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Walt Whitman to Thomas Jefferson Whitman, 25 October 1868

Dear brother Jeff,

I suppose you rec'd the letter1 I wrote four or five days ago from Providence, R. I. I came back Thursday night, & was over home on Friday. I received your letter. Matty has had an examination of her lungs,2 by Dr. A. D. Wilson, 30 Gates Av. near Clinton av. I had not seen Dr. W.—it was the Thursday before I returned—yesterday I went down to see Dr. Enos,3 waited some time, but did not see him—I intended to make an appointment, & go down with Mat but, as I say, came away without seeing him—Then I went up to Gates av. & found Dr. Wilson in, & had a long talk with him about Mat. The impression he made upon me was that he is a man who knows his business thoroughly, very candid, & probably a little disposed to state things on the most unfavorable side, rather than the other—He said he could tell better in ten or twelve days—one of Mat's lungs is affected—thinks there is no imminent danger at all—thinks that the physician in St. Louis who advised a change from there here, couldn't have had any knowledge of Brooklyn climate or situation—nevertheless thinks that the journey & a temporary change will be very salutary, & do her good—advised whiskey, wine, condensed milk, &c—did not advise any drug medicines—was evidently interested, & took hold of the case not merely as a matter of business—After seeing him & talking [to] him, I abandoned the idea of consulting Enos—at least for the present.

My idea is that Matty has the possibilities of consumption in her system—but that with ordinary good luck, she can & will get over it. She has good spirits, is very comfortably situated—has a good, cheerfull, warm room, with southern exposure—has a good stove, gas, &c—Upon the whole, as to personal surroundings, &c she could not be happier in them—for Mother, & George, & Ed too, think & do every thing that the tenderest mother & brothers could—George is very kind—Mat realizes it all perfectly, & is herself very kind & affectionate as indeed she always was.

Mother & all wish you to arrange without fail to come on, on or before 1st December4—before, if convenient—Mother is well, but shows her old age more & more. I return to Washington to-morrow, as my leave is up. The little girls are hearty as ever. Best love—


It is certain that her cough is not near as bad here as it was in St. Louis, in that house.5


  • 1. This letter is not extant. [back]
  • 2. Martha Whitman's condition (mentioned in Walt Whitman's July 17, 1868 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman as "some cough") had not improved. On September 6, 1868, Jeff had informed George Washington Whitman that her doctor had recommended "a visit east," and on September 8, 1868, he wrote: "The doctors all unite in declaring that Mat has no disease of the lungs—it is all in the bronchial tubes of the throat" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). She remained in Brooklyn until the middle of December. By the writing of Walt Whitman's November 24, 1868 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, Martha's condition had not improved. [back]
  • 3. DeWitt C. Enos, at 16 Clinton Avenue. [back]
  • 4. Jeff arrived in Brooklyn about November 20, 1868; Walt Whitman inquired about Jeff's arrival in his November 24, 1868 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. [back]
  • 5. To George on September 8, 1868, Jeff had complained that "the house is damp and I cannot seem to better it. I have spent abt $125 on it trying to fix it" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
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