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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 12 March 1867

Dearest mother,

I rec'd Jeff's letter on Monday—I am sorry to hear you suffer so much with the rheumatism, & it is so bad in the wrist—Jeff thinks it is because you wash & do the rough work, & expose yourself too much—Mother, I would like if you would get some woman to come every week, or every other week, for a day, & do the washing, &c.2—As to the little girls, Jeff says they will be with you, & bother you sometimes too much—When one is old, one is easily tired and annoyed—& I have long been sorry you can't have more quiet to yourself & rest.

Every thing goes the same as usual with me—The young man that had bleeding at the lungs3 seemed to be getting along pretty well, till Saturday & Sunday last, when he had a return of the sweating spells—they weaken him very much—I was down there Sunday—He has been very dissipated though only 24 years old—I believe I told you he is an only son.

We had a warm & clear day here yesterday—after the usual long spell of rainy & dark weather—Washington is nothing but mud—

I took tea at O'Connors last Sunday night—they are all well as usual—have got to move, the end of this month—they have found no place yet—

Ashton, the Assistant Attorney Gen'l4, has gone on to Philadelphia with wife & child, to spend three or four days—I like my new boarding place very well, take it altogether5

Mother, I am writing this at my table, by the big window I have mentioned several times in former letters—it is very pleasant indeed—the river looks so fine, & the banks & hills in the distance—I can sit sometimes & look out for a long time—It is mighty lucky for me I fell in with such a good situation—Mother, if it was only so where I could come home oftener, & see you & all—I have not thought any thing decided of the visit I spoke of—I will send you word in good time, if I should come—I should rather stop home, this time, if I come, as I should only be for a few days, not more than a week—I can sleep in the room George did—or any how. O, I must tell you I am getting a new coat—sack-coat, dark blue—I have pants of the same—& shall have to get a new vest—when I shall come out quite spruce—I had 6 shirts made last July, & they are good yet—So much for the clothing department.

Jeff don't say whether you got my last Tuesday's letter, (March 5,) with the envelopes, &c.6—but I suppose of course you did—Yesterday was such a fine day, I went off about 1 o'clock & had quite a jaunt—went to Georgetown, &c. & walked so, I got very tired, when I arrived home—We don't have dinner till 5 o'clock—but I always take a good lunch in my pocket—the table is furnished with plenty, & good—Mother, I think about you a great deal—I think, what if mother is sick & bothered, & every thing—& I feel as if I should fly—I go evenings up to the office frequently—I have got me a splendid astral-lamp, to burn gas by a tube, & it works to admiration, (all at the expense of the office)—& there I can sit, & read &c. as nice as you please—then I am getting many books for the Library (our office Library) that I have long wanted to read at my leisure—& can get any book I want, in reason—so you see it is a great privilege I have here. Love to dear sister Mat, & little ones, & all.



  • 1. This letter's envelope bears the address, "Mrs. Louisa Whitman, | p.o. Box 218, | Brooklyn, | New York." It is postmarked: "Washington | Mar | 12 | D.C." [back]
  • 2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman dutifully replied on March 15, 1867: "i shall certainly do so for i find i cant do much in the way of any thing that is laborious, its hard to give up but old age will creep on us . . . ." [back]
  • 3.

    Walt Whitman first wrote of Andrew J. Kephart in his February 26, 1867 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. Kephart was a soldier from Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, admitted from the 44th Regiment Infantry for bleeding at the lungs.

    Walt Whitman also wrote about Kephart's recovery in his March 5 and March 19, 1867 letters to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman,and by the time of Whitman's letter of April 2, 1867, Kephart had "quite recovered."

  • 4. J. Hubley Ashton was the assistant Attorney General from 1864 to 1869. [back]
  • 5. Walt Whitman had written in his February 12, 1867 letter to his mother that he had moved back into Juliet Grayson's boarding house, now operated by Mr. and Mrs. Newton Benedict (Grayson died on January 7, 1867). This change in ownership was first noted in Whitman's February 12, 1867 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. Walt's original room in the boarding house was now occupied by Newton Benedict. [back]
  • 6. Walt Whitman's March 5, 1867 letter to his mother included money and envelopes. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman confirmed receipt of the money and the envelopes in her March 15, 1867 letter to Whitman. [back]
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