Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Louisa Orr Whitman, [13–14 April 1878]

Dear sister

We have had a wonderful fine day—I feel much better—had the best night's sleep last night for four weeks—Miss Hillard3 came at 10 this forenoon, & took me over in the coupé to Philadelphia—went & saw the great Dr Mitchell,4 I was very well pleas'd with him—I am to go again—He did not express any opinion particular—said he would tell me next time—examined my heart by auscultation—said there was nothing at all the matter with that—Then I went to Mrs Perot's5 & we had dinner—Mrs P brought me home in the coupé—had a very good 4 or 5 hours—

Harry is up spending the afternoon with me—brought a chicken—your card to Bell6 & letter to George came this forenoon—George has not yet got home—

Lou, my old grand-aunt 97 years old in New York, Mrs Sarah Mead,7 died last Tuesday—I got a letter from her son-in-law Thursday—will finish this, & send it off to-morrow—Sunday—

Sunday afternoon—3–4 oclock—

George got home about dark last evening, & is away up to the farm to-day—he seems all right as usual—

Bell has been to church this morning—She continues to get along excellently well—We have quite a good many callers8—I am not so well to-day—my rheumatism makes itself felt nearly all the time, yet not so severe—Fine sunny weather yet—

Brother Walt

5:30—Have been out for over half an hour's walk (I & Tip9) up to Broadway—pleasant warm evening—met Mr Elverson10 & Alise, (I think she looks & behaves finer than ever)—George not home yet from the farm—I smell Bell's strong tea cooking on the stove, for supper—I will now go out to post office & mail this—


  • 1. The envelope for this letter bears the address: Mrs Louisa O Whitman | Care of F E Dowe | Norwich | Conn:. It is postmarked: Camden | AP(?) | 14 | N.J. [back]
  • 2. According to the letter from Whitman to Emma Dowe of July 12, 1877, Louisa left for Norwich, Connecticut, to see her sister on April 10 and returned on April 20 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 3. As evidenced in his letter to Charles W. Eldridge of June 23, 1873, Whitman had known Kate Hillard's writings since 1871. He sent her a copy of Leaves of Grass on July 27 (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
  • 4. Dr. S. (Silas) Weir Mitchell (1829–1914) was a specialist in nervous disorders as well as a poet and a novelist. On April 18, Whitman had his second interview with Dr. Mitchell, who attributed his earlier paralysis to a small rupture of a blood vessel in the brain but termed Whitman's heart "normal and healthy." Whitman also noted that "the bad spells [Mitchell] tho't recurrences by habit (? sort of automatic)" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). Mitchell was the first physician to indicate the psychosomatic nature of many of Whitman's ailments. Probably Whitman's impending lecture on the death of Lincoln unconsciously brought back the emotional involvements of his hospital experiences with comrades whom he had come to love only to be separated from them. [back]
  • 5. Mrs. Elliston L. Perot, evidently a friend of Kate Hillard, called on the poet on April 3, according to Whitman's notation on her calling card mounted in his Commonplace Book. [back]
  • 6. Louisa's servant. [back]
  • 7. Whitman noted on February 25, 1878 in his Commonplace Book that he had been reading a letter about his aunt in the New York Evening Post of February 22. The article in the newspaper mentioned that Mrs. Sarah Mead had seen George Washington (The Trent Collection of Walt Whitman Manuscripts, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library). From a member of Mrs. Mead's family or from a friend Whitman received a letter on April 11 announcing her death. [back]
  • 8. In addition to Harry Stafford, Debbie Stafford and her future husband, Joseph Browning, called on April 10 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 9. Whitman's dog. [back]
  • 10. Probably Joseph Elverson, Jr., assistant editor of the Saturday Night. [back]
Back to top