Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Hannah Whitman Heyde to Walt Whitman, [14 July 1883]

Date: [July 14, 1883]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00670

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "14 July '83," is in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Stefan Schöberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Nicole Gray, Elizabeth Lorang, Marie Ernster, Kassie Jo Baron, and Amanda J. Axley

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Saturday afternoon

My dearest Brother

I rec'd your card and Book, some little time since was glad to hear how you was.—

Has not Dr Bucke1 done grandly, splendidly, I was so much interested I sat up two nights till after twelve, when it first came. It is just perfect, the pictures, book, everything2

I am glad to have it, the pictures are very fine,—(I like Mr O Connor )3 I cant tell you Walt how much I prize the book

I hope to live to see you and have a good talk. I am writing in a hurry, Charlie4 was going down town. I took a notion all at once to send my pictures, I have not been very prompt have I Walt about the pictures these were taken four months ago, I intended to go and have a full face taken, did go again to Atwoods,5 he was buisy these I send of his are bad are not a good likeness, Browns,6 look more like me. Charlie did not like Browns at all at first (he does not say so much against them now) so of course I felt disappointed. If I get a good full face I will send it. I am afraid these will not be very satisfactory. I dont make a good picture

Charlie starts for the Adirondacks Monday, I have been busy getting his things all right. I dont know how long he will stay some weeks certainly.

Dear Walt I am always so glad to hear from you, I think about you often and always I send you and all the rest ever and ever so much love, I am pretty well now have not been quite well, after all there is really no real sickness no disease the only thing about it Walt is I have fretted and worried make myself sick almost sometimes. I must turn over a new leaf & do better

Good bye dear

Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde (1823–1908) was the fourth child of Walter and Louisa Whitman and Walt Whitman's youngest sister. Hannah was named for her paternal grandmother, Hannah Brush Whitman (1753–1834), and her mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873). Although Walt Whitman had a close relationship with his younger brother Jeff Whitman, Hannah was his favorite, most beloved sibling. Until she married, Hannah lived at home with her parents and her brothers. Educated at the Hempstead Academy, Hannah taught school in rural Long Island. On March 23, 1852, Hannah married Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a landscape painter. It is possible that Walt introduced Hannah to Charles. In August 1852 the Heydes departed for Vermont. The first decade of their marriage was marked by constant moving from boarding houses to hotels, mostly in rural Vermont, as Heyde sought out vantage points for his landscape paintings. In 1864 the Heydes settled in Burlington, purchasing a house on Pearl Street. After Hannah's marriage and relocation to Vermont, Mother Whitman became Hannah's faithful correspondent; Walt also kept in touch, sending letters and editions of Leaves of Grass after publication. Hannah faced several health crises during her marriage, partly due to the ongoing trauma of emotional, verbal, and physical intimate partner violence that she experienced. In the 1880s and 1890s Heyde increasingly had difficulty earning enough to cover household expenses; in addition, he may have become an alcoholic. He repeatedly asked Whitman for funds to cover their expenses. Whitman sent both Heyde and Hannah small amounts of money. After Heyde died in 1892, Hannah remained in Burlington, living in their house on Pearl Street until her death in 1908. For more information, see Paula K. Garrett, "Whitman (Heyde), Hannah Louisa (d. 1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1901), a Canadian physician and psychiatrist, was the Head of the Asylum for the Insane in Ontario, Canada, and a close friend of Whitman. In 1867, Bucke read Whitman's poetry for the first time and became a devoted follower; he visited Whitman in Camden in 1877. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883) and was one of Whitman's literary executors after Whitman's death in 1892. Bucke also provided a date (usually the year) for many of Hannah's letters to Whitman. For more information, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice (1837–1901)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Richard Maurice Bucke was Whitman's first biographer. Walt Whitman was published in 1883 by David McKay in Philadelphia; Whitman himself wrote long passages for the book and heavily revised others. [back]

3. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a French-born landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–1908), Walt Whitman's sister, and they lived in Burlington, Vermont. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. For more information about Heyde, see Steven Schroeder, "Heyde, Charles Louis (1822–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

6. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]


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