Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Louisa Orr Whitman, 10 February [1873]

Date: February 10, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: yal.00410

Source: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:197. 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, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad

Monday afternoon
Feb 10—3 o'clock

Dearest mother1,

I send you Jeff's2 letter,3 rec'd this morning, as it may possibly be later than any you have—I had a very good day yesterday, & the best night last night I have had for a week—Doctor Drinkard has just been in—he says I am progressing the very best—In a day or two more I think I shall get out—or to the front door, at any rate—

Dear sister Lou,

I rec'd your letter this morning—I will see how I feel, when I get better—about coming on—Don't think of such a thing as George's coming on here for me—You may be sure I shall be with you all, in as good health as every, yet—& before very long—to-day I have been sadly pestered with visitors—every thing goes well with me, except the slowness of my improvement—



1. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized name. Whitman probably had his brother in mind when he praised the marvels of civil engineering in poems like "Passage to India." Though their correspondence slowed in the middle of their lives, the brothers were brought together again by the deaths of Jeff's wife Martha (known as Mattie) in 1873 and his daughter Manahatta in 1886. Jeff's death in 1890 caused Walt to reminisce in his obituary, "how we loved each other—how many jovial good times we had!" For more on Thomas Jefferson Whitman, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Jeff sent letters on February 7, 1873, to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and to Walt Whitman: there was no change in Martha's condition. Jeff informed his brother that he had learned about his illness in a newspaper. [back]


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