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Charles L. Heyde to Walt Whitman, [20 December 1884]

 duk.00398.001_large.jpg Bro​ Walt.

8 O.'clock. I have just seen Han,1 upstairs: summond​ by her bell, which I was expecting to hear. She was much better than I expected. I was very apprehensive last night. She talked strangely, and enquired in whispers to me, whether truly I wanted her to get well. I was with her, at her bedside repeatedly, and then retired, so as to leave her quiet, alone, as she desired: administered a nervine potion, which alone has effect upon nervousness. She had complained much of her poor head, and heart throbbing. Entreated me not to let her be taken to the hospital. This institution however is a place that many have preferred to be taken to, in sickness: where  duk.00398.002_large.jpg perfect trained nurses are in attendance, and all uniformed cleanly; free from noise or care: Senator Edmunds2 has endowed a room there: I believe that his daughter was there. Our most experienced practicioners in surgery and medicine are daily examiners and prescribers. It is a beautiful situation, not very remote from our house, on a fine elevation. But I shall keep Han, in our own house and home. I break down allmost to hysteria at times, from exhaustion but my appetite remains steadfast, without a drop of artificial stimulant, alcohol or other. I perform all the housework, even to washing. Han does not; is averse to having our clothes put to laundry; their condition is so bad: beside to keep my house free from embarressment  duk.00398.003_large.jpg must beware of debt; for pay day comes at last, and my habitation is a guarantee to creditors. I have nursed Han though many very bad, very hard physical disorders, typhoid, Erysipilas​ ; spinal neuralgia, Hysteria, which is perhaps the most afflicting, and most incurable, possessing the mind with terrible conceits, woebegone fancies; distrust of the best friend. haunted; afflicting to madness.

I was much encouraged yesterday, and got away from the house for a couple of hours, to see about the sale of several of my paintings by shares or lottery: The frames cost about 60 dollars, for which I am partly in debt: and every one seems hard pressed for money: There is so much extravagance in dress and living: I do not marvel: I may succeed  duk.00398.004_large.jpg however—I can but try: I shall have to keep to the house to day: Han desires it: I have bought comforters and bedcloth sheets etc, and may be compelled to buy another stove: Doctor will be satisfied with a painting; he visits daily, sometimes twice a generous, skilled man, has promised to continue faithfully

I think the public appreciates my professional labours and endurance; my devotion—yet so many have imperative needs of their. George3 should help us, all he can: Han's friends or relatives are known: and my embarressments. I shall assist in bringing her down stairs this morning: two warm coal fires make the rooms comfortable—She mentions you and George: oftimes fails—can not see any person or talk.

C. L. Heyde

If it was spring time!

Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a French-born landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–1908), Walt Whitman's sister, and they lived in Burlington, Vermont. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. For more information about Heyde, see Steven Schroeder, "Heyde, Charles Louis (1822–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908), youngest sister of Walt Whitman. For more, see Paula K. Garrett, "Whitman (Heyde), Hannah Louisa (d. 1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 2. George Franklin Edmunds (1828–1919) was a longtime U.S. Senator from Vermont, serving from 1866 until 1891. [back]
  • 3. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the sixth child of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and ten years Walt Whitman's junior. George enlisted in the Union Army 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). After the war, George returned to Brooklyn and began building houses on speculation, with a partner named Smith and later a mason named French. George eventually took up a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]
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