Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Orr Whitman, [13(?) August 1888]

Date: [August 13, 1888]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07654

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), 4:199–200. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock





[8.13(?).1888]1

I am about the same—Strangely somehow I don't get any more power in my body or legs—I feel pretty well—have written one or two pieces for the Herald2—& they have printed as before—I have not left the room up stairs yet (now nine weeks)—the Doctor thinks it not best yet—

My little booklet November Boughs3 is ab't done—concludes with quite a long but very hurried & scratchy paper on "Elias Hicks"4—done mostly when I was sickest all, & thought it best to hurry it done right off—But at present I am much as of late years, except my legs & getting around even the room—wh' I sometimes fancy is not even coming back.

Love to Jess.5 I have got a few lines from Jeff6 (in St Louis)—I am now sitting in the big chair—Spend most of the day here—had my dinner a little ago—now 5½—cool & clear & pleasant to-day—I am quite comfortable—Hope this will find you feeling well—Rain'd like fury nearly all yesterday—Mrs. D[avis]7 intended going yesterday—I was favorable to her going—


Walt Whitman


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. August 13 appears to be a plausible date. In his letter to Susan Stafford of August 12 Whitman wrote: "It is raining all day like fury"; and here: "Rain'd like fury yesterday." Two pieces, "Over and Through the Burial Chant" and a prose "tribute to Sheridan," had recently appeared in the New York Herald (see Whitman's letter of August 10-11 to Richard Maurice Bucke). Jessie, Thomas Jefferson ("Jeff") Whitman's daughter, was staying with Louisa in August: In his Commonplace Book Whitman noted that Louisa and Jessie placed Edward Whitman in the Insane Asylum at Blackwoodtown on August 1 (The Commonplace-Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). There is no extant letter, however, from Jeff, who wrote from Milwaukee on July 14. [back]

2. Whitman contributed a series of poems and prose pieces to the New York Herald at the invitation of the editor, James Gordon Bennett, Jr. From December 1887 through August 1888, 33 of Whitman's poems were published in the paper. [back]

3. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Elias Hicks (1748–1830) was a Quaker from Long Island whose controversial teachings led to a split in the Religious Society of Friends in 1827, a division that was not resolved until 1955. Hicks had been a friend of Whitman's father and grandfather, and Whitman himself was a supporter and proponent of Hicks's teachings, writing about him in Specimen Days (see "Reminiscence of Elias Hicks") and November Boughs (see "Elias Hicks, Notes (such as they are)"). For more on Hicks and his influence on Whitman, see David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America (New York: Knopf, 1995), 37–39. [back]

5. Jessie Louisa Whitman was the second daughter of Jeff and Martha Whitman. [back]

6. 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)." [back]

7. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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