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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 20 February [1873]

Well, mother, it's over at last with dear Matty—I got a dispatch of her death on the evening of the 19th—I suppose you have too, of course—It must have been a relief from very great suffering, as Jeff's letters of late described it— poor dear sister, she has many real mourners—I have just written to Han about it— I am about the same—rather better1



  • 1.

    On February 23, 1873, Jeff's daughter Mannahatta, almost thirteen years old, wrote to her grandmother about her mother's death: "when I got home from school the buggy was out side of the door and papa said he would take Mama out riding as it was such a pleasant day and Mama wanted to go so much. so papa lifted her out and put her in the buggy and then went to take the reins and while he [was] taking them Mama fell over in the buggy and when papa turned around he did not know what had happened so he lifted her in the house and just then I came home from school and found that Mama was dying but she seemed to know me though she could not speak. I felt so bad that I did not know what to do" (The Library of Congress).

    Jeff on the following day wrote of Martha's death to his mother: "The circumstances attending her death are quite impressive. Over two weeks before it the Dr told me that I might expect her death at any moment—that her lungs were in immediate liability to rupture and that each breath she drew was a risk, that I must not leave her alone a moment. On Tuesday she seemed to feel a little more like her old self—though suffering much pain from the fact that the right lung had been pierced by the gathering and the air in breathing would gather between the ports and remain—her right side and breast were very much enlarged from this cause—the pain was intense from the cancer and a few days before her death the old spinal trouble came back to her—yet with all this, dear Mother, did she keep up to the last—not a murmur escaped her—she was cheerful to a degree and at noon of the day she died sat up in her chair and directed how my lunch should be prepared" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection).

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