Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 14 November [1865]

Date: November 14, 1865

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00464

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, "1865 November 14," is in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke.

Contributors to digital file: Cathy Tisch, Felicia Wetzig, Wesley Raabe, and Elizabeth Lorang

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tuesday noon Nv 141

My dear Walt

i have waited and waited to hear from you and have got no word from you since you left2 which seems so strang[e?] that i feel quite uneasy for fear something is the matter i may get a letter this afternoon but i cant conceeve why i have not heard from you you are so promt to write and i wanted so to hear of your safe arrival it is very warm here to day uncomfortably so Edd3 has been quite sick with his eye and face all swoln up so he could not see

he has taken some medicine and is some better to day Walt wher[e?] is all the Drum taps we have looked all over for one or two i thought you left some up stairs but cant find one4 i had one of the first ones on the table here and i cant find it i used to read some in it almost every night before i went to [Bed?] you must write just as quick as you get this no more but w[rite?]5

your mothe[r?]
L Wh[itman?]6

did you get the paper the new yorker7


1. This letter dates to the year 1865, the year in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke. Clarence Gohdes and Rollo G. Silver agreed with Bucke's date (Faint Clews & Indirections: Manuscripts of Walt Whitman and His Family [Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1949], 192), and Edwin Haviland Miller cited Gohdes and Silver's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:377). Based both on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's anxiety about not having received a letter since Walt's departure (November 7?) to Washington and on her reference to multiple copies of Drum-Taps, the letter dates November 14, 1865. [back]

2. Walt Whitman in an October 29, 1865 letter to Andrew Kerr, a clerk in the Attorney General's office, stated his intent to "vote here [Brooklyn] early Tuesday forenoon & then start immediately for Washington." But he also offered to return to Washington earlier if requested. Even if Walt left as planned on Tuesday, November 7, election day, and no earlier, he was unusually late in writing after his return to Washington. Though no Whitman letters from late December or January 1865 are extant, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman acknowledged a letter from Walt in her December 10, 1865 letter. [back]

3. 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. During Louisa's final illness, Eddy was taken under the care of George Washington Whitman and his wife, Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman, with financial support from Walt Whitman. [back]

4. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman during the summer had told Walt Whitman that she had received "5 books," copies of Drum-Taps, from printer Peter Eckler (see her June 3, 1865 letter to Walt). Those five books are presumably the "first ones" that she mentions in this letter. Walt had inquired "whether you got the package of 5 Drum-Taps" about a week before her June letter (see his May 25, 1865 letter to Louisa). Drum-Taps, a series of poems about Walt Whitman's Civil War experience, was published in 1865. It was later integrated into the 1867 Leaves of Grass and later editions. See "Drum-Taps (1865)." For details on the printing history and organization of Drum-Taps, see Ted Genoways, "The Disorder of Drum-Taps," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 24 (Fall 2006/Winter 2007), 98–116. [back]

5. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman presumably intended the word "w[rite?]" but omitted all letters after the "w" because she had reached the margin of the page. The word is a request for Walt to write. The editors Gohdes and Silver transcribed the word as "see [?]" (Faint Clews & Indirections: Manuscripts of Walt Whitman and His Family [Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1949], 92). [back]

6. 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]

7. A large number of newspapers were published under the title "New Yorker." The New Yorker to which the letter refers is not obvious. Possible English-language titles published in 1865 include the Central New Yorker of Syracuse, New York; the Western New Yorker of Perry, New York; Moore's Rural New Yorker of Rochester, New York; or the Carthage Republican and Northern New Yorker of Carthage, New York. [back]


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