Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 30 October 1866

Date: October 30, 1866

Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00212

Source: Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library, the corresponding envelope at T. E. Hanley Collection, University of Texas. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 1:292-293. 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, Vanessa Steinroetter, and Alyssa Olson

Oct. 30, 1866. 1

Dearest Mother,

I am well as usual, & having good times—There is nothing new to tell you—I hope you are well, mother dear—& Mat & the little girls & Jeff & Georgy—I begin to want to see you all again—I hear there is a long & favorable piece about me & Leaves of Grass in an English magazine called the Fortnightly Review 2—one of the highest rank, too—Well, I am now going to leave off, & drink a cup of tea—near us there is a room where the Treasury ladies work—about noon they have tea—one of our own clerks has a sort of sweetheart in there who sends him every day a cup of splendid green tea—which as he dont drink the article—he always makes over to me

Well, mother dear, good bye for this time—



1. The envelope for this letter bears the address: Mrs. Louisa Whitman | p. o. Box 218 | Brooklyn, New York. It is postmarked: Washington, D. C. | Oct | 30. [back]

2. Moncure Conway's article; see the letter of September (?) 1866. John Burroughs called it "an eloquent article . . . but it told untruths about him. Walt said it did" (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1931], 39). William O'Connor wrote to Conway on December 5, 1866: "A great deal of it I liked very much, and I think the general effect of it was very good. In part of it, there was a tone I regretted. Pardon me. I think the time is past when this august man should be written of as a curiosity, or his poem mentioned as something monstrous. You do not do this, it is true, but there are, here and there, lines and touches in your article, which suggest such a treatment and leave me unsatisfied" (Yale). However, to John Townsend Trowbridge, O'Connor labeled it "a frightful mess of misstatement and fiction" (Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs (1931), 40). Whitman, and therefore his friends, objected to two of Conway's anecdotes in particular: Whitman's lying on his back at Coney Island with the temperature at 100 degrees, and the description of his room in 1855. In 1888 Whitman observed: "I can't help feeling still a little suspicion of Conway's lack of historic veracity: he romances: he has romanced about me: William says lied: but romanced will do" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1906–1996], 3:16). William Michael Rossetti repeated the Coney Island tale in Poems by Walt Whitman (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868), 15–16.. [back]


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