Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 31 July 1885

Date: July 31, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00479

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Dear Brother Walt: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, ed. Dennis Berthold and Kenneth M. Price (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1984), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, April Lambert, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, Nicole Gray, and Stephanie Blalock

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St. Louis,
July 31st 1885

My dear Walt—

I enclose a check for ten dollars payable to your order—the money comes from Chaphe1 who wants you to send him copies of your various books so far as it will pay for them—particularly he desires to get Dr Bucke's2 book—You will remember that you sent him a copy of the "Author's Edition" of Leaves of Grass—so I suppose that may be left out—If you express the books (which I suppose would be the best way) direct them to me and we will pay the express charges at this end.

There is no particular hurry for this; you of course will leave it till you are feeling all right3—and the hot weather has lifted a little. In depositing this check or getting the money for it you will just write your name on the back below mine

We are all well have had a terrible seige of hot weather—yesterday—they say the heat was greater on the street level than it has been since 1838—it was 102 in the shade at my office

We were all very glad to hear from you—the telegram came all right—as did the postal4—I hope you are having cool weather now—and that you will have no more of the bad spells—We had a fine shower last night—and to-day it has dropped some 18 degrees—so that we are comparatively comfortable—I dont want another day like yesterday

All send love—and sincerely hope you are all right. I am trying to arrange to get on and pay you a visit some time this fall—if I can make it, I want to do it—


Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized figure. For more on Jeff, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. For more on Chaphe, see the letter from Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman of February 23, 1885[back]

2. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. From July 20 to July 23 Whitman suffered from "bad vertigo fits" (Daybooks and Notebooks, ed. William White [New York: New York University Press, 1978], 362). [back]

4. Neither communication from Whitman is extant. [back]


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