Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Mary A. Babbitt, 3 September 1863

Date: September 3, 1863

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00786

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 Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:141. 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, Tim Jackson, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson

September 3, 18631

Mary A. Babbitt,2

I write you regarding your brother Caleb—I rec'd your letter of August 18th & I have written to Caleb three letters since. But I have not heard a word about him, only your letter of August 18th—


1. Incomplete draft letter. [back]

2. As Whitman informed Mrs. Curtis in a letter from October 28, 1863 , Caleb Babbitt suffered a sun stroke in July 1863 and was admitted to Armory Square Hospital. According to the "Hospital Note Book" (Henry E. Huntington Library), Babbitt had been in Mobile earlier. About August 1, 1863, he left Washington on furlough. On August 18, 1863, Mary A. Babbitt informed Whitman of Caleb's arrival in Barre, Massachusetts; because of his exhaustion he was unable to write. Mary acknowledged Whitman's letter on September 6, 1863, and wrote that Caleb was "not quite as well as when I wrote you before . . . he wishes me to tell you to keep writing . . . for your letters do him more good than a great deal of medicine." On September 18, 1863, at the expiration of his forty-day furlough, Caleb was strong enough to write: "Walt—In your letters you wish me to imagine you talking with me when I read them, well I do, and it does very well to think about, but it is nothing compared with the original." On October 1, 1863, Babbitt was depressed—"dark clouds seem to be lying in my pathway and I can not remove them nor hide them from my mind"—until he mentioned his beloved, Nellie F. Clark, who "has saved me." On October 26, 1863, S. H. Childs wrote for Caleb from the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston: "He Is unable to set up & suffers considerable pain In his head" (Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library). See also Whitman's letters from December 27, 1863 , and February 8, 1864 . (This letter is in two pieces, on the verso of which appears the draft letter to Bethuel Smith from 7 October 1863.) [back]


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