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Hannah Whitman Heyde to Walt Whitman, 18 April [1889]


I do hope my dearest brother you are feeling a good deal better to day​ I do want you to be. so much. my​ greatest comfort is thinking about your being pretty well, comfortable.

You never complain ar​ always patient Walt dear & an example for us all.

You are more than kind to write me such a long letter when you are not strong. been​ so sick, (and I do feel so sorry) all the rest in the letter every word is good to know.

I think of you always my dear brother as I always like to tell you indeed Walt I dont​  loc_tb.00207.jpg think I could live without thinking about you.—I mean you are so good to me, and it is so good to have you to think of.

Walt dear if I could only write something cheerfull​ if I only could do anything for you.—could see you

Everyone I know asks after you Mrs​ Tyler2 always & all her children & Mrs​ Griswold3 never fails.

I do feel your sending me this money Walt, you have sent me so much before of course I should not have so many things my cloak for instance I must tell you again Walt you are first first


I have been working around this morning getting dinner & so on wanted to write anyway a line or two.

I am going to think you are better yet to day​ your letter was written two days ago. I thank you very much for writing. I had not heard you was​ sick my dear brother

It is right pretty to hear about those wild flowers.—

Walt dear I send love with all my heart.


Love to Lou4 & George5 and Eddy6


Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde (1823–1908) was the fourth child of Walter and Louisa Whitman and Walt Whitman's youngest sister. Hannah was named for her paternal grandmother, Hannah Brush Whitman (1753–1834), and her mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873). Although Walt Whitman had a close relationship with his younger brother Jeff Whitman, Hannah was his favorite, most beloved sibling. Until she married, Hannah lived at home with her parents and her brothers. Educated at the Hempstead Academy, Hannah taught school in rural Long Island. On March 23, 1852, Hannah married Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a landscape painter. It is possible that Walt introduced Hannah to Charles. In August 1852 the Heydes departed for Vermont. The first decade of their marriage was marked by constant moving from boarding houses to hotels, mostly in rural Vermont, as Heyde sought out vantage points for his landscape paintings. In 1864 the Heydes settled in Burlington, purchasing a house on Pearl Street. After Hannah's marriage and relocation to Vermont, Mother Whitman became Hannah's faithful correspondent; Walt also kept in touch, sending letters and editions of Leaves of Grass after publication. Hannah faced several health crises during her marriage, partly due to the ongoing trauma of emotional, verbal, and physical intimate partner violence that she experienced. In the 1880s and 1890s Heyde increasingly had difficulty earning enough to cover household expenses; in addition, he may have become an alcoholic. He repeatedly asked Whitman for funds to cover their expenses. Whitman sent both Heyde and Hannah small amounts of money. After Heyde died in 1892, Hannah remained in Burlington, living in their house on Pearl Street until her death in 1908. For more information, see Paula K. Garrett, "Whitman (Heyde), Hannah Louisa (d. 1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. The Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke dated this letter 1889, written lightly in pencil as "89." The date matches information about Walt's health condition mentioned by Hannah in this letter and in his correspondence from this month. He suffered from a head cold in early April, and was feeling "quite miserable." See Whitman's letter to his friend and defender William D. O'Connor of April 2, 1889." [back]
  • 2. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
  • 3. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
  • 4. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Walt's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. They moved to Camden in 1872, and Walt Whitman lived with them 1873 to 1884. For more information, see Karen Wolfe, "Whitman, Louisa Orr Haslam (Mrs. George) (1842–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 5. George Washington Whitman (1829–1901) was the seventh child of Walter and Louisa Whitman, and ten years younger than Walt. George learned to read and write as a pupil under his older brother Walt (who briefly served as a schoolteacher in Long Island), and worked as a carpenter prior to his military service during the Civil War. When the war ended, he became a pipe inspector for the City of Camden and the New York Metropolitan Water Board. See Martin G. Murray, "Whitman, George Washington," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 6. Eddy (Edward) Whitman (1835–1892), the youngest child of Louisa and Walter Whitman, was mentally and physically disabled. He lived with Mother Whitman until her death in 1873, then with his brother George Washington Whitman and his wife Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman. Walt Whitman contributed to his support. Eddy was placed in an asylum in Blackwood, New Jersey, in 1888. See Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Edward" in Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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