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Mannahatta Whitman to Walt Whitman, 24 February 1873

 loc_ad.00241_large.jpg Dear Dear Uncle Walt

How do you feel now.1 I wrote to Grandma2 yesterday evening Mama's3 death was very unexpected here the day was so pleasant that she asked Papa4 to take her out riding and Papa said he would so he brought up the buggy and lifted Mama in he then went to take the reins and just then Mama said. Now wait till I get my dress fixed and Papa waited  loc_ad.00242_large.jpg and then she fell over & never spoke another word when I came home[no handwritten text supplied here]from school I found that[no handwritten text supplied here]Dear Mama was dying. when[no handwritten text supplied here]I left for school in the morning Mama said she felt better that she had the best nights​ sleep in a long while it was such a shock to me I had run about two blocks to see her I saw the buggy outside of the door and I felt so glad that I could see her before she went out but when I came in I saw her pale face and I did not know what to do

We had a very large funeral the office was closed so that all the commissioners came.  loc_ad.00243_large.jpg Grandma must have felt very badly when she heard it Poor Dear Mama died ¼ of 8 on Wednesday evening we had a large number of friends here but no one could do her any good I think it is better for Mama that she is dead she suffered so much. Mr Lane5 came out he got here on saturday​ morning he would have been here on friday​ morning but he was left he just got to the depot to see the cars start

Every body​ is very kind out here but if one of you would only be here it would be so pleasant for Papa Dear Papa feels so badly I do not know how we can  loc.02865.004_large.jpg hardly live without Dear Mama. You do not know how hard it was to see her die but she knew me when I got home though she could not speak to me.

It has been very cold here but it is quiet​ pleasant today. Jessie6 has gone to school so I am home all alone with the girls

If I only could see Dear Grandma I think I would be happy but as I cannot I suppose I shall have to go without seeing her

I have just got home from market but it is not of hardly any use to try to get Papa any thing to eat  loc_ad.00245_large.jpg as he wont​ eat anything

Mama deceived me very much her face was so swolen​ that she looked so well and she never gave up I all ways​ thought that she would be in bed a few days before she died but she was not. She was dressed so nicely and neatly that she beautiful after she died but she did not look very natural the swelling went down and it altered her face very much indeed

Mrs. Flad7 has just been  loc_ad.00246_large.jpg here. I am hardly ever alone now, we both sleep with Papa[no handwritten text supplied here]and that is so nice.[no handwritten text supplied here]When Papa telegraphed[no handwritten text supplied here]we did not receive an answer for about two days and a half so it kept us very anxious some one has been here all night ever since Mama died Papa was holding Mamas​ head and she would breath​ easy one breadth​ and the breath​ hard she continued this way for three hours and a half and then she drew her last breadth​

The time flies very quickly I have some little things to do every day so that I am kept quiet​ busy We received grandmas​  loc_ad.00247_large.jpg letter but it was to​ late for Mama to ever read it I read it, it was such a nice letter that it was to​ bad that it did not come a day before

Mama would have been so glad to have read it We got some of Mama's pictures yesterday. Papa says he would send you one now but we have only two one large and one small so that he wants to keep them till he can get the rest and then he will send you all some Now Uncle Walt I am getting tired so

Good Bye Darling Uncle Hattie

P.S. They all sent love to you


Dear Uncle Walt I will send you a flower that came off mamas​ coffin

Good bye

Mannahatta Whitman (1860–1886) was Walt Whitman's niece. She was the first daughter born to the poet's brother, Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890), and Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman (1836–1873).


  • 1. In January 1873, Whitman suffered a paralytic stroke that made walking difficult. He first reported it in his January 26, 1873, letter to his mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873), and continued to provide regular notes on his condition. By mid-March Whitman was taking brief walks out to the street and began to hope that he could resume work in the office. See also his March 21, 1873, letter to his mother. [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. Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873), known as "Mattie," was the wife of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother. She and Jeff had two daughters, Manahatta and Jessie Louisa. In 1868, Mattie and her daughters moved to St. Louis to join Jeff, who had moved there in 1867 to assume the position of Superintendent of Water Works. Mattie suffered a throat ailment that would lead to her death in 1873. For more on Mattie, see Randall H. Waldron, "Whitman, Martha ("Mattie") Mitchell (1836–1873)," ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). See also Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman (New York: New York University Press, 1977), 1–26. [back]
  • 4. 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 name. Whitman probably had his brother in mind when he praised the marvels of civil engineering in poems like "Passage to India." Though their correspondence slowed in the middle of their lives, the brothers were brought together again by the deaths of Jeff's wife Martha (known as Mattie) in 1873 and his daughter Manahatta in 1886. Jeff's death in 1890 caused Walt to reminisce in his obituary, "how we loved each other—how many jovial good times we had!" For more on Thomas Jefferson Whitman, 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]
  • 5. Moses Lane (1823–1882) served as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Water Works from 1862 to 1869. He later designed and constructed the Milwaukee Water Works and served there as city engineer. For more information on Walt Whitman's dealings with Lane, see Whitman's January 16, 1863, letter to Thomas Jefferson Whitman. [back]
  • 6. Jessie Louisa Whitman was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson ("Jeff") and Martha ("Mattie") Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. Jessie and her sister Manahatta ("Hattie") were both favorites of their uncle Walt. [back]
  • 7. Whitman is referring to the wife of Henry Flad, an important civil engineer and public figure with whom Jeff frequently worked (see Thomas Jefferson Whitman's letter to Walt Whitman of July 14, 1888). The Flads and Jeff Whitman's family also visited socially (Randall H. Waldron, ed., Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman [New York: New York University Press, 1977]). [back]
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