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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 19 March 1867

Dearest mother,

I got both your letters last week, & they were a relief to my mind—I want to hear whether sis got over swallowing the penny1 —don't forget to write about it—It has been cold & disagreeable here, and another snow storm—but the sun shone all day yesterday—it keeps pretty backward here.

I went down to the Hospital Sunday—that young man Kephart2 was sitting up by the stove—he looked very pale & thin, but is doing far better than I anticipated.

I have written a letter to Han —I have received a letter from Mrs. Price —they have most all of them been sick this winter—I see quite a good many notices of Dr. Ruggles' death in the papers—I enclose one printed in the paper here—taken from N. Y. Post—there is quite a long one in the Round Table, of March 16.3

Every thing is exactly the same in the office, & with me—Ashton4 has returned from Philadelphia—he tells me, confidentially, that he has decided to resign, early this summer—I am sorry to hear it—

I hope George will have good luck with the houses5—he must take things cool—don't fail to write to me how every thing goes—

Well, I believe that is all, for this time, dear mother.



  • 1. In a postscript to her letter of March 20, 1867, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman added: "last evening sis swallowed a penny, Jeff was very much alarmed about it but she is bright enough now." [back]
  • 2.

    Walt Whitman first wrote of Andrew J. Kephart in his February 26, 1867 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. Kephart was a soldier from Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, admitted from the 44th Regiment Infantry for bleeding at the lungs.

    Whitman also wrote about Kephart's recovery in his March 5, 1867 and March 12, 1867 letters to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, and at the time of the poet's April 2, 1867 letter, Kephart had "quite recovered."

  • 3.

    The Brooklyn physician Edward Ruggles (1817?–1867) befriended the Whitman family and became especially close to Jeff and Mattie. Late in life, Ruggles lost interest in his practice and devoted himself to painting cabinet pictures called "Ruggles Gems."

    Obituaries appeared in the New York Evening Post, March 11, 1867, and in the Round Table, 5 (1867), 173. The author of the obituary in the New York Tribune, on March 12, 1867, lamented the fact that Ruggles had abandoned his profession to produce "Ruggles Gems": "The public gained nothing by the change, and we regret Dr. Ruggles' death, not because we have lost an artist, but because an excellent man and a worthy citizen has gone to his rest." Jeff and Martha attended the funeral, according to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letter of March 15, 1867.

  • 4. J. Hubley Ashton, the assistant Attorney General, actively interested himself in Walt Whitman's affairs, and obtained a position for the poet in his office after the Harlan fracas. [back]
  • 5. On March 15, 1867, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote that George expected to sell one of his houses but had to borrow $200 from Jeff. George, she wrote, "is well but begins to look quite old . . . ." [back]
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