Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Thomas Jefferson Whitman, 8 February [1873]

Date: February 8, [1873]

Whitman Archive ID: mhs.00011

Source: Missouri Historical Society. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961), 2:196. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Zachary King, Eric Conrad, Alex Kinnaman, Marie Ernster, Cristin Noonan, Paige Wilkinson, and Stephanie Blalock

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Feb. 8;—noon—
(sitting up on the side of my bed.)

Dear brother,

I have just rec'd your note of 5th1

Dear, dear, dear sister Matty2

O how I have been thinking of you, & shall all day—I have not now the use of my limbs to move from one room to the other—or else I should come on immediately to St. Louis—I can but send you my love, dear, dear sister—

Your unhappy, sorrowful, loving brother

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).


1. Jeff's letter to Walt is not extant, but in a letter written on the same day to Mrs. Whitman, Jeff expressed fears for Martha's recovery, and urged that Whitman come to St. Louis. When he wrote, Jeff was unaware of the seriousness of his brother's paralysis. [back]

2. Martha Mitchell Whitman (d. 1873) known as "Mattie," was the wife of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother. She and Jeff had two daughters, Manahatta and Jessie Louisa. In 1868, Mattie and her daughters moved to St. Louis to join Jeff, who had moved there in 1867 to assume the position of Superintendent of Water Works. Mattie experienced a throat ailment that would lead to her death in 1873. For more information on Mattie, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Martha ("Mattie") Mitchell (1836–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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