brooklyn Veteran" (March 12, 1865); and "Our Veterans Mustering Out" (August 5, 1865). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with partner Mr. Smith and later a mason named French. George also took a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. Walt and George lived together for several years in Camden, but when Walt decided not to move with George and his wife Louisa in 1884, a rift occurred that was ultimately not mended before Walt's 1892 death. For more information on George Washington Whitman, see Martin G. Murray, "Whitman, George Washington," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Possibly Colonel John Gibson Wright, the commanding officer of George's regiment during the war. See footnote 4 in Whitman's September 11, 1864, letter to Ellen M. O'Connor. See also his May 25, 1865, letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. [back]

5. Whitman wanted to publish a "big book" that included all of his writings, and, with the help of Horace Traubel, he made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. The book was published in December 1888. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom's Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [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.