Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Lavinia F. Whitman to Walt Whitman, 24 February 1890

Date: February 24, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04857

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.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Walt. Whitman Esq
Feb 24.1890

My dear, venerable friend

It was my intention to have noted my recent call upon you, with my expressions of the great pleasure that visit had given me, but I have been prevented doing so, from having taken cold in my eyes, subjecting me to a sort of vagabond life for the past week.

To meet one of whom I had heard & read so much, I feared was denied me, as I had never received any acknowledgment of the letter I sent you some three years since.

You think you never received such a communication.

I wrote you at the time of Mr Farnam1 of New Haven commencing the Whitman genealogy, hoping I could have the pleasure of sending to him so worthy & honorable a branch of the old tree, as yourself would be—

Perhaps when the weather becomes more spring like, I will bring the volumes over to you to examine & you will be able to point out your position

You would like to see it, would you not?

Let me thank you for the very kind gift of your photos. I greatly prize them, doubly so, as containing your autograph.

Do you often see Mr Childs2 I hear he is a friend, & a good friend of yours?

I fear I may weary you, if I say more. I should be delighted to have you acknowledge this note, if you feel, it will not be a task—

Accept dear friend, my hearty best wishes that your life may be prolonged & your declining years made comfortable to the close.

With sincere regard
I am respectfully
Lavinia F. Whitman

1740 N. 15th st.Phila

My [illegible] father was John F. Watson author of that inimitable work, "Annals of Phila in the Olden Time."

Did you know him?

Lavinia Fanning Watson Whitman (1818–1900) was the eldest daughter of John Fanning Watson—author of Annals of Philadelphia (1830) and a well known historian of Philadelphia and New York City—and his wife Phebe Barron Crowell. In 1846, Lavinia became the first woman to sponsor a United States Navy ship when she christened the sloop-of-war, the USS Germantown, in Philadelphia. She married Harrison Gray Otis Whitman, a son of Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ezekial Whitman.


1. Charles Henry Farnham (1846–1909) was an archaeologist and author from New Haven, Connecticut. He attended Yale and went on to serve as the Assistant in Archæology in the Peabody Museum at the university from 1877 to 1891. He researched Whitman genealogy for several years before publishing The History of the Descendants of John Whitman of Weymouth, Mass. in 1889. He would have been gathering material for this volume at the time Lavinia Whitman sent his request for genealogical information to Walt Whitman. [back]

2. George William Childs (1829–1894) was an American publisher from Baltimore, Maryland, who became the co-owner of the Philadelphia Public Ledger. He was married to Emma Bouvier Childs; the couple had no children. [back]


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