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Sarah Avery to Walt Whitman, 20 May 1873

 loc_gk.01397_large.jpg Cousin Walt

I presume you will be a little surprised when you open this letter—and will cast your eyes down at the end of it before you read it to see the writers​ name, but I received a letter from your Mother1 telling me of your very severe illness2 in wich​ you have our Heartfelt Sympathy (Both my Husbands​ 3 and myself) your Mother asked me to write to you & write about any thing she says will interest you

Now Cousin I hardly know what to write & there are many things of interest I could write about—But to write to one who has so much knowledge and intellect I am afraid you will think me but a very poor hand at it—and the trouble with cousin-Sarah she writes her letters so plainly—you must excuse my simple way of writing you (now there is something that interests me just now and I will tell  loc_gk.01398_large.jpg you all about—it is to take place this month) to​ of my Niece's are to be married one your Mother knows Mr Oliver's4 daughter of Brooklyn—from your old neighborhood the other lives at Binghampton Dr. Griffens​ 5 daughter, you may have heard of him he had charge of [illegible] of the hospital at Alexandria during the war two Model wifes that can grace the parlor or grace the kitchen (if need be) this is the kind of wife, men in my opinion ought to look for not a doll to be looked at) I hope cousin if you live to get well you will look about and get such an one for a wife because you will need just such an one in your old days I do not mean to say you are an old man bye​ any means because I do not know how old you are (now do not suppose for a moment that I am a match maker (& no I am not) but I do feel sorry for old Bachelors) methink I see you lay this Scribbles down with a remark: well cousin Sarah must think I have a great deal of time to waste  loc_gk.01399_large.jpg it in reading this paper. But I have taken your Mother​ advice—I said I did not know what to write her reply was any thing would cheer you. Now I am fraid​ I have gone too far—but you must make all due allowance, for me wont you. I could have written a more sympathetic letter (But then my heart is so full of my own sad Afflictions) But nevertheless you have our sympathy

John has just called my attention to a paragraph in the evening express, in wich​ it speaks of your improved health I can assure you we are glad to hear that it is so now cousin Walter if you feel that you have time to answer this scribble ing​ I should think it a favour (can you read it ( I doubt if you can) you do not know perhaps I am left handed so you will please make all due allances​ John wishes to be remembered to you

truly your cousin Sarah Avery 152 Henry st New York  loc_gk.01400_large.jpg

Sarah Avery was one of Walt Whitman's cousins. Her husband John, a New York merchant, wrote to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman twice in 1872 about interest due her from the estate of Elizabeth Maybee. See the Walt Whitman Papers: Family papers; Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (mother), 1872–1873, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


  • 1. 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]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. John W. Avery (1814–1891) was the son of Clara Williams Avery. Clara was the sister of Walt Whitman's maternal grandmother Naomi (Amy) Williams Van Velsor. John and his wife Sarah Banning Avery (1814–1886) lived in Brooklyn, where John worked as a grocer. During the American Civil War, Avery was a colonel of the Eighth Regiment of the New York State Militia, known as the Washington Grays. For more information, see his obituary, "Death of Colonel John W. Avery," Brooklyn Daily Eagle (March 26, 1891), 6. [back]
  • 4. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
  • 5. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
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