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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 15 January 1867

Dearest Mother,

I received your letter of Wednesday evening last—I thought it would be very blustering & cold there on the hill this winter, & I know you must have freezing times, especially in the west rooms—We have had a great deal of snow here, & very cold weather. I get along very well, considering.

Mother, I have to inform you that poor Mrs. Grayson has gone at last.1 I wrote in my last letter that I had met her son Willy in the street, Monday Jan. 7, & he told me she was somewhat better—well, it was that very night, she died, & was buried the next Wednesday—they sent me word that the funeral was to be at ½ past 2—but the man didn't tell me any thing about it till 4—so I was not at the funeral—poor woman, she is at rest, & it is a blessed thing for her—she had an easy & peaceful death, I hear—But that devil, old Grayson, it is he that was the cause of her dying—about three days before her death, he had a fight in the house, with his son-in-law—there was great excitement, & Old Grayson put them all out of the house, son-in-law, children, &c—I suppose that hastened Mrs. Grayson's death—I have not been there, but shall go & see poor old Mrs. Mix2—She will not last long now—Old Aunt Kitty, the washwoman, says that Mrs. Grayson spoke much about me, & wanted me to come & see her—but I never knew any thing of it—(Mother, I believe there can be a greater nuisance & devil even than Heyde.)

Well, we are having pretty serious times here, in Congress, &c—I rather think they are going to impeach Johnson & bring him to trial—it is a serious business—I cannot tell how it will turn out—only I know both sides seem determined, & neither will give an inch3

There have been several died in the hospital, that I was with a good deal, since I last wrote—one of consumption—one of abscess on the liver, very bad—I was down there Sunday afternoon, carried a great big 12 pound cake, for the men's supper—there was a piece for all, & very acceptable—as the supper consisted of plain bread, a thin wash they called tea, & some miserable apple sauce—that was all—I carry a big cake often of Sunday afternoons—I have it made for me by an old mulatto woman, cook, that keeps a stand in the market—it is sort of molasses pound cake, common but good.

I have received a letter from old Uncle Otis Parker, the old man that I got pardoned down at Cape Cod, Mass. He is very grateful.4

Every thing in the office here goes on as usual. I have a little more work to do than I have had. One of the clerks, the youngest, was dismissed, (or suspended,) lately for selling some information about pardons to the Herald—the Attorney Gen'l was very mad about it, & gave him a sharp talking to. We are having quite good sleighing here to-day.

Well good bye, dear mother—& give my love to George, & Jeff, & Matty, & all.5



  • 1. Juliet Grayson operated the boardinghouse at 468 M North, where Walt Whitman lived between late January 1865 and February 1866. [back]
  • 2. Mary Mix lived with her daughter, Juliet Grayson. After her daughter's death, Mix left Washington to live with her granddaughter, which Whitman mentioned in his January 22, 1867 letter to his mother. [back]
  • 3. Attempts to impeach President Johnson continued throughout the session until its adjournment on March 3. [back]
  • 4. In 1860, Erastus Otis Parker was indicted on seven counts of theft. On October 28, 1866, Whitman wrote a letter to Attorney General Henry Stanbery successfully petitioning for a pardon on the grounds that "the whole theory on which he was convicted was but an inference from an inference" and that Parker had "already served four years in prison." [back]
  • 5. According to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's reply of January 17, 1867, Walt Whitman enclosed $5 in this letter, as well as paper and envelopes. [back]
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