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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, [23 February 1873]

Well, mother dear, here I sit again in the rocking chair by the stove— I have just eat some dinner, a little piece of fowl & some toast & tea— my appetite is good enough—& I have plenty brought to me—I have been sitting up all day—have some bad spells, but am decidedly gaining upon the whole— think I have fully recovered where I was a week ago, and even a little better— went down stairs yesterday and out for five minutes into the street— & shall do so again this afternoon—as I think it did me good yesterday— though I was very tired, on returning—as I have to go down & up 4 flights of stairs— The doctor comes every day—(I must tell you again I have a first-rate doctor— I think he understands my case exactly—I consider myself very lucky in having him)1

Mother, yesterday was a very serious day with me here—I was not so very sick, but I kept thinking all the time it was the day of Matty's funeral— Every few minutes all day it would come up in my mind—I suppose it was the same with you—Mother, your letter came Friday afternoon— it was a very good letter, & after reading it twice, I enclosed it in one to Han—she must have got it Saturday night—

There are great preparations here for 4th of March—inauguration— if you & I had a house here,2 we would have George & Lou come on & see the show, for I have no doubt it will be the finest ever seen here—(but I am in hopes to be able to get away for all that)—

½ past 4.

Mother, I have just been down & out doors—walked half a block—& have come back— went all alone—(got a little assistance at the steps)—this is the most successful raid yet—& I really begin to feel something like myself—

Hope this will find you all right, dearest Mother— Walt.


  • 1. Sixteen years later Walt Whitman still considered Drinkard "the best Doctor that ever was": he "seemed to understand me well: he charged it to the emotional disturbances to which I was subjected at that time" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 4:472). Also note Dr. Matthew Grier's opinion in Whitman's September 5, 1873 letter to Ellen M. O'Connor. [back]
  • 2. Around this remark Louisa Van Velsor Whitman was to construct a dream-house: annoyed by George's economizing and, more important, loath to accept a (rightful) secondary position in her daughter-in-law's household, Walt Whitman's mother despite her years hoped for a home of her own. As early as October 9, 1872, hardly six weeks after she had moved to Camden, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman complained to Helen Price: "i would rather have my own shanty and my good friends come to see me" (Pierpont Morgan Library). Even more significant, she wrote to the same friend on April 18(?), 1873: "i wouldent mind living here if i had a place of my own but this living with and not being boss of your own shanty aint the cheese" (Pierpont Morgan Library). Walt Whitman himself referred to the possibility of purchasing a house in Washington; see his March 1, 1873 letter to Mannahatta Whitman and his March 28, 1873, and April 4, 1873 letters to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. [back]
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