Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, [5 January 1872]

Date: January 5, 1872

Whitman Archive ID: pml.00037

Source: The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:150. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Janel Cayer, Kenneth M. Price, Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad

Department of Justice
Washington 187
Friday evening—after 6—1

Mama dear, I believe I must send you a line for Saturday though I have little or nothing to write about—I am sitting here alone in the office, writing by my lamp—I went over to Baltimore last evening for a little trip—saw Mr. Emerson—he lectured there—John Burroughs wanted to go over & hear him—it was not interesting to me at all2—but we had a pleasant little jaunt—got back about ½ past 11—Nothing different in the office—I except to go over in the Treasury Building, in the office of the Solicitor of the Treasury, as I told you—the new Attorney Gen'l Mr. Williams3 has assigned me there—but several important bits of work have had to be done just now, & today & yesterday I have had to do them—(as the old ladies say "I guess they'll miss me a good deal more than they 'spected")—so I have been held on to here so far—

Mama dear, I hope this will find you well of your cold—and that you'll have a good Sunday—

Congress convenes again next Monday—I met a man who saw Jeff about nine days ago in St. Louis. Good bye for this time, dear mother—



1. According to the Baltimore American, Emerson lectured at the Peabody Institute on Tuesday, January 2, 1872, on the subject "Imagination and Poetry." Yet Walt Whitman wrote as though he had heard Emerson on Thursday, January 4, 1872. See Ralph Rusk, Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1939), 6, 187–197. Walt Whitman conveyed to Emerson an invitation from Charles Sumner; see Rusk, 6, 193. [back]

2. Note also Walt Whitman's comment on an Emerson lecture in his January 18, 1872 letter to Edward Dowden. Not surprisingly, Burroughs' reactions were almost identical: he too believed that Emerson failed to perceive "the needs of the American people today" (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 65–66). [back]

3. George Henry Williams (1820–1910), U.S. Senator from Oregon, served as Attorney General from 1871 to 1875. Williams dismissed Walt Whitman on June 30, 1874; Whitman "respectfully acknowledged" his dismissal in his July 1, 1874 letter to Williams. [back]


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