Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Thomas Jefferson Whitman, 1 April 1860

Date: April 1, 1860

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:50-51. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Walt Whitman House, Camden

Whitman Archive ID: wwh.00002

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson




Boston,
Sunday night, | April 1st.

Dear Brother,

I have just finished a letter to mother, and while my hand is in, I will write you a line. I enclose in my letter to Mother, a note from Hyde1—nothing at all in it, except that Han is well, and comfortably situated—I have not heard a word from home since I left—write me a few words, Jeff, if mother does not,2 and let me know how you all are, and whether you have took the house or given it up.3 I suppose of course if every thing was not going on pretty much as usual, some of you would have written to tell me.

I am having a tolerable fair time here in Boston—not quite enough to occupy me—only two or three hours work a day, reading proof. Still, I am so satisfied at the certainty of having "Leaves of Grass," in a far more complete and favorable form than before, printed and really published, that I don't mind small things. The book will be a very handsome specimen of typography, paper, binding, &c.—and will be, it seems to me, like relieving me of a great weight—or removing a great obstacle that has been in my way for the last three years. The young men that are publishing it treat me in a way I could not wish to have better. They are go-ahead fellows, and don't seem to have the least doubt they are bound to make a good spec. out of my book. It is quite curious, all this should spring up so suddenly, aint it.4

I am very well, and hold my own about as usual. I am stopping at a lodging house, have a very nice room, gas, water, good American folks keep it—I pay $2—eat at restaurant. I get up in the morning, give myself a good wash all over, and currying—then take a walk, often in the Common—then nothing but a cup of coffee generally for my breakfast—then to the stereotype foundry. About 12 I take a walk, and at 2, a good dinner. Not much else, in the way of eating, except that meal.

If I have any thing to communicate, dear brother, I shall write again.


Walt. Care of Thayer & Eldridge | 116 Washington st | Boston | Mass.


Notes:

1. Charles Heyde, a landscape painter, was the husband of Hannah Louisa Whitman, Whitman's younger sister. They married in 1852 and lived in Vermont. That there was "nothing at all" in Heyde's letter probably came as a surprise to the Whitmans, since ordinarily he bewailed his lot and disparaged his wife and her erratic behavior. (Heyde was still in a genial mood when he wrote again on May 18, 1860, to Whitman. Hannah lived in fear of her husband's letters, for he evidently threatened, or so Hannah imagined, to write candidly to her family. On July 21, 1861, for example, Hannah wrote to her mother: "Charlie has taken the greatest aversion to me, no matter what I do it is wrong. I know I should hide his faults. I do feel sensitive about it, no one knows how much so, but I must tell some little things for Charlie said he should write such a letter home that he thought some of you would come after me" (The Library of Congress). [back]

2. Whitman had not received his mother's letter of March 30, 1861 (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library), in which she reported that Andrew was recovering from an illness, "made worse," according to Jeff in a letter dated April 3, 1860, "by an ignorent Dr. and those around him." Louisa Van Velsor Whitman observed that "poor nance . . . looks as she was almost done over," and that "Jess has got to work in the navy yard again." She also requested "5 dollars the first of next month to help toward the rent." [back]

3. In his reply on April 3, 1863, Jeff wrote: "Mother has taken the house and rented the lower part to a Mr 'John Brown' @ $14 per month". The Browns lived for five years with the Whitmans on Portland Avenue, Brooklyn. He was a tailor. Relations between the two families were sometimes strained; see Whitman's letter from March 22, 1864 . On June 3, 1865, Mrs. Whitman informed her son that she was glad to move away from the Browns (Trent Collection). [back]

4. Of the forthcoming Leaves of Grass, Jeff wrote on April 3, 1860: "I quite long for it to make its appearence. What jolly times we will have reading the notices of it won't we, you must expect the 'Yam Yam Yam' writer to give you a dig as often as possible." [back]


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