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Thomas Jefferson Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 5 October 1872

My dear Mother

Mattie has returned from St. Paul2 but I am sorry to say is hardly as well as when she went away  Up to yesterday she was very sick but seemed to be quite a good deal better this morning—A few days since when the doctor came to see her he told her that he thought he would have her go to Philadelphia again to see Dr Gross3 and also to New York to see Dr Clark4—Of course if she comes I will write George—if she continues to gain she will not come yet awhile

I heard her tell Hattie this morning that she would certainly write you a letter to-day—

Enclosed I send draft for $25. and I want it expended thusly  $10. of it George must take and go over to that place in the city that I found out they had good liquors and buy some good wine5—California Port and Muscatel Sautern and "sich"—The tother $15 you can do what you please with—but dont go back on me about the wine—

How is George and Loo6—and Ed—I suppose Ed has hunted up an "organ" before this7

Matters go middling well with me—have been very busy—had no time to do anything—could'nt even go a fishing

Love to all—tell Walt that I wish he would come and see us—shall leave it to Mat to persuade you and Loo and George out here—Hat and Jess are as well as can be  I sometimes think they are "weller"

Good bye—Keep up your temper and dont get tight

Affectionately Jeff

George can get your draft cashed at Starr's—8


  • 1. In the spring of 1872, after consulting with numerous doctors in St. Louis and the East, Mattie learned that she had cancer. Jeff's letters from this period provide a detailed account of her struggle with and death from the disease. Jeff hoped that Mother Whitman and Walt would visit, partly to ease the emotional strain and partly because he knew they had little time to see Mattie. Illness, however, prevented such visits, and Jeff and the girls were left alone to cope with the death. As Hattie wrote Walt two days after her mother's funeral, "Every body is very kind out here but if one of you could only be here it would be so pleasant for Papa. Dear Papa feels so badly" (February 24, 1873 [Walt Whitman Papers, Library of Congress]). [back]
  • 2. Mattie and her daughters had been to St. Paul and Wyoming, Minnesota, in hopes of improving Mattie's health (Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman [New York: New York University Press, 1977], p. 81, n.1). [back]
  • 3. Dr. Gross (or Grosse, as Mattie spells the name) was probably the Philadelphia physician who diagnosed Mattie's disease as cancer (Waldron, p. 77). [back]
  • 4. Unidentified. [back]
  • 5. In August 1872 Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Edward reluctantly moved into George's home in Camden, New Jersey. [back]
  • 6. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman, who had married George in April 1872. [back]
  • 7. While in Brooklyn, Edward Whitman seems to have spent most of his time running errands for his mother and attending his favorite church. Jeff imagines that Edward has found a new church and suggests that it was the church music that engaged the limited mental powers of his brother. [back]
  • 8. Starr & Co., evidently a pipe foundry in Camden, New Jersey (Jerome M. Loving, ed., Civil War Letters of George Washington Whitman [Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1975], p. 161). [back]
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