Skip to main content

Jessie Louisa Whitman to Walt Whitman, 10 November 1889

 loc_zs.00196.jpg My Dear Uncle Walt,

I have been thinking about you so much lately, that I am going to write with the hope of securing a reply.

The various magazines and papers you send are duly received and enjoyed. And I am much obliged to you  loc_zs.00197.jpg for them. I am still at my old quarters and will remain for this Winter, after that is as yet an unsettled problem as I have no idea what I will do. Our papers have contained most flattering accounts of interview between Sir Edwin Arnold1 and yourself and as I always was an admirer of the former, I  loc_zs.00198.jpg think even more of him, for the good taste in thinking so much of "my Uncle." I have been walking a good deal lately, sometimes doing three miles at once, and find it makes a body feel a great deal better, to get out doors helps lots of the bad and blue feelings.

I am kept posted  loc_zs.00198.jpg with the Eastern news by letters from Aunt Lou,2 she is lovely about writing.

Well, dear Uncle Walt, I hope you will keep well, and treat me to a line occasionally.

With regards to Mrs. Davis3 and lots of love to yourself, I remain

Yours aff. Jessie #2437 2d Cardt Ave.

Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the youngest daughter of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman and Martha Mitchell "Mattie" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. Jessie and her older sister Manahatta ("Hattie") (1860–1886) were both favorites of their uncle Walt.


  • 1. On September 12, 1889, Sir Edwin Arnold (1832–1904) wrote from Washington, D. C. requesting permission to visit Whitman. (The Boston Traveller on October 5, 1889, however reprinted a purported letter from Arnold to Whitman dated September 12, written from New York, in a flamboyant style not found in the actual letter.) For an account of Arnold's visit, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, September 12, 1889 and Saturday, September 14, 1889: "My main objection to him, if objection at all, would be, that he is too eulogistic—too flattering." Arnold published his own version of the interview in Seas and Lands (1891), in which he averred that the two read from Leaves of Grass, surrounded by Mrs. Davis, knitting, a handsome young man (Wilkins), and "a big setter." There are at least two additional accounts of Arnold's visit with Whitman; "Arnold and Whitman" was published anonymously in The Times (Philadelphia, PA) on September 15, 1889, and a different article, also titled "Arnold and Whitman" was published anonymously in The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA) on September 26, 1889. Arnold was best known for his long narrative poem, The Light of Asia (1879), which tells the life story and philosophy of Gautama Buddha and was largely responsible for introducing Buddhism to Western audiences. [back]
  • 2. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Whitman's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. Their son, Walter Orr Whitman, was born in 1875 but died the following year. A second son was stillborn. Whitman lived in Camden, New Jersey, with George and Louisa from 1873 until 1884, when George and Louisa moved to a farm outside of Camden and Whitman decided to stay in the city. Louisa and Whitman had a warm relationship during the poet's final decades. For more, 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]
  • 3. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
Back to top