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Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 23 June [1869]

 duk.00581.001.jpg —1869 Dear Walt

i2 have receeved your letter to day all safe with the envelopes and all right i had Mr Burroughs and his friend3 to see me yesterday tuesday they got in yesterday morning and was going to leave at 4 ocl in the afternoon they were here about an hour i think i should like burrouhs very much and the man with him too was very friendly it dident put me aback in the least things were in order and i happened to have on a clean cap they thought the house very good and your portrait attracted theer special attention i asked them to stay and have dinner but they declined said they could not as they had to go somewher i beleive & i was glad to hear you had been there last sunday and took breakfast) it has been very hot here and so much cloudy unwholsome weather i have felt quite bad some part of the time worst i would feel would be in the morning when i first got up i would feel so exausted as if i never could doo any thing but when i got some coffee i would feel better but these two or three mornings back i have felt better) george4 has not been home since i wrote last to you he dident know but they would send for him to inspect here but i suppose they haveent he says he has to work real hard out there so many pipe to handle but he feels pretty well has a good appetite he says he has the rheumatis in his legs and hip i dont think its the rheumatis5 at all i think its the affects of his fever when he was a prisoner in the war6  duk.00581.002.jpg well walt i have had a letter from matty7 the other day they seem to be all getting along finely matty sent me two 25 cent bills8 quite a lift wasent it walt well walt i dont want to complain of any body but i doo think sometimes they might send me a few dollars but to send 50 cents i thought it rather small when i think of what i have done for them i dont think i would be indebted if they was to send me considerable) Jeff9 sent a letter to George after he left for camden wanted an immediate answer) now walt i will tell you all about the affairs between george and jeff i think you will understand it in the first place jeff let george have 500 dollars10 george gave him a note forit and then he let him have 500 hund more he gave him a note for that that made 1000 dollars one was given last august and the other last september and when matt was on here george lent her 50 dollars11 she told jeff to pay george but he dident so george thought it could go to pay the interest of the notes or toward it) when jeff was on i said to him couldent he let george have what money he would want to build with and take a mortgage on this house i thought it would be an advantage to jeff as well as george so he asked george how much he would want and george told him three thousand dollars jeff said he would let him know when he went back and george said when the other house was sold he would pay off the two notes and only have the three thousand stand well jeff sent drafts at different times till he had sent it all but 600 dollars12 that was to make out the mortgage you see walt and then he stopped dident send any more finally the mortgage was made out and executed and left at the recorders office and six hundred wasent received so when george was home he said that six hundred he should keep to pay you13 and when the house was sold he should have some coming and would make up enoughf to pay off the notes to jeff) well this letter to george was to see if george couldent pay the notes off as jeffy wanted to go into some speclulation in an iron furnace manufactory but he said for george to not sell the house by any means so i wrote a letter to him that george was away  duk.00581.003.jpg and would be home in 2 weeks and that he had transfered the 1000 dollar mortgage on the steers property to the mason that done the work)14 jeff wrote to know if george held that mortgage yet so i dont know how it go) if you cant understand walter dear you must read it over two or three times)15 when matt wrote to me she generally asks how walt is and they would like to have you come on there well i dare say they would well i said in my letter to matt walt seems quite well now and the same good old standby sends edd16 and me our daily substance i thought afterwards maybe they would think it was a hint to them but i thought i dident care good bie Walter it will bring it near september if you dont come till two months well  duk.00581.004.jpg come when you will we will be glad to see you and you will be welcome walter dear


  • 1. This letter dates to June 23, 1869. June 23, the date in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand, fell on a Wednesday in 1869, the year assigned to the letter by Richard Maurice Bucke. In the letter, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote that John Burroughs had visited her "yesterday tuesday." Edwin Haviland Miller cited Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:367). Louisa's summary of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman's loans to George Washington Whitman—he received the first loan of $500 "last august"—is consistent with Jeff Whitman's August 20, 1868 letter to George and further confirms the year of Louisa's letter as 1869. [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. John Burroughs was one of Walt Whitman's closest friends in Washington. The "friend" that accompanied Burroughs is not known. See "Burroughs, John (1837–1921) and Ursula (1836–1917)." [back]
  • 4. 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 also took a position as inspector of pipes in Brooklyn and Camden, and he married Louisa Orr Haslam in spring 1871. For more information on George, see "Whitman, George Washington." [back]
  • 5. Rheumatism or arthritic rheumatism, which Louisa Van Velsor Whitman also spells "rheumattis" or "rhumatis," is joint pain, which was attributed to dry joints. See Health at Home, or Hall's Family Doctor (Hartford: J. A. S. Betts, 1873), 704. [back]
  • 6. See Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 5, 1865 letter to Walt Whitman. [back]
  • 7. The letter is not extant. 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 February 1873. For more on Mattie, see Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman (New York: New York University Press, 1977), 1–26. [back]
  • 8. The United States issued fractional currency during the Civil War, which was known as Postal Currency because the designs copied postage stamps. Various issues continued in circulation until the mid-1870s. See Arthur L. Friedberg and Ira S. Friedberg, Paper Money of the United States: A Complete Illustrated Guide With Valuations, 18th ed., (Clifton, New Jersey: Coin & Currency Institute, 2006). [back]
  • 9. 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]
  • 10. For Thomas Jefferson Whitman's initial $500 loan to George Washington Whitman, see Jeff's August 20, 1868 letter to George. [back]
  • 11. Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman began an extended visit to Brooklyn for medical treatment in mid-October 1868 (see Walt Whitman's October 25, 1868 letter to Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman). Mattie and Jeff returned to St. Louis in mid-December. For the $50 that George Washington Whitman lent Mattie, see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's December 15–19, 1868 letter to Walt. [back]
  • 12. The meaning of "all but 600 dollars" is that George had received from Jeff the two $500 loans plus $2400 in exchange for the mortgage valued at "three thousand dollars." Also see Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's March 17, 1869 letter for the mortgage made out to Thomas Jefferson Whitman. [back]
  • 13. In mid-March 1869 Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had asked Walt to lend George $600, and Walt apparently agreed (see Mrs. Whitman's March 15, 1869 letter to Walt; see Jeff Whitman's March 25, 1869 letter to Walt). [back]
  • 14. Margret Steers, her husband Thomas Steers (1826–1869), and their four children Thomas (b. 1853), Caroline (b. 1857), Louisa (b. 1862), and Margret (b. 1865) moved into the Atlantic Avenue building in November 1868. Thomas Steers operated a bakery, and his wife, who would become a close friend of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, continued the business when he died in January 1869. After Thomas Steers' sudden death, Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman replied to an early 1869 letter from Louisa (not extant) with concern that "Mr. Steers' death had quite an effect on you." George Washington Whitman sold a property to Margaret Steers in January 1871, and the property had title trouble with regard to unpaid assessments (see Mattie Whitman's February? 1869 letter to Louisa in Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman [New York: New York University Press, 1977], 67; Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's November 4, 1868 letter to Walt Whitman; "Died," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 22, 1869, 3; United States Census, 1870. New York, Brooklyn Ward 7, Kings, District 1; and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's January 3–24?, 1871 letter to Walt). [back]
  • 15. Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman wanted his brother George Washington Whitman to sell the mortgage on the Steers property and repay him $1,000, which would allow Jeff to invest in the iron furnace manufacturer. George could not sell the Steers property because he had already transferred the mortgage note to the mason. Louisa was probably frustrated that Jeff's demand for an immediate payment altered the terms that George had expected. Jeff initially agreed to lend George $1,000 and had agreed to lend an additional $3,000 in exchange for a mortgage. But Jeff had only sent George $2,400 toward the mortgage. Now Jeff wanted to be repaid the initial $1,000 immediately and ceased making monthly $200 payments on the promised $3,000 while $600 short of $3,000. Because Louisa was writing to Walt Whitman, she was probably implying that George should first repay the $600 loan to Walt (above George "said that six hundred he should keep to pay you") because Jeff had not sent George the full amount to which he had agreed and told George not to sell the house: Jeff, Louisa implies, could wait until George sold another house to be repaid the initial $1,000 in full. Louisa like George wanted the $1,000 to remain outstanding. By recasting George's loan of $50 to Mattie at Christmas as a servicing payment for Jeff's initial $1,000 loan, George could be considered to have paid interest due on the loan. [back]
  • 16. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death. During Louisa's final illness, Eddy was taken under the care of George Washington Whitman and his wife, Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman, with financial support from Walt Whitman. [back]
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