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Hannah Whitman Heyde to Walt Whitman, 7 June [1873]

 loc_tb.00220.jpg 1873 My dear Brother

I wish I had written to you before, but first I could not, I wanted too​

Now I feel anxious to write. I am gratefull​ for your being so thoughtful and unselfish in your own great grief, to write to me. I dont​ know what I should have done without,—your letters done me good.

I want to ask you dear brother to try to not greive​ . I do wish you would try to not. when dear Mother2 was here she said that sometimes  loc_tb.00222.jpg she felt bad to think we all thought so much of her, for at most she could not be with us a great while

We all seem, Eddy3 and all, to depend upon you so much, And next to dear mother you are the very nearest to me.—

I know that just as long as you live you will miss dear Mother: and so shall I.

And you have always done every single thing possible for Mothers​ comfort, for when dear Mother was here she said you was​ one she could  loc_tb.00223.jpg always rely on.

I shall expect you to stay here this Summer all the time you have from your business in Washington. it will not do for you to be there in the hot weather like you was​ last Summer.

I dont​ know what I should do if you was​ not comeing​ , its​ something to look forward to.

I only hope you will be comfortable and at home here, and I know you will

So make your arrangments​ to stop here all the time you have. the weather is as pleasant here as anywhere  loc_tb.00221.jpg and I will like to have you here, it wont​ make a straws​ difference in my housework. I was so glad to hear that you was​ getting well.

I have been perfectly well the past Winter.—The trunk dear Mothers​ trunk is here, it is in your room. I have not yet opened it. I will in a few days and then I will write to you again. It came last Wednesday

Everything of dear Mothers​ is sacred,—I have not seen dear Mothers​ hair yet, and the flowers, I have stood dear Mothers​ death a great deal better that I would have thought I possibly could I have been working all the past week Dear Brother I cant​ write much this time, do be careful of yourself & do try to not grieve. I am pretty well, but I feel as if I could not bear any more I am sorry I have not written to before,


It was very kind & thoughtful to send the $2, for the Express,4 I am really much oblidged​ , to Jeffy5 too,

I have meant to write to Jeffy & the dear little girls6

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 dates this letter 1873, in red ink. June 7 fell on a Saturday in 1873, so the day of the week as indicated here by Hannah confirms Bucke's date. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman died on May 23, 1873, and Hannah's grief and her expression of consolation to her brother Walt in this letter further confirm the date. [back]
  • 2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death in 1873. During his mother's final illness, George Whitman and his wife Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman took over Eddy's care, with financial support from Walt Whitman. In 1888, Eddy was moved to an asylum at Blackwood, New Jersey. For more information on Edward, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Edward (1835–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. The postscript of this letter appears upside-down at the top of the first page, above the date. [back]
  • 5. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized figure. For more on Jeff, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 6. Walt Whitman had two nieces: Manahatta "Hattie" (1860–1886) and Jessie Louisa "Sis" Whitman (1863–1957), the daughters of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890) and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman (1836–1873). Hattie and Jessie were both favorites of their uncle Walt. [back]
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