Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Hannah Whitman Heyde, 4 March 1891

Date: March 4, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04786

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: Madison Perrin, Maire Mullins, Zainab Saleh, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden1
Evn'g March 4 '91

Best love to you sister dear—I still keep up, & have eat my supper, but am very poorly—have just had a piece printed & paid for by magazine (N A Review March)2 & I enclose you 5 (give 2 to C3)—Cold here, but sun out to-day. Mrs. Davis4 is very good—& in fact all are. I keep a stout fire—am printing my 2d annex5 & busy with proofs &c:—Expect to have some printed slips of the N A Rev: piece & when so will send you one.

God bless you, dear H
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. Whitman published "Have We a National Literature?" in the March 1891 issue of The North American Review[back]

3. Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a landscape painter from Pennsylvania, was Hannah's husband. Heyde often claimed to have been born in France. 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]

4. 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. See Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," in Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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