Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [26–28? March? 1873]

Date: March 26–28?, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00660

Source: Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde Papers, 1853–1892, 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.

Contributors to digital file: Felicia Wetzig, Wesley Raabe, Cathryn Humes, Cathy Tisch, Elizabeth Lorang, and Nicole Gray

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dear walt1

i got your letter tuesday2 my hand is some better to day lou3 returned home yesterday she has been gone since last saturday week4 she has had a very good time indeed thinks the visit has done her good i had a rather hard time of it i was so very lame at times i co[u?]ldent shut my hand my finger were so swoln but we got along and had pretty good things to eat i cooked with my left hand and edd5 helped me if i hadent been so dreadfull lame and my hand pained me so bad i shouldent have minded if we could have kept hous[e?] longer lou and george6 are very clever but i think they are a very saving couple what they want to sav[e?] so much for i cant see as they have no young ones but maybe its all right george is so changed in regard to being saving but i cant get used to being so eco[mo?]ical george has got a new gold wach chain lou has been saving the money up to get it for a long time so she made it out with edds board money7 it was 46 dollars

good bie my dear walt


1. This letter dates to March 26–28, 1873. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman provided no date in her hand, and Edwin Haviland Miller dated the letter January 20, 1873 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:370). Miller's date is consistent with Louisa's and son Edward's residence in Camden, New Jersey, at the home of George Washington Whitman and wife Louisa Orr Haslam "Lou" Whitman, but Miller's date is incorrect. This letter dates to late March 1873, just after Lou returned from an extended trip to Philadelphia. For her daughter-in-law's impending departure, see Louisa's March 17, 1873 letter to Walt Whitman. Two matters in this letter support a date of composition during the week of Lou's return. According to this letter, Louisa's daughter-in-law has been "gone since last saturday week." Also, Louisa had received a Tuesday letter from Walt. The date of her most recently received letter can be inferred by eliminating Walt's March 29–[30], 1873 letter, which ended a week-long hiatus in letters from him (see Louisa's March 29, 1873 letter to Walt). The most reasonable surmise, then, is that this letter dates to late in the last full week of March and precedes Louisa's March 29–30, 1873 letter to her son. The Tuesday letter from Walt (not extant) dates to March 23, 1873. If Lou's mid-March trip to Philadelphia ended approximately March 25 and a letter from Walt was received on Tuesday (March 25), this letter dates to between March 26 and March 28, 1873. [back]

2. Walt Whitman's March 23?, 1873 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman is not extant. Edwin Haviland Miller, who dated this letter January 20, 1873, dated no lost letter January 19, 1873 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:363; 2:370). [back]

3. Louisa Orr Haslam (1842–1892), called "Lou" or "Loo," married George Washington Whitman in spring 1871, and they were soon living at 322 Stevens Street in Camden, New Jersey. At the insistence of George and his brother Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and son Edward departed from Brooklyn to live with George and Lou in the Stevens Street house in August 1872, with Walt Whitman responsible for Edward's board. Her health in decline, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman was displeased with the living arrangement and confided many frustrations, often directed at Lou, in her letters to Walt. She never developed the close companionship with Lou that she had with Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman. [back]

4. For Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman's impending departure to Philadelphia, see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 17, 1873 letter to Walt Whitman. [back]

5. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death. During Louisa's final illness, Eddy was taken under the care of George Washington Whitman and his wife, Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman, with financial support from Walt Whitman. [back]

6. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in the Union Army 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). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with a partner named Smith and later a mason named French. George also took a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. He married Louisa Orr Haslam in spring 1871, and they moved to 722 Stevens Street in Camden, where he was employed inspecting pipe at foundry sites for Joseph Phineas Davis, Moses Lane, and on periodic contracts for the Brooklyn Water Works. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

7. When Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and son Edward began living with George Washington and Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman, Walt Whitman sent his mother $20 per month, $15 for Edward's board (see Walt's January 29, 1873 and February 26, 1873 letters to Louisa). [back]


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