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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, [6]–7 [April 1873]

Dearest mother,

I will commence a letter to you, though there is nothing particular to write about—but it is a pleasure even to write—as I am alone a great deal yet in my room. It is about ½ past 8, and I am sitting here alone—I have been out to-day twice, riding in the cars—it is a change—the weather here is very pleasant indeed—if I could only get around,1 I should be satisfied—

I expect Peter Doyle2 in yet this evening, to stay an hour or two—he works every night except Sunday night—

Monday noon | April 7.

Well, mother dear, I am now finishing my letter, over at the office seated at my desk—I do not feel very well. My head is still so feeble—I suppose I ought to be satisfied that I do not go behindhand—I send you quite a bundle of papers to-day—One of the Graphics3 with one of my pieces in4—the spring seems to be opening here, the grass is quite green, & the trees are beginning to bud out—it looks very pleasant—

Love to you, mama dear, & all— Walt.

Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. In January 1873, Whitman suffered a paralytic stroke that made walking difficult. He first reported it in his January 26, 1873, letter to his mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873), and continued to provide regular notes on his condition. By mid-March Whitman was taking brief walks out to the street and began to hope that he could resume work in the office. See also his March 21, 1873, letter to his mother. [back]
  • 2. Peter Doyle (1843–1907) was one of Walt Whitman's closest comrades and lovers, and their friendship spanned nearly thirty years. The two met in 1865 when the twenty-one-year-old Doyle was a conductor in the horsecar where the forty-five-year-old Whitman was a passenger. Despite his status as a veteran of the Confederate Army, Doyle's uneducated, youthful nature appealed to Whitman. Although Whitman's stroke in 1873 and subsequent move from Washington to Camden limited the time the two could spend together, their relationship rekindled in the mid-1880s after Doyle moved to Philadelphia and visited nearby Camden frequently. After Whitman's death, Doyle permitted Richard Maurice Bucke to publish the letters Whitman had sent him. For more on Doyle and his relationship with Whitman, see Martin G. Murray, "Doyle, Peter," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. The New York Daily Graphic published a number of Walt Whitman's poems and prose pieces in 1873 and 1874. In the former year the Daily Graphic printed the following works: "Nay, Tell Me Not To-day the Publish'd Shame" on March 5, 1873; "With All the Gifts, America" on March 6, 1873; "The Singing Thrush" (later titled "Wandering at Morn") on March 15, 1873; "Spain" on March 24, 1873; "Sea Captains, Young or Old" (later called "Song for All Seas, All Ships") on April 4, 1873; "Warble for Lilac-Time" on May 12, 1873; "Halls of Gold and Lilac" on November 24, 1873; and "Silver and Salmon-Tint" on November 29, 1873. In 1874, the Daily Graphic printed "A Kiss to the Bride" on May 21, 1874; "Song of the Universal" on June 17, 1874; and "An Old Man's Thought of School" on November 3, 1874. [back]
  • 4. The publication Whitman refers to is "Sea Captains, Young or Old" (later called "Song for All Seas, All Ships"). [back]
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