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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 5 September 1863

Dear Walt,

I mailed you a letter to-day (also one from Mother) containing $5 from Mr Lane.2 I write to-night mostly to speak about Andrew. He called at the office this afternoon and I went around with him to see the Dr that he has been doctoring with, a Dr Hull.3 The Dr went through the usual forms and then went on to tell what ailed him ending with giving him a lot of medicines and telling him if that did not cure him to call again in a day or two. From the moment my eye rested on the Dr I made up my mind that he was a fool, a regular Doctor. I dont think that Andrew will get any good from him

I had previously made an appointment with Dr Ruggles4 at our office at 4 o'clk, when we returned the Dr was at the office. He talked a long time with Andrew. He told him that it would be perfectly easy to give him a bushel of medicines but that he could think of no medicine that would be likely to do him any good. That he might use alum on his throat but that what would cure him would be to take heart, go in the country again, and to resolve to get well that there was no medicine would do him so much good as a cheerful mind. The Dr thinks that what made him so much worse while away was that he went just as we had a very decided change of weather and that he somehow took cold. I had a long talk with Dr Ruggles this eve, and he tells me that he thinks that the only thing that will permanently help or cure Andrew is for him to go up in the North west and live either by working a little at his trade or something like it. I asked mother to-day to let him have one of her rooms upstairs for him to sleep in and I intended to see if he could not be nursed up and fed. Mattie has, I think very kindly, volunteered to cook and take care of him, and I feel that he could, in a short time, be fixed up so that he could carry out the Dr's idea. But Mother, says that she cant let him have the room, because it will bring his whole family here.5 I tell her to send the whole family back again, but she said, that "she cant let him have it and that's the end of it." I think that that she devil the Brown woman6 has a great influence over Mother, for she is nothing like she was a few months ago about such things. Perhaps it would not do any good but I think it would save his life  Another thing, Jess is failing very rapidly indeed,7 he is a mere shadow of what he ought to be and I have not the least doubt in my own mind that it all comes of his not having anything to eat that he can eat. Somehow or another Mother seems to think that she ought to live without spending any money.8 Even to day she has 25 or $30 in the house and I will bet that all they have for dinner will be a quart of tomats and a few cucumbers, and then Mother wonders why Jess vomits up his meals  However Mother gets them just as good or better than she has herself9


  • 1. Dating Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, September 5, 1863, and Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, September 5, 1863, is a problem. In the first of these Jeff incorrectly says that Setember 5 is a Wednesday; actually the fifth was a Saturday. One might assume, then, that both letters were written on Wednesday, September 2, if it were not for Walt Whitman's comment that he received letters from Jeff dated the third (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:143). Perhaps both letters were written on Thursday, September 3, 1863. [back]
  • 2. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from January 13, 1863. [back]
  • 3. Dr. A. Cooke Hull had his office on Joralemon Street in Brooklyn. [back]
  • 4. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from April 2, 1863. [back]
  • 5. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote Walt Whitman on September 10 (?), 1863, indicating that despite the generous talk of Jeff and Mattie "they would soon get tired of fixing things" for Andrew (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]
  • 6. See Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from April 3, 1860. [back]
  • 7. For more on Jesse's physical and mental decline, see Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman from December 15, 1863. [back]
  • 8. In her letter of September 10 (?), 1863, after noting that Andrew's health was "very bad," Louisa Van Velsor Whitman complained because Andrew wanted some roast lamb: "i said get a small peice and have it cooked  i told him to have whatever he wanted but to be saving of what he had but to get anything he could eat but Walt it is no use to talk  they just get the very most expensive things  lamb is twenty cents per lb" (Trent). Perhaps one of the reasons for Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's extreme frugality was her need to keep money aside in case one of the Whitman family members needed to travel to Burlington, Vermont, to rescue Hannah from her husband (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman [New York: Macmillan, 1955; rev. ed., New York University Press, 1967], 292–293). [back]
  • 9. This letter has no signature or customary conclusion and may be a fragment. [back]
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