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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 4 December 1866

Dearest Mother,

I wrote you yesterday, (Monday,) which I suppose you rec'd, with the money. I have just heard from Han, & I write to-day because I knew it would be a comfort to you to know right away. Heyde has just sent me a letter—he seems to be in a very good humor—writes a lot of stuff—but not about domestic affairs this time—on "poetry" & "criticism" &c. &c—of no interest at all to me—then at the close of the letter he says:

"Han is much better than usual, & is constantly promising to write to her mother."1

Mother, I send you the part of the N. Y. Times, containing a good long piece about me. It is the N. Y. Daily Times, of Sunday, Dec 2—but perhaps George or Jeff brought it to you last Sunday.

I feel pretty well generally—with now & then a poorish spell—

I am going to hear the great actress Ristori2 to-morrow night. One of my fellow clerks has taken a seat for me, & made me a present of it—the play is "Queen Elisabeth"—I wish you & Mat could go with me—

The piece in the Times is by O'Connor.3 He grows stronger & stronger, & fiercer & fiercer in his championship of "Leaves of Grass"—no one can ever say a word against it in his presence, without a storm. Did you get the "Galaxy" of Dec 1—?

William Swinton4 is here in Washington, temporarily. He is interested in speculating in gold. It is very fine weather here to-day. I am writing this by my big window, where I can look out on the water—the sun is shining bright as silver.



  • 1. Charles L. Heyde was the husband of Whitman's sister Hannah. In his letter of December 1(?), 1866, he excitedly described his first reading of Swinburne and spoke critically of Whitman's poetry. See also Whitman's letter from December 24, 1866 . [back]
  • 2. Adelaide Ristori (1822–1906), a famous Italian tragedian, appeared at the National Theatre in Elizabeth, Queen of England on December 6, 1866. The Washington National Republican reported on December 7 that the house had been sold out, and that during the week she would also appear in Macbeth and Mary, Queen of Scotland. The Washington National Intelligencer printed a lengthy biography of the actress on December 3, 1866. [back]
  • 3. Raymond, on December 2, 1866, granted O'Connor four columns for a review of the new Leaves of Grass; see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer: A Critical Biography of Walt Whitman (New York: Macmillan, 1955; rev. ed., New York University Press, 1967), 376. [back]
  • 4. William Swinton (1833–1892) was war correspondent of the New York Times. His hostility to Union generals and his unscrupulous tactics led to his suspension as a reporter on July 1, 1864. Whitman did not have a high opinion of William's journalism; see his letter from June 10, 1864. He was professor of English at the University of California from 1869 to 1874. Thereafter he compiled extremely successful textbooks, and established the magazine Story-Teller, in 1883. He was the brother of John Swinton, managing editor of the New York Times; see the letter of February 23, 1863 from Walt Whitman to John Swinton. [back]
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