Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 7 May [1873]

Date: May 7, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: yal.00416

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), 2:217. 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

Wednesday noon, May 7.

Dearest mother1,

I have just rec'd your short letter of yesterday2—Mother, I feel so bad, you are not well, I don't know what to do—will not rest, and some food that suits, be good remedies? An old person wants the most favorable conditions, to get over any thing. Mother, I will come on about the 1st of next month—I am getting along favorably, they all say, but have frequent distress in my head, & my leg is clumsy as ever—I am writing this in the office at my desk—I send some papers to-day3—nothing particular in them—but I think the English paper, the Sunderland Times, good reading—Mother, write, if perfectly convenient, either Friday or Saturday, as I am anxious about you—

Good bye, dearest mother, & keep up a good heart—


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. About the beginning of May 1873, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman began to fail. On May 1, 1873, she complained of dyspepsia because of the poor food: "we have lived quite poor lately." [back]

3. In an undated letter, probably written about May 9, 1873, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman said: "walter dont send any more papers as i cant read. my head gets confused." [back]


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