Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 23 September [1869]

Date: September 23, 1869

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00583

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, "—1869," is in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke.

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

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Septr 231

My dear walt

i2 suppose you have arrived safe to your place of business as i have not had any news i conclude you are all right i hope none of them disagreable spels has attacked you well walter we are all about the same as when you left George dident come the day you left3 he wrote to me friday 17th but i dident get it till monday 20th saying he would not be home till the 1 of the month i kept the light burning all night saturday night thinking he would come late but when i found he dident come i dident feel uneasy for i thought he couldent leave i had a few lines from Jeffy4 this week they seem to be pretty well he said he wished you would write to him i have not much to write about Walter dear but i thought i had so many envelopes i could afford to use one of the small ones i may not write next week if i get your letter all right as i shall be pretty busy i may if i have any thing of importance to write i doo hope you feel well walt you must write about the new clerk

old mrs turner next to where we used to live in this street died on the 205 is buried to morrow


1. This letter dates to September 23, 1869. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated the letter September 23, and Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the year 1869. Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's year (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:367). Bucke's year is corroborated by the letter's "old mrs turner" died; Margaret Turner at 120 Portland Avenue died on September 20, 1869. [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 departed Brooklyn to return to Washington on September 15 or 16 (see Walt Whitman's September 13, 1869 letter to his Washington friends). [back]

4. 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)."

Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman (1836–1873) 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 February 1873. 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. Margaret Turner (1791?–1869), resident at 120 Portland Avenue, is described in her obituary as the mother of Father Turner, the Vicar-General of the Brooklyn Diocese, and a long-time resident of the city ("Obituary," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 23, 1869, 2). The place "where we used to live" is the longtime Whitman home on Portland Avenue near Myrtle, in which Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had resided with Thomas Jefferson Whitman and family. [back]


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