Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [6 or 7 May 1873]

Date: May 6 or 7, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00631

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: An image of the verso of the leaf is not currently available. The verso is blank.

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

page image
image 1

My dear darling walter1

i2 got your letter yesterday and saturday3 i am midling to day have been not very well my head has been quite bad but i hope to get better walter dear i am glad you are better walter dont send any more papers as i cant read my head gets confused)4 i know its my nerves has got bad but i hope to get better of it in time

good bie my dear blessed son


1. This letter dates to May 6 or May 7, 1873. Edwin Haviland Miller dated the letter about May 9?, 1873 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:217, n. 75), but it is more likely to date two or three days earlier. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman instructed Walt Whitman to send no more papers. Walt had enclosed two newspapers with his May 7, 1873 letter, but he never again forwarded newspapers to his mother. The letter is unlikely to date to May 8, 1873 or later: "I shall feel anxious until I hear from you," Walt wrote in his May 11, 1873 letter to his mother. Had Walt received a letter a day or two before writing his, he would have been unlikely to express such concern. So this letter from Louisa probably dates before May 8, 1873. [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. The letter that Louisa received on Sunday or Monday, which Walt wrote on May 4 or May 5, 1873, is not extant. [back]

4. Walt had enclosed newspapers, including the Sunderland Times, an English newspaper, with his May 7, 1873 letter. Also see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's May 5–6, 1873 letter to Walt, in which the shortness of the letter and deficient handwriting suggest another and more serious episode followed. Louisa described the later episode, probably a stroke, the following week: "my head and my very brain has seemed to be affected" (see her May 13 or 14, 1873 letter to Walt). [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.