Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Jessie Louisa Whitman, 6 March [1887]

Date: March 6, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: wwh.00024

Source: Walt Whitman House, Camden, N.J. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:72–73. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kevin McMullen, and Stephanie Blalock

March 6—12¼ P M

Just as I get ready to write you a line, Mrs. Davis1 calls me to dinner—So as that is important, I will put down the lap tablet on which I am writing—& finish afterwards—

Well I had my dinner, cold meat, hot potatoes, nice stew'd tomatoes & onions, & a cup of tea & Graham bread—enjoyed all—Am feeling pretty well these times—a couple of Wilson Barrett's2 actors came over in a carriage yesterday afternoon & took me to the theatre to see "Clito"3—had a good afternoon ride & performance—was used tip top—Mrs Davis went with me—got back here ab't sunset thro' a snow storm—My friend Wm O'Connor4 is in a very bad way—locomotor ataxia—he is now in Los Angeles County California—

It looks like winter out as I write, all white with snow—I havn't heard just lately from George5 & Lou6 or Ed7—but I am sure they are all right—Love to you, Jessie dear—

Walt Whitman

Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the second and youngest daughter of Whitman's brother Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890) and Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873).


1. Mary Oakes Davis was Whitman's housekeeper. [back]

2. Wilson Barrett (1846–1904) was a British actor and playwright who was then performing in the United States. He played the lead role in Clito, a new blank-verse drama set in ancient Greece, written by the English dramatist Sydney Grundy (1848–1914) in collaboration with Barrett. Whitman was apparently quite taken with Barrett's acting and even met with him several times in early 1887. [back]

3. Barrett and Mary Eastlake appeared in Clito—a new blank-verse drama by Sydney Grundy set in ancient Greece—at the Chestnut Street Opera House from March 2 to 5. [back]

4. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted 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). As a Civil War correspondent, Walt wrote warmly about George's service, such as in "Our Brooklyn Boys in the War" (January 5, 1863); "A Brooklyn Soldier, and a Noble One" (January 19, 1865); "Return of a Brooklyn Veteran" (March 12, 1865); and "Our Veterans Mustering Out" (August 5, 1865). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with partner Mr. Smith and later a mason named French. George also took a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. Walt and George lived together for over a decade in Camden, but when Walt decided not to move with George and his wife Louisa in 1884, a rift occurred that was ultimately not mended before Walt's 1892 death. For more information on George Washington Whitman, see Martin G. Murray, "Whitman, George Washington," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Whitman's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. Their son, Walter Orr Whitman, was born in 1875 but died the following year. A second son was stillborn. Whitman lived in Camden, New Jersey, with George and Louisa from 1873 until 1884, when George and Louisa moved to a farm outside of Camden and Whitman decided to stay in the city. Louisa and Whitman had a warm relationship during the poet's final decades. For more, see Karen Wolfe, "Whitman, Louisa Orr Haslam (Mrs. George) (1842–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. 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 in 1873. During his mother's final illness, George Whitman and his wife Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman took over Eddy's care, with financial support from Walt Whitman. In 1888, Eddy was moved to an asylum at Blackwood, New Jersey. For more information on Edward, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Edward (1835–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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