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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 25 April 1863

Dear Walt,

Although I have little to write you about yet I thought I would just "drop you a line" as they say telling you that we all are in our usual style of liberty, health and pursuit of happiness. The latter of course under great difficulties as everything is so awful dear that you can hardly get enough to make a happy dinner on for less than 150cts but then we are doing the jolliest we can. How goes things with you. We dont hear from you as often as we used to.1 I hope you are not so engaged but that you can find time to write home? Do you visit the Hospitals as oftens as usual?2 I suppose so. I hope you are enabled to do as much good as formerly

I have had quite a disappointment in a small way  There was a bill introduced in the Leg. to give the Brooklyn Sewer Com. the power to build a large sewer in Kent Av. raise the grade of the streets around there (Kent Av. from Flushing toward Williamsburg) &c quite a large job and we all surely thought it would go through as it is very much needed, and Mr Lane had promised me charge of it. Indeed I had commenced making plans, profiles &c when at the last moment the thing got squelched, but yet I dont know a[s] I am very sorry for we still expect to get the new main, that is to lay a new line of pipe from the Reservoir down to the city, and even if we dont do that why I shall have work enough to keep me along, doing anything and everything that turns up3

Andrew is about the same as when I last wrote you  no worse, and I think a little better.4 I do not see much of him as he comes to the house mostly when I am out. He visits Dr Ruggles5 now and then. The Dr thinks that he will gradually get over it. Mother had a little attack of her rheumatism yesterday and to-day and I am somewhat afraid that she will have more of it. She has been wonderful foolish in cleaning house as she calls it and has overworked herself.6 I dont think that she ought to do so, and so I tell her but she always answers that it's got to be done and that there is no one but her to do it, &c  Mary and Louisa7 have gone home  They went Thursday last. Mother worked quite hard while they were here which may help account for the rheumatism in a measure. Mat is as jolly and good as ever. I am glad that she has no work from New York as twould be too much for her. Although she often speaks of writing you, yet she takes it out in talking, but she always wants to be remembered to you  Hattie is just the same little Harem-scarem and joyous little thing that she ever is. If she can only get out in the open air 'tis all she wants. It appears to be perfect pleasure to her, she dont seem to care about seeing anybody or going to any place, only get out in the air, that is all. Twould amuse you to see her when I go home, she seems to be glad enough, and always looks at me with an expression "well you've come and you are all right" but otherwise with the utmost indifference, and when I tell her to come and see me she says "what do I want to see you for" or at other times "What are you going to do with me." You would be pleased to see how finely she is growing, seemingly perfect health  We have heard from George but twice since he left home. I wish we could do so oftener.  Have not had a letter from Han since I wrote you

Affectionately Jeff.


  • 1. In a letter to his mother dated April 28, 1863, Walt made reference to his letter of April 22 (not extant) which had not reached Jeff by April 25. However, Walt did promise to "write oftener especially to Jeff." [back]
  • 2. Walt responded: "Jeff asks me if I go to hospitals as much as ever. If my letters home don't show it, you don't get 'em. I feel sorry sometimes after I have sent them, I have said so much about hospitals, & so mournful" (see Walt's letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dated April 28, 1863). [back]
  • 3. Concerned that Jeff might suffer one of his occasional bouts of depression, Walt attempted to place his brother's seeming bad fortune in the largest of contexts: "You must not mind the failure of the sewer bills, &c. &c. It don't seem to me it makes so much difference about worldy successes (beyond just enough to eat & drink, and shelter, in the moderatest limits) any more, since the last four months of my life especially, & that merely to live, & have one fair meal a day, is enough—but then you have a family, & that makes a difference" (see Walt's letter to Louisa from April 28, 1863). [back]
  • 4. See Jeff's letter to Walt dated April 3, 1860. [back]
  • 5. 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" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:90, n. 85; 330). [back]
  • 6. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman overworked herself compulsively. Some years before in one of her own letters to Walt she remarked, "i had A pery [sic] bad cold and coughf when Jeffy wrote and had been cleaning house and worked very hard but i am well now" (May 3, 1860? [Trent Collection, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University]). See also Jeff's letter to Walt from March 19, 1864. [back]
  • 7. See Jeff's letter to Walt from April 20, 1863. [back]
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