Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [16 May 1873]

Date: May 16, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: tex.00349

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.

Editorial notes: An image of the verso of the leaf is not currently available. The verso is blank.

Related item: This letter from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman is written on the same sheet of paper as a letter from Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman to Walt from the same date.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Wesley Raabe, and Nicole Gray

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dear walter1

dont be worried i shall be better dont come till you can walk good and without injury to your getting fully recovered2

good bie my dear beloved walter
your mother3


1. This letter dates to May 16, 1873. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman follows a letter on the same sheet of paper from Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman to Walt. Louisa Orr Haslam dated her letter "Friday." May 16, 1873, the date Richard Maurice Bucke assigned to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letter, fell on Friday. Edwin Haviland Miller dated this letter "about" May 17, 1873 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–75], 2:220, n. 85). Miller's date is incorrect because May 17 fell on Saturday in 1873.

In his letter of May 16, 1873, Walt acknowledged his mother's May 13 or 14, 1873 letter as the first one that he had received in several days. This letter must therefore follow Louisa's May 13 or 14, 1873 letter, and it cannot date to May 23, 1873, the next Friday and day of Louisa's death. Walt arrived at the home of his brother George Washington Whitman in Camden, New Jersey, on May 20, 1873 (see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York, Macmillan, 1955], 452).

This letter may be the final letter that Louisa Van Velsor Whitman sent to her son Walt. Another letter, which was probably written later, may not have been sent (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's May 17–20?, 1873 letter to Walt). [back]

2. Walt Whitman in January 1873 suffered a paralytic stroke that initially confined him to bed: it took weeks before he could resume walking. He first reported the stroke to his mother in his January 26, 1873 letter and continued to report his condition in subsequent letters. [back]

3. 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]


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