Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Charles L. Heyde to Walt Whitman, 5 November, 1890

Date: November 5, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00454

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and 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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "5 Nov. '90," is in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke.

Contributors to digital file: Brandon James O'Neil, Ian Faith, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Studio, over Kitchen—

Fair day—windy however—lake rough—blustering. Han1 below doing domestic service—very much better in health— stronger, nervous somewhat—yet doing wonders, after her year of sore trial.

Recieved your imprint, or wonderfull compilation on classicaly poetic emanations [by] celebrities from times past, [by] all degrees. How true you wrote, that time composes, completes the understanding, qualifies the decree, as it were, finaly, justly of degrees, consumate excellence, superiority.

Yourself now Eminent: a Judge. You should have a liberal emolument, or price for this last, most complete production. I feel assured you will.

I remember Bryant.2 You once brought him to my studio in Brooklyn. I can imagine or recall him now, as he sat on the extreme end of my lounge—High Priest of Nature! Thanatopsis! Durand essayd to color the theme from his rather weak (never vain palette.) A failure. The grand old rocks, ancient as the sun! ["]very new rocks" wrote one critic. Cole might, could have portrayd it, with his dramatic power!3

And now Walt, I am moved practicaly, for ourselves, life's subsistence—our homestead for many years, consecrated in a measure by good mother Whitmans4 presence, years ago, for a brief so-journ—and by Yours—well known.5 Have on taxes yet 10 dollars, 1 years interest, 15 dollars.


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. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908), youngest sister of Walt Whitman, married Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a Pennsylvania-born landscape painter. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. Hannah and Charles Heyde lived in Burlington, Vermont. For more, 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]

2. William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878) was a famous poet and journalist who also served as the Editor-in-Chief of the New York Evening Post from 1828 to 1878. [back]

3. Heyde refers to New York landscape painters Asher Brown Durand (1796–1886) and Thomas Cole (1801–1848). Durand painted Landscape—Scene from "Thanatopsis," inspired by Bryant's poem in 1850. In 1849, Durand had painted Kindred Spirits, a dramatic landscape painting that portrayed both Bryant and Cole standing on a rock outcropping. [back]

4. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]

5. Whitman had visited Hannah and Charles Heyde in Burlington in June 1872, when he was invited to read a poem for the Dartmouth College graduation, an event that received a great deal of attention in the press. [back]


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