Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [13 or 14 May 1873]

Date: May 13 or 14, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00632

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, and Wesley Raabe

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My dear beloved son1

dont be worried about me2 i hope i shall be all right again my nervious system is very much out of order i know i have brought in on by worrying but i cant seem to get over it my head feels bad sometimes my rheumatics is better if i could be with you dear walt i would be glad it wasent right for me to come here to live

as things has not been as i could wish but i hope i shall get a better appetite some time as i have such trembling spels its all my nerves i know dont worry walter dear i hope your mother will get better if i could get away from here i would be glad george3 is good to me but he aint home much of his time

you must come on the 1 of the month


1. This letter dates to May 13 or 14, 1873. On an accompanying slip of paper held in the Trent Collection (not reproduced here), Richard Maurice Bucke dated this letter only "near the end," and Edwin Haviland Miller dated it May 12 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 219, n. 80). Because Walt Whitman acknowledged a letter from his mother on May 16, this letter dates to one or two days later than Miller's date. Walt acknowledged a Wednesday letter from his mother and a Thursday letter from Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman in his May 16, 1873 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. According to Walt, the "letter from Sister Lou written Thursday morning ... gives me great relief." In her May 15 letter (not extant) Louisa Orr had reported that "Sunday [May 11] was your worst day." If Walt received a letter written Thursday morning that described his mother's relief, it is unlikely that she had recovered enough from the Sunday (May 11) episode, presumably a stroke, to write on Monday. Walt most likely referred to this letter when he wrote "got your letter (Thursday)." Therefore, as Walt probably received this letter on Thursday, May 15, it dates to May 13 or May 14, 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. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in the Union Army 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). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with a partner named Smith and later a mason named French. George also took a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden, and he married Louisa Orr Haslam in spring 1871. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and son Edward moved from Brooklyn to reside with them in Camden in August 1872. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]


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