Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Jessie Louisa Whitman, 30 November 1890

Date: November 30, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: mhs.00029

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, 1961–1977), 5:124. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

Camden N J1
Evn'g Nov: 30 '90

Dear Jess

George2 got back safe ab't ½ past 1 & has been with me part of this afternoon, & gone back to B[urlington] home for rest. Dear girl, I hope you will bear up under this great affliction.3 I have written to Hannah,4 to Mary5 at Greenport, and to Eddy.6 Soon as you feel to, come to us here. Love to you & God bless you—Remem[mutilated]

Walt Whitman

Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the youngest daughter of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. Jessie and her older sister Manahatta ("Hattie") (1860–1886) were both favorites of their uncle Walt.


1. This letter is addressed: Miss Jessie L. Whitman | 2437 2d Carondelet Av | St Louis | Missouri. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Nov 30 | (?) PM | 90. [back]

2. 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 over a decade 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]

3. Whitman is referring to the death of his younger brother, Thomas Jefferson ("Jeff") Whitman (1833–1890), a civil engineer who lived in St. Louis, Missouri. Jeff Whitman, the father of Jessie Louisa Whitman, died unexpectedly of typhoid pneumonia on November 25, 1890. [back]

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

5. Mary Elizabeth Whitman Van Nostrand (1821–1899) was the third child of Walter Whitman and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. Mary married Ansel Van Nostrand, a shipbuilder, in 1840 and moved to Greenport, Long Island, a whaling town. Hannah and Walt visited her there before Hannah's marriage to Heyde. Mary and Ansel had five children: George, Fanny, Louisa, Ansel, and Minnie. For more information, see Paula K. Garrett, "Whitman (Van Nostrand), Mary Elizabeth (b. 1821)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 786. [back]

6. 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]


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