Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 26 March 1873

Date: March 26, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00470

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), 164-165. 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
March 26th 73

My dear Mother

I received your latest letter—I was glad indeed to hear from you—yet exceeding sorry to hear from Walt that he was feeling so badly—I hope beyond all things that he is now feeling better1

The children are quite well and apparently quite happy—they speak of you often—and talk only of you and their mamma

You ask a question in regard to the silence of all our letters in regard to Mrs O'Rielly.2 in regard to this I must say to you that though I cannot tell you in a letter in regard to why the letters are silent in regard to her I can and will explain the matter to you when I see you which I sincerely hope will be before long—I do not know how soon—yet as we have made a contract with some Hartford people for a new Engine3—I hope I may be sent East early in the summer—Of one thing I can assure you no one on earth loved Mattie better than she except our own family and though denied—to the public her company yet they did meet and were happy—I wrote you very fully in regard to Matties death—much I could write you about her later life—abt all she talked about was Walt and yourself—she had a great desire to see you—and I am sorry—very sorry—that you could not have met—but fate cannot be helped

I am feeling pretty well  Have been away from the city [a] great deal of the time lately—am employed to make a design for water works at Kansas city, and have been up there a good deal lately4—shall write you again soon  Love to George and Loo—and all send love to you

Affectionately Jeff


1. In his letters to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman of March 1873, Walt Whitman stressed that he was slowly, gradually regaining his health. Nonetheless, he acknowledged on March 13 that "the principal trouble is yet in the head, & so easily getting fatigued—my whole body feels heavy, & sometimes my hand" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961-77], 2:205-06). [back]

2. Unfortunately Mrs. O'Reilly remains a mysterious figure. Jeff is obviously flustered in writing about her—he repeats "in regard" five times in two sentences—and he clearly intends to hide something. This woman may have been married to the O'Reilly conected with Henry J. D'Arcy (see Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 24 February 1873), but this is conjecture. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 24 April 1873[back]

3. The Hartford Foundry and Machine Company of Hartford, Connecticut, provided the third pumping engine for the waterworks. [back]

4. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 16 March 1873[back]


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