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Walt Whitman to Hannah Whitman Heyde, 24 July [1880]

 loc_ad.00176_large.jpg Dear Sister,

I am much better—& expect to start on a long St Lawrence river trip & up the Saguenay—start Monday morning (26th)2 to be gone nearly three weeks & then back here—all well in C. Got a letter from L3 this morning.4 Mostly likely write you a line from Quebec.

Brother W  loc_ad.00175_large.jpg

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. This postal card is addressed: Mrs. H. L. Heyde | [illegible] | Burlington | U S A Vermont. [back]
  • 2. Whitman wrote this letter while on his visit to Canada, a trip that extended from June 3 to September 29, 1880. The Canadian physician and psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke traveled with Whitman from the poet's home in Camden to Bucke's residence near London, Ontario. After spending the summer on the grounds of the Asylum for the Insane, where Bucke worked as director, the two went on an extended trip that included journeying by railroad to Toronto and taking a steamship on Lake Ontario before going to Chicoutimi, Quebec on the Saguenay River. [back]
  • 3. 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. Walt Whitman lived with them from 1873–1884. 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]
  • 4. Whitman may be referring to Louisa Orr Whitman's letter of July 22, 1880. [back]
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