Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Hannah Whitman Heyde, 30 July 1890

Date: July 30, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04777

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 Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Related item: Whitman wrote this letter to his sister, Hannah Whitman Heyde, on the back of a letter (an autograph request) he received from George Wagner of New Ulm, Minnesota, dated May 12. See loc.04653.

Contributors to digital file: Maire Mullins and Stephanie Blalock

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July 30 '901

Dear Sister,

Am thinking of you a good deal of the time—Lots of sickness & trouble & mischief & want hereabout but I seem to get along somehow out of this fearful weather & every thing else myself—very hot to-day—have just had my daily bath—my breakfast three hours ago on bread & stew'd prunes & a cup of tea—appetite fair—yesterday wrote a little $6 piece to order for a N Y paper2—sent off last evn'g—I sit here alone in my den as usual—a light nice but faint breeze comes in the open window. I enclose for you $2—Sh'd you wish papers more or any reading I can send, as I have plenty—Mrs: D3 has just bo't some clams & I am to have a small plate raw for my supper—

Walt Whitman

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. 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. On July 28, 1890, an editor of The New York Morning Journal requested "a short article on some such topic as 'Old Brooklyn Days'" which appeared on August 3, 1890. [back]

3. Mrs. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908), Whitman's housekeeper, moved into Whitman's house on Mickle street on February 24, 1885, and lived in a small apartment in the rear of the house. She was a widow and had been married to a sea captain. For more information, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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