Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 10–13 July 1868

Date: July 10–13, 1868

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00651

Source: The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:36–37. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad

Attorney General's Office,
Friday afternoon,
July 10, 1868.

Dearest mother,

I rec'd your letter this morning. It is too bad you don't get my letters Tuesday, as I send them in ample time Monday—they are in the p. o. here by noon, & the mail don't close till about 6 p. m.—then the letters get in New York by ½ past 5 Tuesday morning—

We have had very hot weather—I thought about you—it is quite oppressive on me this summer—still I get along quite well—get along pretty well nights—but every time the middle of the summer comes round, I think I will never stay through another summer in Washington, if I can help it—

Saturday noon11th—We are having a very hot day—How do you all like the nomination of Seymour and Blair?1 It is a regular old Copperhead Democratic ticket, of the rankest kind—probably pleases the old democratic bummers around New York and Brooklyn—but every where else they take it like a bad dose of medicine—the democrats are dissatisfied here, the worst kind—

O'Connors have had quite a serious falling out with Mrs. Burroughs2—John is away yet—may call upon you on his way home.3 Mrs. B. is a curious woman—but has been very kind to me—Of course you mustn't let on that you know any thing—only you might mention to him that I often write about the wife's & his kindness to me—but probably it is doubtful if he calls—

Mother, I am sitting here by my window in the office—I dont have the smell of any streets or gutters—but it is burning hot, & hardly any air stirring—fortunately we have moderate nights—& so I manage to get along—

It still keeps hot, & no rain—I was up at O'Connor's a while last evening—Ellen O'Connor is quite sick—has a bad attack of dysentery—the rest are all well—

Nothing decided yet about who shall be attorney General4—every thing goes on as usual in the office—

Well, mother, I must close—it is now a little after 10—there is a pleasant breeze blowing in from the river, quite refreshing—Good by for the present, & love to you & all, mother dear.



1. Whitman refers to Horatio Seymour (1810–1886), former governor of New York, and Montgomery Blair (1813–1883), Postmaster General in Lincoln's administration. [back]

2. In January 1868, William Douglas and Ellen O'Connor occupied rented rooms in John and Ursula Burroughs' new house; see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 391. On March 13, 1868, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman asked Walt Whitman about Ursula North Burroughs (1836–1917): "how does mrs Oconor and she get along. mrs. Oconor thought they would not perhaps." Louisa Van Velsor Whitman alluded to the rift between the O'Connors and the Burroughs on August 19, 1868: "i suppose it makes you feel awkard to go to Mr Oconors , their not being friendly and you being friendly to both but when they [the O'Connors] move it will be different. its very disagreable to live in one house and not be on speaking terms." [back]

3. According to Clara Barrus, John Burroughs visited Louisa Van Velsor Whitman in late June 1868 (Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1931], 57). [back]

4. Orville Hickman Browning was still acting Attorney General. [back]


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