Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Hannah Whitman Heyde, 13 July 1891

Date: July 13, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04795

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: Maire Mullins, Brandon James O'Neil, Zainab Saleh, and Stephanie Blalock

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P M July 13 '912

Another hot wave here—getting along much as ever—Lou3 & young Amy Dowe4 were here this forenoon— Geo:5 has gone off to N Y—may go down for a few hours to Greenport to see Mary6 —(last news she was badly suffering f'm rheumatism)—Lou bro't me a nice basket of rasp & blackberries—I had some & a little oatmeal for my breakfast—Am sitting here yet, the same old story—God bless you—love to you sister dear—2 enc'd—

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. Whitman wrote this letter on stationery printed with the following notice from the Boston Evening Transcript: "From the Boston Eve'g Transcript, May 7, '91.—The Epictetus saying, as given by Walt Whitman in his own quite utterly dilapidated physical case is, a 'little spark of soul dragging a great lummux of corpse-body clumsily to and fro around.'" This page has been torn, and, as a result, much of this printed text is missing. [back]

3. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Walt's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. They moved to Camden in 1872, and Walt Whitman lived with them from 1873–1884. For more information, see Karen Wolfe, "Whitman, Louisa Orr Haslam (Mrs. George) (1842–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Amy Haslam Dowe (1874–1954) was Louisa Whitman's niece. She was the daughter of Emma Haslam Dowe (Louisa Haslam Whitman's sister) and Francis Eugene Dowe, who operated dry good stores in Norwich, Connecticut, from 1872 to 1918. Dowe studied English at Radcliffe College and later taught English and Literature at the Agnes Irwin School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the 1930s, Dowe wrote "A Child's Memories of the Whitmans," which was published by Edwin Haviland Miller in "Amy H. Dowe and Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review, 13 (September 1967), 73–79. [back]

5. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the seventh child of Walter and Louisa Whitman. George learned to read and write as a pupil under his older brother Walt (who briefly served as a schoolteacher) in Long Island, and worked as a carpenter prior to his military service during the Civil War. When the war ended, he became a pipe inspector for the City of Camden and the New York Metropolitan Water Board. For more on George's life see Martin G. Murray, "Whitman, George Washington (1829–1901)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Mary Elizabeth Whitman Van Nostrand (1821–1899) was the third child of Walter Whitman and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. Mary married Ansel Van Nostrand, a shipbuilder, in 1840 and moved to Greenport, Long Island, a whaling town. Hannah and Walt visited her there before Hannah's marriage to Heyde. Mary and Ansel had five children: George, Fanny, Louisa, Ansel, and Minnie. For more information, see Paula K. Garrett, "Whitman (Van Nostrand), Mary Elizabeth (b. 1821)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 786. [back]


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