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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 11 May [1873]

Dearest mother1,

Well, mother dear, I am certainly getting well again—I have made a great improvement the last three days, & my head feels clear & good nearly all the time—& that, the doctor says, will bring my leg all right in a little while—Yesterday was a beautiful day, & I was out a good deal—walked some, a couple of blocks, for the first time—Peter Doyle convoyed me—This morning I have had my breakfast, and have been sitting by my open window looking out—it is very pleasant & warm, but cloudy—we have heavy showers here nights—too much rain indeed—still spring is very fine here, & it looks beautiful from my windows—I am writing this in my room—

I am feeling just now well as usual in my general health—part of the time, just as well as ever—but of course I expect a few set–backs before I get well entirely, & supple in my limbs—It is remarkable how much paralysis there is—cases occur here, every few days—& in other cities—There is quite a time here about the burial of Mr. Chase,2 his body is at the Capitol to–day, & he is buried to–morrow—mother, the paper I send you has a picture of a railroad depot they are building here—it is for the road Peter Doyle works on—You will see a piece in that paper about the Beecher and Tilton scandal3—it is very coarse—I think Beecher a great humbug, but I don't believe there is any truth in that piece—(but of course don't know)—

I am still having electricity applied—the doctor applied it yesterday—I am certainly getting along better the last few days—feel better—feel more like myself—I shall come & pay you a visit the first part of next month—shall write before I come, the time, &c—Mother, I hope this will find you feeling better—I shall be anxious to hear—write a line or two, Tuesday—As I sit by the window this forenoon looking out, I wish you could take a look at the prospect, it is so fine, the trees & grass so green, and the river & hills in the distance—it does one good to look at it—

Mother, I shall feel anxious until I hear from you— Walt.


  • 1. 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). [back]
  • 2. The body of Salmon P. Chase, chief justice of the Supreme Court, was sent from New York to Washington on May 11, 1873, for funeral services. [back]
  • 3. Theodore Tilton (1835–1907), a protégé of Henry Ward Beecher, accused his mentor on December 30, 1870, of improper relations with his wife. The accusation was suppressed by all parties until a sensational account of Beecher's relations with Tilton's family appeared on November 2, 1872, in Woodhill and Claffin's Weekly. Strangely, Beecher did not make a public denial until June 30, 1873. After Tilton published in June 1874 a statement concerning Beecher's alleged misconduct, a committee from the minister's church examined the allegations and exonerated Beecher. On August 20, 1874, Tilton accused Beecher of adultery and asked $100,000 in damages. The trial lasted for six months and ended in a split verdict. In 1875 a committee of the Congregational churches found Beecher innocent. [back]
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