Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Charles L. Heyde to Walt Whitman, 8 July 1891

Date: July 8, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00484

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.

Contributors to digital file: Ethan Heusser, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock

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July 8. 1891

Our Brother—Friend truly

Your note / enclosing 2 dollars to Han1—directly rec'd.2 She is better, and resolute, but very attenuated—Dr3 has sent her a tonic (iron too much) she went to the corner and chatted with an old neighbour4 this morning—had a dinner of beefsteak—potates—cooks for herself——talks of you—when she shall write to you, to thank you for all years of tribute to her—mitigating pain, Would like to live near to you—could walk well enough to come to you—hard world this Walt. Who cares! Nobody—not one—

Gratefully Yours

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) 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]

2. Heyde is referring to Whitman's letter to Hannah Whitman Heyde of July 7, 1891[back]

3. Dr. Leroy Monroe Bingham (1845–1911) graduated from Bellevue Medical College in New York in 1870 and moved to Burlington, Vermont, in 1874. After the death of Dr. Samuel W. Thayer in 1882, Bingham became Hannah's doctor. According to the Vermont Medical Monthly, "From about 1878, for a period of 20 years, he was one of the most active and the best known surgeons in Vermont" (Volume 17, Issue 12 [December 15, 1911]), 306. For more information, see William B. Atkinson, M.D., The Physicians and Surgeons of the United States (Philadelphia: Charles Robson, 1878), 375. [back]

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


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