Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Charles L. Heyde to Walt Whitman, 29 July [1891]

Date: July 29, [1891]

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00485

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, Cristin Noonan, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock



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Studio
July 29. [91]1

Our beloved Brother Walt.

Your note with magazine was duly recd—2 dollars—also—when the postman came, Han2 was prostrate on the floor, unable to help herself—her symptoms were very much worse—dark red urine. I assisted her up stairs to her bed—when she again regretted not having had the mattrass made over—but it can be taken away at 8 o'clock and returned at 4 ½ complete as new—for 5.50—I had so arranged it. Dr3 has not yet been to see her to day—he says that he is busy until midnight sometimes, be he will no doubt be in by evening. O 'Walt'! How dreadfull she looks—[wan?] and allmost entirely help[less] her thin gray—allmost white hair. Could Lou4 bu[t] understand this, I know she would hasten—allmost fly to see her—assist her—

I am now quite old, and break down at times—nervous and exhauste[d]

O! communicate with George5 about her. He might come on himse[lf]

Dear, trusty friend of ours dear Walt—I cannot fully expres[s] my gratitude to you— Good old Mother Whitma[n's]6 voice, comes to me, from th[e] spirit land. I hear it! O! Charlie!

Dont ever give u[p]
Charlie


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. The year for this letter, "91," has been added to the dateline, probably by the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke. [back]

2. 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]

3. Dr. Leroy Monroe Bingham (1845–1910) graduated from Bellevue Medical College in New York in 1870 and moved to Burlington, Vermont, in 1874. He became Hannah's physician after 1882. For more information, see William B. Atkinson, M.D., The Physicians and Surgeons of the United States (Philadelphia: Charles Robson, 1878), 375. [back]

4. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Walt's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. Their son, Walter Orr Whitman, was born in 1875 but died the following year. A second son was stillborn. Walt lived in Camden, New Jersey, with George and Louisa from 1873 until 1884, when George and Louisa moved to a farm outside of Camden and Whitman decided to stay in the city. Louisa and Walt had a warm relationship during the poet's final decades. For more, see Karen Wolfe, "Whitman, Louisa Orr Haslam (Mrs. George) (1842–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. 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 several years 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]

6. 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]


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