Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 30 October [1867]

Date: October 30, 1867

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00507

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 notes: The annotation, "30 Oct 67," is in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke. An image of the verso of the leaf is not currently available. The verso is blank.

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

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i2 have got the letter and 5 all safe3 this time i began to feel uneasy but it all right4 i think walt if you put them in the post office yourself they will come safe it is very strange about the other i dont know how to live here this winter there is two families up stairs5 the dirtiest and every thing else that can be picted up i am about the same walter i dont feel any worse and sometimes i feel better i am taking the medicine yet6

mat7 is here and sis8 they are well she has got a letter from Jeff9 i will write all about every thing next time walter dear i will be glad to get Oconers book10 walt doo you take the eagle this is out of it11

good bie


1. This letter dates to October 30, 1867. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated the letter only "wensday," and Richard Maurice Bucke later assigned the date of October 30, 1867. Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:378). October 30 fell on a Wednesday in 1867. The letter's concerns are consistent with Louisa's October 22, 1867 and November 19, 1867 letters to Walt Whitman, and a brief notice on Walt Whitman in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle also corresponds to the date. [back]

2. 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]

3. Walt Whitman's October 29?, 1867 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman is not extant. [back]

4. Walt Whitman's October 15?, 1867 letter with ten dollars enclosed went missing (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's October 22, 1867 letter to Walt). [back]

5. The names of the "families up stairs" have not been identified. [back]

6. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman hoped that the prescribed medicine would improve her appetite (see her October 22, 1867 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]

7. 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. Mattie suffered a throat ailment that would lead to her death in 1873. For more on Mattie, see Randall H. Waldron, "Whitman, Martha ("Mattie") Mitchell (1836–1873)," ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). See also Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman (New York: New York University Press, 1977), 1–26. [back]

8. 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]

9. 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]

10. The book may be William D. O'Connor's The Ghost (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1867). For a time Walt Whitman lived with William D. and Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor, who, with Charles Eldridge and later John Burroughs, were to be his close associates during the Washington years. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the pro-Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet" in 1866. Nelly O'Connor had a close personal relationship with Whitman, and the correspondence between Walt and Nelly is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)." [back]

11. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle printed this brief note: "Walt Whitman is about to answer [Thomas] Carlyle's last anti-democratic screed" ("Topics of To-Day," October 29, 1867, 2). [back]


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