Skip to main content

Dr. Leroy M. Bingham to Walt Whitman, 19 July 1891

 loc_tb.00014.jpg Dear sir—

Yours with check for 50$ recd—I put 40 in the Savings Bank to your sister's1 credits—she not wishing to keep that amt in house; and she had sufficient with her for the present—

Mrs Heyde has had a poor spell but not confined to bed, she is much better now, and able to attend to house hold duties to some extent—I always look after  loc_tb.00015.jpg  loc_tb.00016.jpg her when sick if I know it—Mr Heyde2 is often sent for me but fails to let Mrs Heydes wants known, and returns to her with some vague answer

I presume he has written you most pitiful letters as to your sister's condition, if like other messages that I know of. They are perfectly unreliable

If any thing serious occurs to Mrs Heyde I will inform you at once—

Sincerely Yours L. M. Bingham  loc_tb.00013.jpg

Dr. Leroy Monroe Bingham (1845–1910) graduated from Bellevue Medical College in New York in 1870 and moved to Burlington, Vermont, in 1874. He became Hannah's physician after 1882. For more information, see William B. Atkinson, M.D., The Physicians and Surgeons of the United States (Philadelphia: Charles Robson, 1878), 375.


  • 1. 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). [back]
  • 2. Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a French-born landscape painter, married Hannah Louisa Whitman (1823–1908), Walt Whitman's sister, and they lived in Burlington, Vermont. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. For more information about Heyde, see Steven Schroeder, "Heyde, Charles Louis (1822–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
Back to top