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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Walt Whitman, 29 September 1865

Dear brother Walt

We hav'nt heard from you for some time1—you say the bundle was not the right one—I read the label and thought it read the same as you described in your letter—would you like me to send the other or right one if I can find it—Mother told me she knew the one you meant and that she would put it on the table for me2—that is the one I sent

We had a letter from Mother to-day—she seems pretty well—talks a little of coming home but does not say when—I have just written her this eve—We are all as well as usual—the baby has a bad boil on its forehead but I suppose it will get well in a day or two and then she will be all right again—it looks just now though about as bad as anything of the kind I ever saw  by-the-way it was me that had the "run around" on the finger3—and I have just got well of it—and a cussed bad time I had of it too—it accounts for my not writing you before—

George is getting along first rate I guess—He dont say any more about getting a position in the Custom House—I hope he wont try but I am quite sure that if he can keep devoted to his present undertaking he will make a handsome fortune in 8 or ten years4—he certainly has the prospect of it—there is an immense amount of building in the city this season—though material is wonderful high—brick $12 per thousand—should be abt 5 or 6—I have given up all thought of building this fall—at one time I thought I would sure  perhaps next spring will be better

Matters about Brooklyn are much the same—with me just the same—Mr Kirkwood5 has been on a visit to Brooklyn and just gone back to St. Louis—I think it more than likely that he will build the water works of that city—if so it will be as large a job as the Brooklyn works

The Doctor6 returned from the country last week—he looks first rate—says he had a wonderfully good time—he was spending the summer up in Vermont near Burlington—speaks of it as being a splendid place to live—

In her letter to-day Mother says she wants either you or George to come on and come home with her7—so I suppose she begins to think of coming home

Mattie and the children desire to send their love to you—the child[ren] are growing first rate—

I wish you would write me  I want to know how things are going with you

affectionately Jeff


  • 1. Whitman's most recent letter to the family had been written on about September 20 (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–77], 1:369). [back]
  • 2. In her letter to Walt Whitman of September 5, 1865, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman seemed confident that she knew which bundle the poet wanted: "if you want Jeff to send that package of papers you must write to him" (Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Books, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). It is not clear what material Whitman was seeking. [back]
  • 3. Jeff's failure to include a period after "says" in his letter to Walt from September 11, 1865 created ambiguity. The poet must have understood Jeff's letter to mean that Louisa Van Velsor Whitman had the "run around" on her finger. [back]
  • 4. Jeff was right in thinking that George would eventually prosper. At his death in 1901 George left an estate valued at $59,348.14. No one has discovered how he accumulated so much money (Jerome M. Loving, ed., Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1975], 33). [back]
  • 5. See Jeff's letter to Walt from April 16, 1860. Kirkwood had been appointed chief engineer of the proposed new St. Louis Water Works on April 22, 1865. [back]
  • 6. The Brooklyn physician Edward Ruggles (1817?–67) 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" (Miller, Correspondence, 1:90, n.85). While near Burlington, he may have visited Charles and Hannah Heyde. [back]
  • 7. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman was especially interested in having Walt come to get her because she and Hannah hoped he would buy a place in Birmingham near Burlington, Vermont (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman [New York: Macmillan, 1955; rev. ed., New York University Press, 1967], 352–53). [back]
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