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Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 29 June [1870]

 duk.00436.001.jpg 29 June '69 Well walt

we have lived through the heat so far2 the heat has been bad enoughf but i could have born it but i have had a real bad time with the rheumatism last saturday toward evening i went up on the hill i went by the way of cumberland st and set down several times before i reached the top whether it was that or what i dont know but all that night i couldent sleep my legs pained me so very bad and sunday but tuesday they dident pain me so bad but left me pretty lame but i have kept around slowly made edd doo all i could i suppose it was coming  duk.00436.002.jpg down the hill strained the nerves so i think i shant go on fort green again3 i am well otherways but such pain as i had for two or three days) and to mend the matter i had one of mr heyde s complimentory letters over a sheet of foolscap4 i read part of it and kindled the fire with it) walt if Mrs Oconor and Jenney5 comes i will make them very welcome and treat them very kindly but i cant doo as if i wasent lame but i shall get along very well it dont hurt me so bad quite to day to walk as it did yesterday) george6 hasent been home in a long while i havent heard a word from him he said if i got out of money i must write to him but i aint out yet i have felt sometimes quite uneasy about him as he is liable to be affected with the sun and he had to go to florence to inspect the new york pipe)7 matty is not or wasent the last i heard so well she and the children talked of going to minnesota8 the children has had the whooping coughf and they dont seem to get over it9

Walt you must keep a good heart that teedious thumb will come all right i hope10


  • 1. "June 29" is in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand. Richard Maurice Bucke dated the letter to 1869, and Edwin Haviland Miller dated it to 1870 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:368). Miller is correct. In the postscript, Louisa refers to Walt's "teedious thumb," and in five letters between June and August 1870 Louisa inquired about Walt's thumb. Therefore, this letter dates to June 29, 1870. [back]
  • 2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt Whitman was the second. For more information on Louisa and her letters, see Wesley Raabe, "'walter dear': The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt" and Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]
  • 3. Fort Greene is the former name for the site that is now Washington Park. Fort Greene was opposite the longtime Whitman home on Portland Avenue near Myrtle, in which Louisa Van Velsor Whitman resided with Thomas Jefferson Whitman and family for several years before their move to 840 Pacific Street in May 1866. Louisa had moved to the home on 101 N. Portland, in which she resided at the time of this letter, in spring 1869 (see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman'sApril 7, 1869 letter to Walt). [back]
  • 4. Charles Louis Heyde (1822–1892), a landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–1908), Walt Whitman's sister. They lived in Burlington, Vermont. Foolscap is a large piece of paper that is used by artists for sketches. As writing paper, it may be divided into smaller pieces. [back]
  • 5. Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Walt Whitman's staunchest defenders. Walt may have mentioned a potential visit by Nelly and her daughter during his May visit to Brooklyn, though whether a visit came near this time is not known from his or Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letters. Walt Whitman dined with the O'Connors frequently during his Washington years, and he spoke often in his letters of their daughter Jean (called "Jenny" or "Jeannie"). Though Whitman and William O'Connor would break off their friendship in late 1872 over a disagreement about Reconstruction policies and the role of emancipated slaves, Nelly would remain friendly with Whitman. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)." [back]
  • 6. 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]
  • 7. The R. D. Wood Foundry was located in Florence, New Jersey. At this time, George Washington Whitman was an inspector of gas pipes. He would accept a position as inspector of pipes at the foundry in late 1869. See Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's August 26, 1868, November 4?, 1868, and December 7, 1869 letters to Walt Whitman. See also Jerome M. Loving, ed., "Introduction," Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman (Durham: Duke University Press, 1975), 28. [back]
  • 8. Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873), known as "Mattie," was the wife of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother. She and Jeff had two daughters, Manahatta and Jessie Louisa. In 1868, Mattie and her daughters moved to St. Louis to join Jeff, who had moved there in 1867 to assume the position of Superintendent of Water Works. Mattie suffered a throat ailment that would lead to her death in 1873. For more on Mattie, see Randall H. Waldron, "Whitman, Martha ("Mattie") Mitchell (1836–1873)," ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). See also Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman (New York: New York University Press, 1977), 1–26. [back]
  • 9. The words "over it" are in the right margin, but they are only faintly visible in the digital image due to the curve associated with the binding. The text can be read easily in the original document. [back]
  • 10. Walt Whitman cut his thumb in late April or early May 1870, and it became infected. He referred to the injury in two letters from Brooklyn, a May 11, 1870 letter to Walbridge A. Field and a second May 11, 1870 letter to William D. O'Connor. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman inquired about or expressed concern for Walt's thumb in this and five other letters to Walt from May or June to July 1870: May 17? to June 11?, 1870, June 1, 1870, June 8, 1870, June 22, 1870, and July 20, 1870. [back]
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