Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 16 November [1868]

Date: November 16, 1868

Whitman Archive ID: tex.00177

Source: The Walt Whitman Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. 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.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Wesley Raabe, Felicia Wetzig, and Heather Kaley

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novem 161

My dear Walt

i2 have got your letter this morning3 and likewise one from george4 he dident come home last saturday and he says he cant come till the 1 of the month as he is very busy has as much as he can attend to so edd5 and i will have to hold our thanksgiving alone) they expect a large company to dinner down stairs i thought rather strange of their inviting so much company so soon after the death of Charley but people has different fancys mrs mans sister stays here and they will send for the old lady next week from mobeal)6 well walt the house next door is sold to a german for 76 hundred dollars george will be glad it is sold) last week i had a stunning letter from heyd7 only two and half sheets of paper and last saturday i had another short one quite decent saying han was not well but if she got worse he would let me know he said she was much frightened for fear she would8 get sick again) your aunt becca9 is quite sick i have been around there when i could walk there as i am quite lame the most of the time otherwise i am quite well

good bie walter dear


1. This letter dates to November 16, 1868. Neither the executors nor Edwin Haviland Miller dated this letter (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:366). The letter, however, dates to death of Charley Mann, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's neighbor, in 1868, and November 16 is in her hand. Louisa discussed Charley Mann's death in her November 10, 1868 letter to Walt Whitman, and she describes visitors to the Mann household after the funeral in this letter. [back]

2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt Whitman was the second. For more information on Louisa and her letters, see Wesley Raabe, "'walter dear': The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt" and Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]

3. Walt Whitman's November 15?, 1868 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman is not extant. Edwin Haviland Miller did not list it among Walt's lost letters (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:361). [back]

4. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in the Union Army 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). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with a partner named Smith and later a mason named French. George eventually took up a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]

5. 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. During Louisa's final illness, Eddy was taken under the care of George Washington Whitman and his wife, Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman, with financial support from Walt Whitman. [back]

6. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's phonetic spelling "mobeal" refers to Mobile, Alabama. The Mann family—though Louisa spelled the name "man"—lived downstairs from Louisa. In her November 10, 1868 letter, Louisa informed Walt Whitman of the death of "little Charley man" due to diphtheria and croup. Mary E. Mann's March 9, 1873 letter to Louisa (Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress), presumably Charley Mann's mother, confirms the spelling of the name is "Mann." [back]

7. Charles L. Heyde (1822–1892) a landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–190), Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's second daughter, and they lived in Burlington, Vermont. [back]

8. The last letter of the word "would" is not visible in the image. The letter is pasted into a manuscript book, and the final letters on the edge closest to the binding in the page image are often obscured. Most of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman manuscript letters in the bound volume entitled Walt Whitman: A Series of Thirteen Letters from His Mother to Her Son, held at the Harry Ransom Center, have obscured text on at least one page. Text from this page was recorded based on an examination of the physical volume, which allowed more text to be recovered. [back]

9. A Rebecca Denton Van Velsor (1791?–1871) has a memorial stone in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. The woman buried in Green-Wood, who may have been Walt Whitman's "Aunt Becca," is listed as the wife of a Joseph Van Velsor (1792–1859), possibly a brother or uncle to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. Aunt Becca is mentioned also in Louisa's April 13, 1867 and December 7, 1869 letters to Walt. [back]


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