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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 4 June 1865

Dear Walt,

Mother sent you a letter yesterday1—and a few moments afterward received one from you—Mother is getting quite around again—although I think she fails considerably—she is always quite bad mornings—it takes her some time before she can get around much  When I got home last night Mat told me that during the afternoon Mother came up stairs crying as if her heart would break all on account of that lazy baggage Ed—Mother cant do anything with him—he wont wait on himself hardly and wont do the least thing for her—I think he is the most infernal lazy and the most ugly human being I ever met—unless something can be done he certainly will shorten Mothers life by years—I cant express the amount of work that he causes her—and the excitement and worriment he causes her every moment of her life

I told Mother last night that if he could be boarded, somewhere that I would take her, that she should have a good room to herself and that Mat and I would do and provide for her in all respects as long as she lived and that she need not do another thing in the way of work, except for her amusement besides I would pay part of Ed's board  She seemed to feel that if it could be done she would like it much—I sincerely wish that some arrangement could be made—for I greatly fear that Mother will not live long if she has to go on in this way—Walt wont you think over the matter and write me what you think could be done in the matter—

If it wouldnt be too much trouble I wish you would write a letter to the young ones that sent you the money through Lane2—they are all awfully disappointed—they are all little girls of 8 and 12 years old (some even younger) and have been speculating what they should do with the letter—which one it would be directed to &c—at last they settled it by agreeing that each one should have the letter for a week at a time in regular order—they have called to see Mr Lane several times to see if it had been received—They of course are too young to know that the great point was to give it and of course look for the praise that is usually bestowed. Did Lane explain to you that they were the children of the people that sent you money last winter a year ago—Durkee's, Crany, Lanes &c &c3  they remembered hearing your letters read to their fathers and mothers, and heard a great deal of talk about the great good you could do with even a few dollars  This fair they got up entirely among themselves and resolved in solumn conclave (after voting down resolutions to give to the Sanitary Com. Christian Com, &c &c) to send the money to you to be spent &c  Mattie and the children are very well—I am writing this at the office with Hattie at my side—she wants to send a kiss to Uncle Walt

We do not hear from George  I wonder why he don't write—I wish he would—Mother gets very down hearted—and a letter cheers her up wonderfully—you must write her as often as you can too—

all send their love

affectionately Jeff


  • 1. In her letter of June 3, 1865, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman complained of suffering "considerable distress" from headaches (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). [back]
  • 2. See Jeff's letter to Walt from January 13, 1863. [back]
  • 3. These surnames also appear in the postscript to Walt Whitman's "The Great Washington Hospitals: Life Among Fifty Thousand Sick Soldiers.—Cases of Brooklyn Men" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 19, 1863: 2). One of the children, Kate Lane, is the daughter of Moses E. Lane. A second is Willie Durkee, presumably the son of the man listed as "E. R. Durkee" in Whitman's postscript. The child of Charles E. Crary ("Crany" in Jeff's letter) has not been identified. As Jeff indicates, this was not the first time some of these children had contributed to Whitman's hospital work. On January 26, 1863, Moses Lane sent Whitman $15.20, including five cents from Willie Durkee and fifteen cents from Miss Kate Lane. Moses Lane commented that these contributors were the only ones "thus far that will have to deny themselves anything" on account of their gifts. Crany may have sent Whitman money in 1863 and 1864 (see Jeff's letters to Walt from April 3, 1863 and March 11, 1864). [back]
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