Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Charles L. Heyde to Walt Whitman, 10 October 1877

Date: October 10, 1877

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00393

Source: The Trent Collection of Walt Whitman Manuscripts, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. 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.

Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Vince Moran, Eder Jaramillo, and Nicole Gray

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Oct. 10 1877

Brother Walter

I would advise you to write to Han somewhat of an advising letter;1 what her prospects might be with her brother George:2 she has recieved very kind letters from his wife, inviting her to visit them.

The trouble I have with her [is?] past endurance: She invades my room, with such offensive [demeanoar?] at times, that I am forced to quit my painting and take to the street: and then she assumes jealousy, and during my absence ransacks my papers, trunks and portfolios for scraps of poetry, composition of a date that have past my memory, and these she brings forward and reads to me, and berates me with, applying them to some one individual or other, at the present time, whichever comes into her head; like one possessed by a very devil. I am driven from my bed at midnight, and to the outside, in the piazza, where I sometimes sit, for hours. I cannot submit to it any longer. She smells my coat, when I come home, my gloves, my handkerchief and declares that I have been abed somewhere: Of course I can go to the hotel, and it would occasion no surprise; The neighbours have become so familiar with Genl Henry, that they will have no communication [or?] intercourse, with her. Half my time is passed in gardening, and portions [illegible] the rest waiting upon her, from the grocery. A evening she goes out, in the rain and darkness and returns at bed time, with scandal stories, of sexual demoralisation—whoring truly, and she does not take the smallest interest or thought of how I am to mantain myself, Keep this shelter over her and the sheriff from fore-closing—she shows nothing but the most uncompromising vagaries—I have lived like a dog—and can prove it. She allway did have some mean provoking uncalled for scandalous reflection.

I am sorry to be compelled to give such a lamentable story. It would not appear well in print. She is identified with yourself [illegible] I shall do the best I can for her. I cannot afford to hire a studio away from the house—I have no support here scarcely—,

I am seriously thinking of returning to my former profession, in New York, but such circumstances [as?] I have narrated could only so greatly discourage me. I enclose some papers that she has just raked up, to give you a fair idea of my grievances and her vagaries.

CL Heyde


1. Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a French-born landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–1908), Walt Whitman's sister, and they lived in Burlington, Vermont. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. For more information about Heyde, see Steven Schroeder, "Heyde, Charles Louis (1822–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. 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 over a decade 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]


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