Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [5 September 1865]

Date: September 5, 1865

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00440

Source: The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, 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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "5 Sept 1865," is in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke.

Contributors to digital file: Zachary King, Elizabeth Lorang, Wesley Raabe, and Felicia Wetzig

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tuesday afternoon1

well Walt

i have arrived at last to Burlington and found hanna2 quite as well and better than i expected she is quite smart around but has a half grown girl comes every day and does up the work so she gets along in that respect and appear to have any quantity of eateatibles but the same Char H is here) very clever i stood the journey much better than i expected george3 came with me to troy4 and went back by the boat from albany i got up yesterday before 4 Oclock and started between 5 or 6 we got a carriage we had to come to 30th street I was very tired but feel quite smart to day i got in or george put me in a car at troy and i dident get out till i got here about 8 oclock there was a gentleman in the cars that said he would see to getting me a carriage i was just giving the man my check for my valice i thought i would take that with me when Charley came up so i got along very well it is about three quarters of a mile from the depo han was all cut and dried and supper all ready every thing very good

they have a very nice place indeed it looks as if their might be comfort but such is life) i expect i shall have a dreadful time to ever get away han was so disappointed Georg dident come she had a plate set for him i hope i shant get home sick i want to see the young ones poor Hattee5 how she did cry when i come away Eddy6 come over to the depo sat on the box with the driver every thing is very dry almost burning up but the lake looks very fine the house stands back from the street with a very beautifull flower garden in front i hope you are well Walt and if you want Jeff to send that package of papers you must write to him you must write some time this week if you can7 no more this time

your mother


1. Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the date September 5, 1865. Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:377). In this letter, written "tuesday afternoon,"Louisa Van Velsor Whitman describes the trip that she completed "yesterday," from her home in Brooklyn, New York, to Burlington, Vermont, to visit her daughter Hannah (Whitman) Heyde. In his letter of September 11, 1865, Thomas Jefferson Whitman reported that "Mother left last Monday," so this letter dates to September 5, 1865. [back]

2. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908), the youngest daughter of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., resided in Burlington, Vermont, with husband Charles L. Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter. Charles was infamous among the Whitmans for his often offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. According to Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman's July 16, 1865 letter, the reason for Louisa's visit to Hannah in September 1865 was that she and her husband had quarreled about "some women that Heyde had in his room." Louisa had told Jeff that she intended to "bring Han home," a suggestion that Jeff ridiculed. Jeff insisted that Louisa's visit to Hannah be delayed until George Washington Whitman could accompany her, but Jeff eventually reconciled himself to Louisa's visit to Hannah in Burlington (see his September 11, 1865 letter to Walt). [back]

3. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and remained on active duty until the end of the Civil War. George was available to accompany Louisa on her trip because he had just begun his post-war housebuilding business. According to Louisa's August 8, 1865 letter, after being mustered out of the army George considered journey work (day labor) and starting his own business. Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman recommended the latter but may have encouraged his own supervisor Moses Lane to offer George a position with the Brooklyn Water Works (see Jeff's September 11, 1865 letter to Walt). George in July began building houses on speculation, with a partner named Smith and later a mason named French. George eventually took up a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. During the war, he was wounded in the First Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862) and was taken prisoner during the Battle of Poplar Grove (September 1864). For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

4. Troy is located just north of Albany, New York, on the Hudson River. [back]

5. Manahatta Whitman (1860–1886), known as "Hattie," was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. Hattie, who lived most of the first seven years of her life in the same home with Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, was especially close to her grandmother. Hattie and her younger sister Jessie Louisa (1863–1957) were both favorites of their uncle Walt. [back]

6. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death. Eddy remained in Brooklyn during Louisa's visit to Burlington under the care of Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman, Jeff's wife, with whom Louisa and Eddy lived in the Portland Avenue home. George and his wife Louisa Orr Haslam cared for Eddy after Louisa's death, with financial support from Walt Whitman. [back]

7. 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 name. The letter in which Walt Whitman requested papers, possibly related to Drum-Taps, is not extant. Jeff Whitman reported that he "sent the bundle" in his September 16, 1865 letter. For more on Jeff, see "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)." [back]

8. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt Whitman was the second. For more information on Louisa and her letters, see Wesley Raabe, "'walter dear': The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt" and Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]


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