Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 29–[30] March [1873]

Date: March 29–30, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: yal.00413

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), 2:209–210. 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

Saturday afternoon March 29
¼ to 3.

Dear mother1,

I have come over this afternoon to the office, & am now writing this at my desk. I did not succeed in working any—was not well enough the past week—although I have not gone behindhand—but as I sit here this afternoon, it appears to me I shall be able to make a commencement next Monday—for, though feeble, I feel just now more like work than any time yet—We have had real blowy March weather here to–day, sudden & fitful showers & heavy clouds & wind—& now it is quite clear and pleasant—I cannot walk around yet but feel in good spirits—am pleased to feel as well as I do, & get along as well as I do—Mother, I do not show my sickness in my looks, in flesh or face, except very little perhaps—

I will finish to–morrow or next day—

Sunday night—8 o'clock—I still feel as well as yesterday, & have been out twice to–day, riding in the cars, & walking a little—I get in the cars right at my door, & am brought back there again—It has been a beautiful day—I am now sitting in my room, by the stove, but there is hardly need of a fire—Peter Doyle is here for a couple of hours—he is reading—the doctor has been in to–day—he says I am getting along very well—

Monday afternoon 1 o'clock

Mother, I am over at my desk in the office again, writing this. I have rec'd your letter that the money come safe. I have just written a letter to Jeff,2 & enclosed Josephine's3 & yours in it—I am feeling on the gain—but still very slowly. I am taking some medicine, to restore strength—yesterday was perhaps my best day—though I feel middling to-day—I have not sent the Graphics containing my pieces4 as I have not had but one copy, & sometimes not that—I send papers to–day—Mother, you write me what envelopes you want directed to any of them, & I will send them—

It is gusty here but quite pleasant—I am feeling quite comfortable, & shall soon be walking around I feel confident—I want to come on to Camden, but wish to get a little more able to move around first—Love to you & all, Mother dear,



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. Since Jeff wrote to Walt Whitman on March 30, 1873, their letters obviously crossed. Walt Whitman's letter is not known. [back]

3. Josephine Barkeloo, a young Brooklyn friend of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, was the daughter of Tunis S. Barkeloo, a clerk. Josephine Barkeloo wrote three affectionate letters to Louisa before she left for Europe in 1872 (Library of Congress). The letter which Walt read was sent from Belgium, according to Louisa's letter to Helen Price of March 31, 1873 (Pierpont Morgan Library). [back]

4. The New York Daily Graphic published a number of Walt Whitman's poems and prose pieces in 1873 and 1874. In the former year the Daily Graphic printed the following works: "Nay, Tell Me Not To-day the Publish'd Shame" on March 5, 1873; "With All the Gifts, America" on March 6, 1873; "The Singing Thrush" (later titled "Wandering at Morn") on March 15, 1873; "Spain" on March 24, 1873; "Sea Captains, Young or Old" (later called "Song for All Seas, All Ships") on April 4, 1873; "Warble for Lilac-Time" on May 12, 1873; "Halls of Gold and Lilac" on November 24, 1873; and "Silver and Salmon-Tint" on November 29, 1873. In 1874, the Daily Graphic printed "A Kiss to the Bride" on May 21, 1874; "Song of the Universal" on June 17, 1874; and "An Old Man's Thought of School" on November 3, 1874[back]


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