Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Thomas Jefferson and Jessie Louisa Whitman, 11 September [1886]

Date: September 11, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: mhs.00024

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: Stefan Schöberlein, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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Saturday, near noon
Sept: 11—

Dear Brother
& Dear Jess—

The days slip away, & ones sorrow—though it does not cease—seems to mellow & spread with the lapse of time.1

—I continue ab't as usual in health—but it is very monotonous & lonesome, as I can hardly get around at all—often remain in the house all day, most of my time in the big chair by the window—afternoons are the worst & most tedious—happily my spirits keep pretty good, & I write some, though nothing but "pot-boilers"2 [illegible]

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).

Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the second and youngest daughter of Whitman's brother Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890) and Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873).


1. Mannahatta (Hattie) Whitman, the poet's niece, died on September 3 and was buried three days later (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). George Whitman's wife Louisa went to St. Louis to be with Jeff and his other daughter, Jessie Louisa. [back]

2. Two "pot-boilers" were rejected: Baldwin's Monthly declined "Lafayette in Brooklyn," which Whitman sent on August 25 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.), and Alden, of Harper's Monthly, refused "Some War Memoranda. Jotted Down at the Time" on September 20. The latter was sent early in October to James Redpath, who, on October 5, informed Whitman that Rice's syndicate "is dissolved," but that possibly he might put the piece into The North American Review, where it appeared in January, 1887. Whitman received $60 (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]


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