Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Orr Whitman, 11 October [1879]

Date: October 11, 1879

Whitman Archive ID: mhs.00017

Source: Missouri Historical Society. 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: Alicia Bones, Grace Thomas, Eder Jaramillo, Kevin McMullen, Nicole Gray, and Elizabeth Lorang

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2316 Pine street
St Louis
Oct 11—noon

Dear Sister

I have been quite unwell, a bad spell with my head, worse than usual, nine or ten days—I kept up, but had no comfort—the last two days it is easier, & it is passing over apparently, for the present1

—Lou I think I would like to have you or George put up my letters (not the books or papers) in a package, & send them to me here, 2316 Pine street,—if it dont make too big a package, send by mail, (postage will be 6 cts an ounce by mail)—(or if George thinks best, send by express—that is if the parcel is too big)—please do it soon as convenient—there is brown wrapping-paper & string in my room—I shall stay here perhaps two weeks longer—It is very hot here for this season, indeed as hot as we had it in July there in Camden—I go out most every day, Jeff has taken me out riding very often, & I have been everywhere within several miles, & in all the outer parts of the City which are the roomiest & the pleasantest by far of any city I have ever seen—Jeff is very kind indeed, & I am agreeably fixed here—& since I am here so far, & shall probably never come again, I have concluded to stay awhile—The girls are well & hearty & send their love—Hatty is down stairs piano-practising as I write—I have not written any thing for publication yet here, as I have not felt well, but I want to, before I leave, as this trip is a great revelation, especially the Colorado journey, & the mountains—

—Lou your letter was rec'd, & very glad to get it—Write again soon after receiving this—I have written to Hannah2 and Mary3 from here—I have just written to the Camden post office to send my letters on here for the present—Lou this is a wonderful, wonderful country, & the richest city upon the whole (thousands and thousands of fine comfortable 5 or $6000 well built brick or stone houses, with gardens around them) & streets ahead of Chestnut st4 & more crowded, &c &c—but there are just two things here you & I w'd never get used to, & would spoil all,—that is the air you breathe is always tainted with coal smoke & pungent gas—& a perpetual dust & smut & little black motes, that forever smut your clothes & hands & face, all the time, night & day—So you see there are always some bad points, even to the greatest & best—But the folks here don't seem to mind it, or think it is any thing5

So good bye for the present Lou dear & love to all—


1. Whitman had a serious relapse while he was in the West, and was not able to return to Camden until early in January, 1880. [back]

2. On January 2, 1879, Whitman's sister Hannah Heyde (1823–1908) had written a letter to Whitman, in which she expressed her concern that her husband Charles (ca. 1820–1892) had written with negative things to say about her. She insisted that he "cannot or does not say one word of truth." Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitman family for his querulous letters and his bad treatment of Hannah. [back]

3. Though Whitman wrote several times a year to Mary Cabot and never failed to send her a Christmas gift, usually $5, few of his letters to her are extant, and only two of her letters are known. See Faint Clews & Indirections, ed. Clarence Gohdes and Rollo G. Silver (Durham: Duke University Press, 1949), 207–208; Appendix C, December 23, 1883 (Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library). [back]

4. Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. [back]

5. In Specimen Days, Whitman made no references to these liabilities (ed. Floyd Stovall [New York: New York University Press, 1963], 228). [back]


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