Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 25 December 1872

Date: December 25, 1872

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00458

Source: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1984), 150-151. 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, Kathryn Kruger, and April Lambert

St. Louis
Dec 25th /72

Dear Mother—

A Merry Christmas to you all—and many of them—We to-day, have been experiencing about as cold weather as one can stand  For the last four or five days it has been terrible cold—but yesterday it was a little too much for anything  10, 12 and down to 20 below Zero has been our experience—what do you think of that?

Mattie received your letter all right—Mat is feeling about the same—no better, nor do I see that she fails much more—she keeps her bed about half her time—she has no appetite—has not eaten anything for two months—except her raw eggs and whiskey1—this seems to be about the only food that agrees with her—

We have had this horse disease here2—but not as bad as you have had it East I guess—my horse has been very sick—I thought at one time I would lose him but he is getting well again now  I hav'nt used him for abt three weeks—nor shall I be able to unless the weather changes, for a long while to come.

Nothing new—I was up to Chicago for a couple of weeks or so ago—saw Mr Lane3 up there—he seems to like it west—he looks first-rate and has plenty to do—I judge from what he says all his people like it at Milwaukee

I was sorry to hear that George had been discharged from the Brooklyn payroll—I suppose however that when they have pipes to make he will get the work again—will he not4—I do not hear from Brooklyn any more—have not heard for a long time—I had a letter from Joe Barkeloo5 yesterday telling me that she was about to start for Europe—I suppose she has gone ere this—did you hear from her

Mattie speaks of you all very often—she would like above all things to see you and have a talk—but she is altogether too sick to undertake the journey just now. I was sorry, very sorry, that you made up your mind that you would not come this way—as I thought, and still believe, that it would have done you both good—but as the season now stands of course it would be impossible on account of the weather

I suppose you have quite quiet times—as of course you do not go out much—and I hardly expect you make many acquantances—how do you like Camden—I cannot tell how 'tis in the winter—but I remember it last summer as being very pleasant and quiet—How does Ed get along without a church to attend—or has he obtained a "situation"

The children are well as can be and have been fixing up their christmas all day  They all send love—Mat and all—I hope dear Mother that your arm is not so bad as it was. We think that Mattie is getting better of her lameness—at one time she could not use her arm at all

All send love to Loo & George and hope you will write when you can—

affectionately Jeff


1. In October 1868, Walt Whitman discussed Mattie's case with Dr. A. D. Wilson of Brooklyn who recommended a diet she apparently adopted: "whiskey, wine, condensed milk, &c" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961-77], 2:68). [back]

2. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 8 December 1872[back]

3. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 13 January 1863 and Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 8 December 1872[back]

4. Soon after this, George took a job as a pipe inspector for the Metropolitan Water Board of New York City, although he continued to live in Camden (Jerome M. Loving, ed., Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1975], p. 30). Jeff's powerful friends in New York and Brooklyn, William E. Worthen and Julius W. Adams, may have helped George obtain this position. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 14 January 1873[back]

5. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 8 December 1872[back]


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