Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Hannah Whitman Heyde, [13 April 1887]

Date: [April 13, 1887]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04763

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.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, Maire Mullins, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden1
Wednesday 12:40 pm2

Go to New York this afternoon to deliver my lecture commemorative of "Death of Abraham Lincoln"3 there to-morrow afternoon—Return here Friday—Am only middling well—Have just written a card4 to Jeff5 and Jess6


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. In March 1884, Whitman purchased a house at 328 Mickle Street in Camden, New Jersey. He would live in this house until his death on March 26, 1892. [back]

2. This postal card is addressed: Mrs: H L Heyde | 21 Pearl Street | Burlington | Vermont. It is postmarked: Camden | APR 13 | 8PM | 87; Burlington | APR [illegible] | [illegible] PM | REC'D; New York | APR 14 | 130 AM | 87 | Transit. [back]

3. Whitman first delivered this lecture in New York in 1879 and would deliver it at least eight other times over the succeeding years, delivering it for the last time on April 15, 1890. He published a version of the lecture as "Death of Abraham Lincoln" in Specimen Days & Collect (1882–83). For more on the lecture, see Larry D. Griffin, "'Death of Abraham Lincoln,'" Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Whitman is referring to his letter to Thomas Jefferson ("Jeff") Whitman of April 13, 1887[back]

5. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), "Jeff," was the eighth child of Walter and Louisa Whitman. Walt's favorite brother, Jeff played the piano and had a lively sense of humor. He married Mattie Emma Mitchell on February 23, 1859. Jeff and Mattie moved in with Mother Whitman shortly after their marriage, and remained with her until 1867, when Jeff accepted a position as chief engineer and superintendent of waterworks in St. Louis, Missouri. Jeff died unexpectedly from typhoid pneumonia on November 25, 1890. See Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the youngest daughter of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. Jessie and her older sister Manahatta ("Hattie") (1860–1886) were both favorites of their uncle Walt. [back]


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