Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, [17–20 May 1873]

Date: May 17–20, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: uva.00365

Source: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. 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: Felicia Wetzig, Wesley Raabe, Elizabeth Lorang, and Nicole Gray

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farewell my beloved sons1

farewell i have lived beyond all comfort in this world dont mourn for me my beloved sons and daughters farewel my dear beloved walter2


1. It is not known whether this letter was mailed. According to Gay Wilson Allen, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote out the note for her children just before Walt Whitman's arrival on May 20, 1873: Walt was summoned because his mother's death was imminent (see The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman [New York: Macmillan, 1955], 452). Whether sent as a letter, only intended to be sent, or composed without the intent to send, Mother Whitman's deathbed letter to her children and to her "beloved walter" dates to May 17–20, 1873. [back]

2. The wording of the public death notice—presumably written by Walt Whitman—echoes Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's emphasis on the word "beloved": "WHITMAN.—At Camden, N. J., early on the morning of May 23d, 1873, in the 78th year of her age, Mrs. Louisa Whitman, widow of the late Walter Whitman, of Brooklyn, N. Y., and beloved mother of Walt Whitman, of Washington, George Whitman, of Camden, and Thos. J. Whitman, of St. Louis. Buried on Monday afternoon, May 26th, in Evergreen Cemetery, Camden" ("Died," Camden Democrat, May 31, 1873, 3).

Louisa also addressed Walt as "beloved" in her May 13 or 14, 1873 letter. [back]


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