Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 15 October [1872]

Date: October 15, 1872

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00661

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), 2:186. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad

Tuesday afternoon
Oct. 15.1

Dearest mother,

There is nothing new with me—I am well—Mother, I feel as if I wanted to come on there & pay you a little visit—and as I can probably get off for a few days, I shouldn't wonder if I come soon. I think as I am likely to come quite a good deal, I would like in future to pay Sister Lou $1 a day for what time I stop there—I should feel better satisfied & come oftener.

It is quite cold here. I am wearing my overcoat—You see, mother, I am likely to prove a true prophet about Greeley2—He is not expected here at the White House next March.

Mother dear, I hope this will find you feeling comfortable—I will send you a line before I come—which will probably be within a week—

Love to you, dearest mother, & to George3 and Lou4


1. The executors altered the date to August 13, 1872, because of the reference in Walt Whitman's August 22–23, 1872 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to a letter (now lost) sent on August 13, 1872. However, it is clear from Walt Whitman's remarks in this letter and in his October 23, 1872 letter to George Washington Whitman and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman that Walt was planning a second visit to Camden. He had gone to Camden early in September, described in is September 15, 1872 letter to Rudolf Schmidt. [back]

2. Horace Greeley (1811–1872) ran against Ulysses S. Grant for the Presidency in 1872. [back]

3. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted 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). As a Civil War correspondent, Walt wrote warmly about George's service, such as in "Our Brooklyn Boys in the War" (January 5, 1863); "A Brooklyn Soldier, and a Noble One" (January 19, 1865); "Return of a Brooklyn Veteran" (March 12, 1865); and "Our Veterans Mustering Out" (August 5, 1865). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with partner Mr. Smith and later a mason named French. George also took a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. Walt and George lived together for over a decade in Camden, but when Walt decided not to move with George and his wife Louisa in 1884, a rift occurred that was ultimately not mended before Walt's 1892 death. For more information on George Washington Whitman, see Martin G. Murray, "Whitman, George Washington," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Whitman's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. Their son, Walter Orr Whitman, was born in 1875 but died the following year. A second son was stillborn. Whitman lived in Camden, New Jersey, with George and Louisa from 1873 until 1884, when George and Louisa moved to a farm outside of Camden and Whitman decided to stay in the city. Louisa and Whitman had a warm relationship during the poet's final decades. For more, see Karen Wolfe, "Whitman, Louisa Orr Haslam (Mrs. George) (1842–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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