Skip to main content

Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 17 October [1867]

 duk.00504.001.jpg My dear Walt 1867

the post man has gone bye and no letters, and its being thursday i feel worried very much for fear it is gone as i dident get it yesterday my usuall day i thought i would get it to day i wanted very much to hear from you and likewise i was very short of money but if you have sent it it is taken sure i think of every thing that is unlikely to happen O walt if you are sick or any thing  duk.00504.002.jpg the matter i hope you will let me know immedtely as i shall be very uneasy till i hear i wrote A letter last week to you walter i suppose you got it it is too bad if the letter is gone i have been waching the letter man and he s past and no letter i feel real bad my lameness is not much better yet i am taking medicine from a doctor a very good one i think the one matty2 had for sis3 he has great practice and has a very good name he said if this dident help me he dident know as any thing would but he thought this would

good bie Walter dear

matt dont hear from Jeff4 very often they are here yet5


  • 1. This letter dates to October 17, 1867. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated the letter "October 17," and Richard Maurice Bucke assigned the year 1867. In his calendar of letters, Edwin Haviland Miller included no letter dated October 17, 1867, but he did reference a letter from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman that he dated to October 7, 1867 (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:378). No other letter from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman could date to October 7, 1867, so Miller's date must be an error. Louisa stated that she was writing on a Thursday, the day of the week on which October 17 fell in 1867. Additional confirmation for the letter's date is that Louisa's October 20, 1867 letter to Walt—which is concerned also with $10 that has gone missing in the mail—refers to this letter as the one she wrote "thursday last." [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. The nickname "Sis" refers to Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957), the daughter of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. Jessie and her sister Manahatta "Hattie" were both favorites of their uncle Walt. The nickname "Sis" was given first to Manahatta but was passed to her younger sister Jessie Louisa when Manahatta became "Hattie." [back]
  • 4. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was the son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr., and Walt Whitman's favorite brother. In early adulthood he worked as a surveyor and topographical engineer. In the 1850s he began working for the Brooklyn Water Works, at which he remained employed through the Civil War. In 1867 Jeff became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and became a nationally recognized name in civil engineering. For more on Jeff, see "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)." [back]
  • 5. The postscript appears on the first page of the letter, beneath the date and above the salutation. [back]
Back to top