Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 22 October [1867]

Date: October 22, 1867

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00506

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, "22 Oct. 1867," is in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke.

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

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22 October1

Well Walter my dear

i have just received your welcome letter with the 10 dollers all safe this time any how but the lasts weeks one is gone shure i wouldent be so worried for a trifle i tell you i have surmised every thing that was possible for an old granny to summise i have read over the last letter you sent the 8th2 every hour or so) i had ought to have got this yesterday but i was thankfull to get it to day where doo you have an idea the letter and money was taken i am inclined somewhat to think it never com[e?] to brooklyn but somebody got it O walt if you had only come last week but you must come about cristmas3 any how i thought you was sick and i fretted but its all past now and i think i wont be so foolish again but i suppose i should if any thing of the kind occured the Doctor has just been in to see me he says if this medicine dont help me he dont know as any thing will sometimes i think it will help me my appetite is better and i feel stronger than i did before i took it) matty4 and sis5 is here as usual hattie6 goes to school and improves very much in her studies and looks matt has just had a letter from Jeff7 he dont say when he shall come but i suppose when he can) have you heard from the galaxy man8 how he feels about it if it meets his approbation i dont know as you can spell out this letter Walter write all about every thing you can think of

good bie walter dear


1. This letter dates to October 22, 1867. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated this letter "22 October," and Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the year 1867. Bucke's date is correct because the letter asks about the publication of Walt Whitman's article "Democracy" in the Galaxy and discusses Louisa's anxiety about Walt's health—"thought you was sick" (see also her October 20, 1867 letter to Walt). [back]

2. The letter that Walt Whitman sent on October 8, 1867 is not extant, but he may have reported to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman his recent completion of the essay "Democracy" for the Galaxy. In her October 20, 1867 letter, she referred to the letter that she received from Walt, which is undoubtedly the same as "your last the 9th." The one-day discrepancy (her 8th and 9th) is because the letter was sent by Walt on October 8 and received by Louisa on October 9. [back]

3. The word is "c[h]ristmas," but Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote the letters "crist" over the first five letters of the holiday that precedes Christmas, Thanksgiving, which President Andrew Johnson proclaimed would be held on Thursday, November 28, 1867. Walt Whitman made a visit to Brooklyn a few days after this letter. In his October 28, 1867 letter to Alfred Pratt, Whitman wrote that he had "been home to Brooklyn, N. Y., on a visit to my mother." [back]

4. Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873), known as "Mattie," was the wife of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother. She and Jeff had two daughters, Manahatta and Jessie Louisa. In 1868, Mattie and her daughters moved to St. Louis to join Jeff, who had moved there in 1867 to assume the position of Superintendent of Water Works. For more on Mattie, see Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman (New York: New York University Press, 1977), 1–26. [back]

5. The nickname "Sis" refers to Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957), the daughter of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. Jessie and her sister Manahatta "Hattie" were both favorites of their uncle Walt. The nickname "Sis" was given first to Manahatta but was passed to her younger sister Jessie Louisa when Manahatta became "Hattie." [back]

6. 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]

7. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was the son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and Walt Whitman's favorite brother. In early adulthood he worked as a surveyor and topographical engineer. In the 1850s he began working for the Brooklyn Water Works, at which he remained employed through the Civil War. In 1867 Jeff became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and became a nationally recognized name in civil engineering. For more on Jeff, see "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)." [back]

8. Though the letter that Walt Whitman sent to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman on October 8, 1867 is not extant (see Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:370), he may have reported to his mother his recent completion of the essay "Democracy" (Galaxy 4 [December 1867], 919–933). "Democracy" is reprinted in Democratic Vistas (1871). Whitman announced the completion of "Democracy" to Francis P. Church and William C. Church in his October 13, 1867 letter and promised to forward the manuscript the following week. [back]

9. 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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