Skip to main content

Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Walt Whitman, 22 August [1871]

 duk.00606.001.jpg 1871

tuesday evening 6 oclock and no letter from walt and nobody else as to Jeff2 he dont never write to me in these days i3 have written to him but dont receive any letter from him or matty4 well walt i gess i shall get one from you to morrow you must write walt when you will come if you can tell so long before hand5  duk.00606.002.jpg well walt who do you think has been here to day mrs Hinds charleys widow6 she and her oldest daughter7 have come on here for a short time probably to see something about disposing of his pictures her daughter dident come here as she was not very well but a lady by the name of mrs judson8 came with her poor woman i felt great sympathy9 for her if i had had 5 doller in my possession in the world i would have given it to her  duk.00606.003.jpg i dont know as she is so very needey but i felt as if i wanted to assist her a little she says it looks very dark bfore her but she thinks she shall remain in new haven for the present you must write to her walt and to townsen she said townsend has a colulm and a half in the new haven paper concerning you10 and they thought so strange they dident hear from you


i feel pretty smart only quite lame my limbs have pained me more lately but write walt if you have not but i think you have


  • 1. This letter dates to August 22, 1871. The date August 22 is in Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's hand, and Richard Maurice Bucke dated the letter to the year 1871. Edwin Haviland Miller agreed with Bucke's date (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 2:369). The year designated by Bucke and affirmed by Miller is correct because it is consistent with a visit to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman by Julia Hine after the death of her husband, Charles Hine (also see Louisa's October 7, 1871 letter to Walt Whitman). [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. 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]
  • 5. Walt Whitman was invited to read at the opening of the American Institute, a long-running Brooklyn fair that displayed flowers, plants, fruits, and products of American industry and manufacture. The fair buildings, which occupied 100,000 square feet, were located on the block enclosed by Second and Third Avenue and Sixty-third and Sixty-fourth Street (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 14, 1871, 1). Whitman opened the American Institute on September 7, 1871, with a recitation of "After All, Not to Create Only." The poem was widely reprinted (see "Poems in Periodicals" and Whitman's August 5, 1871 draft letter to the American Institute Committee on Invitations). The dates for Whitman's travel to Brooklyn, New York, and his return to Washington, D.C., are not known. [back]
  • 6. Julia A. Hine, widow of Charles Hine (1827–1871), indicated her intent to visit Walt Whitman's mother in Brooklyn shortly after her husband's death (see Julia Hine's August 4, 1871 letter to Walt Whitman; for her name Julia, see United States Census, 1870). Charles Hine was a portrait and figure painter, and his painting of Walt Whitman became the frontispiece for Leaves of Grass in 1860. He died on July 31, 1871, only days after a visit from Whitman. Julia Hine may have visited Louisa Van Velsor Whitman in part because Walt had reported his mother "ill—some of the time very ill" (see Walt Whitman's July 14, 1871 letter to Charles Hine, The Correspondence, ed. Ted Genoways [Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004], 7:31; and see Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650–1934 [Salt Lake City: FamilySearch, 2009]). [back]
  • 7. The oldest daughter of Charles and Julia Hine, named Minnie, was born in 1859 (United States Census, 1870). [back]
  • 8. Julia Hine's companion, Mrs. Judson, has not been identified. [back]
  • 9. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman originally wrote, "my sympathy for her strong." She then canceled the word "my" and the phrase "for her strong." She inserted "i felt great" above the canceled word "my." The revised phrase is "i felt great sympathy." [back]
  • 10. Julia Hine in her August 4, 1871 letter to Walt Whitman wrote, "Mr. Townsend, a dear friend of Charley's, has sent you a paper with a pleasant article written by himself." The review of Whitman's work by a Townsend in a Providence, Rhode Island, newspaper has not been identified. [back]
Back to top