Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Charles L. Heyde to Walt Whitman, 14 October 18[84]

Date: October 14, 18[84]

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00395

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. 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: Marie Ernster, Amanda J. Axley, Stephanie Blalock, and Paige Wilkinson

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3

Burlington Vermont
Octo 14, 18841


This will inform that Han2 has not regained [h]er health proportionately with [m]ine as we had anticipated. She goes about the house [v]ery slowly; finds difficulty in getting up stairs to her bedroom at night: is not able [illegible] dress herself or lift any weight. She is very much changed—[c]annot endure much visitation [illegible] talking. When the weather [w]as fine she could sit on the [s]outhern doorstep, inhaling [t]he invigorating air, and warming herself in the bright, southern [s]un: but the season is passing [a]nd the chill damp atmosphere precludes her this restorative. She is doing long neglected repairs to clothing, stealthily [like?]. Yet she sleeps well, has a be[d] and large room to herself which she needs. She says that she never before slept on such a bed made up as I make it for her: Her appetit[e] is fair. I do the cooking, an[d] even the washing. It is over fou[r] months since I had used the [brush?] more that a couple hours a week. My condition is drawing genera[l] attention, and the old querie is asked me; "has she no [friend?"?] She designed to write to George3 soliciting 20 dollars, or she though[t] you could make up the amoun[t] among you. She needs some necessaries, winter comeing . She experiences the chilly weather greatly. She is ever mentioning yourself: with her accustomed affectionate devotion. George might do something, and even Jeff4 [illegible] trifle. She worked very [h]ard to entertain the girls,5 [a]nd yet they never invited her to make them a visit. Respecting public opinion of my services toward her, a neighbour of twenty years lately remarked, "That is was well she had so good and faithfull a man to take care of her, and she should have added, so enduring.

I receive Progress regularly also Philada Sunday Press, which I have subscribed for. Progress published a paper mine and sent me a copy with thanks.

Howard6 of the Press is a man, journalist for these times. I may write to him. Write to Han.

C. L. Heyde

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).


1. The "84" of "1884" is written in red ink, perhaps in another hand. [back]

2. Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde (1823–1908) was the fourth child of Walter and Louisa Whitman and Walt Whitman's youngest sister. Hannah was named for her paternal grandmother, Hannah Brush Whitman (1753–1834), and her mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873). Although Walt Whitman had a close relationship with his younger brother Jeff Whitman, Hannah was his favorite, most beloved sibling. Until she married, Hannah lived at home with her parents and her brothers. Educated at the Hempstead Academy, Hannah taught school in rural Long Island. On March 23, 1852, Hannah married Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a landscape painter. It is possible that Walt introduced Hannah to Charles. In August 1852 the Heydes departed for Vermont. The first decade of their marriage was marked by constant moving from boarding houses to hotels, mostly in rural Vermont, as Heyde sought out vantage points for his landscape paintings. In 1864 the Heydes settled in Burlington, purchasing a house on Pearl Street. After Hannah's marriage and relocation to Vermont, Mother Whitman became Hannah's faithful correspondent; Walt also kept in touch, sending letters and editions of Leaves of Grass after publication. Hannah faced several health crises during her marriage, partly due to the ongoing trauma of emotional, verbal, and physical intimate partner violence that she experienced. In the 1880s and 1890s Heyde increasingly had difficulty earning enough to cover household expenses; in addition, he may have become an alcoholic. He repeatedly asked Whitman for funds to cover their expenses. Whitman sent both Heyde and Hannah small amounts of money. After Heyde died in 1892, Hannah remained in Burlington, living in their house on Pearl Street until her death in 1908. For more information, see Paula K. Garrett, "Whitman (Heyde), Hannah Louisa (d. 1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [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 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]

4. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized figure. For more on Jeff, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. The "girls" are Manahatta "Hattie" (1860–1886) and Jessie Louisa "Sis" Whitman (1863–1957), the daughters of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman. Hattie and Jessie were both favorites of their uncle Walt. [back]

6. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.