Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Louisa Orr Whitman to Walt Whitman, [29 May 1891]

Date: [May 29, 1891]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05419

Source: Walt Whitman papers, 1837–1957, 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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "1 sister of W.W.," is in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Stephanie Blalock, Brandon James O'Neil, Marie Ernster, and Amanda J. Axley



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Form 2
Chief Engineer's Office—Aqueduct Commissioners.
Room 213, Stewart Building.
Benjamin S. Church,
Chief Engineer.
George S. Rice,
Deputy Chief Engingeer.
Burlington.
Friday 1881

Dear Walt

Yesterday, Thursday, I was to see Eddie2—I had to take a carriage, as the cars did not run to suit me. I would have had to stay there a long time, five or six hours or else reach home very late. I found Eddie very well—he said he would like to see you. He looked very neat and nice about his person—he has lost nearly all his teeth, and that makes him look a little different. I left him comfortable in regard to clothes. I had a letter from Jessie3 yesterday also—she returned from Memphis May 1st, enjoyed her visit, and I think her letter was more cheerful. She said that she had not heard from you for a long time. I have had three letters from C. Heyde4—nothing new. (The party he spoke of in your letter that I had, was merely this. The Club that I belong too, met at our house the last day of April and I gave Hannah5 a slight outline of the day they were only here about three hours and I thought it might please Hannah to tell her about it! This was the party. Sunday I suppose you will have some sort of a meeting of old friends to remember your birthday—I hope you may have a good time. I enclose this [hdk?]—the only thing I have by me—Geo6 is sitting here reading the Tribune.


Lou.


Correspondent:
Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Walt's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. Their son, Walter Orr Whitman, was born in 1875 but died the following year. A second son was stillborn. Walt lived in Camden, New Jersey, with George and Louisa from 1873 until 1884, when George and Louisa moved to a farm outside of Camden and Whitman decided to stay in the city. Louisa and Walt had a warm relationship during the poet's final decades. For more, 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).

Notes:

1. The date of his letter is Friday, May 29, 1891. Whitman's seventy-second and last birthday, which is mentioned in the letter, was on Sunday, May 31, 1891. [back]

2. 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). [back]

3. Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the younger daughter of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890) and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman (1836–1873), Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. Jessie and her sister Manahatta "Hattie" (1860–1886) were both favorites of their uncle Walt. [back]

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

5. 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). [back]

6. 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 several years 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]


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