Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Edward Whitman, 28 November 1890

Date: November 28, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04819

Source: The 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), 5:123. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: The annotation, "Walt Whitman," is in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock

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Camden NJ
Nov: 28 '90

Dear Ed:

It is pretty sad days just now for me here—our dear brother Jeff1 died last Tuesday at St. Louis, Missouri, of typhoid pneumonia. Jessie2 went on first train soon as she heard he was sick, but poor Jeff was dead when she arrived—George3 has gone on—(must have got there this morning)

Hannah4 is poorly at Burlington Vermont, but gets about the house.

Very cold here. I am still about not much about for I can only move by help, but have the grip badly, & bladder trouble. I often think of you & hope you have comfortable times—I have heard you have a good kind attendant who has been there some time in the asylum—I wish he would stop here at 328 Mickle Street & see me a few minutes when he is in Camden. My best respects to Mr5 and Mrs. Currie6

My love to you
Walt Whitman

Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death in 1873. During his mother's final illness, George Whitman and his wife Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman took over Eddy's care, with financial support from Walt Whitman. In 1888, Eddy was moved to an asylum at Blackwood, New Jersey. For more information on Edward, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Edward (1835–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized figure. For more on Jeff, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. 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]

3. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in 1861 and remained on active duty until the end of the Civil War. He was wounded in the First Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862) and was taken prisoner during the Battle of Poplar Grove (September 1864). As a Civil War correspondent, Walt wrote warmly about George's service, such as in "Our Brooklyn Boys in the War" (January 5, 1863); "A Brooklyn Soldier, and a Noble One" (January 19, 1865); "Return of a Brooklyn Veteran" (March 12, 1865); and "Our Veterans Mustering Out" (August 5, 1865). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with partner Mr. Smith and later a mason named French. George also took a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. Walt and George lived together for over a decade in Camden, but when Walt decided not to move with George and his wife Louisa in 1884, a rift occurred that was ultimately not mended before Walt's 1892 death. For more information on George Washington Whitman, see Martin G. Murray, "Whitman, George Washington," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908), youngest sister of Walt Whitman, married Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a Pennsylvania-born landscape painter. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. Hannah and Charles Heyde lived in Burlington, Vermont. For more, 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). [back]

5. Charles F. Currie (1842–1913), a Union Army veteran of the United States Civil War, ran a grocery business in Camden, New Jersey, and also served on the Board of Education and as a member of the Board of Freeholders. In 1889, he was elected superindendent of the County Insane Asylum in Blackwood, New Jersey. The institution achieved such a high quality of care for its patients under Currie's management that other institutions implemented his methods and rules. Currie remained superintendent until his health forced him to resign his position in 1910. [back]

6. Barbara S. Lear Currie (1844–1929?) of Pennsylvania married Charles F. Currie in New Jersey in 1866. Following Charles Currie's election as superintendent of the County Insane Aslyum in Blackwood, New Jersey, in 1889, Barbara served as the matron of the asylum. [back]


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