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Walt Whitman to Mannahatta Whitman, 1 March 1873

Dear Hattie1,

I have received your letter, & read it over & over again2—it is very, very good—so much about your dear mother3, it brought the tears to my eyes, & I had to stop many times—my dear, dear Sister Martha4, she must have suffered so much, & to keep up such fortitude & patience & even cheerfulness, while life lasted—

Hattie, I have just got a letter from your grandmother written Thursday afternoon, Feb. 27,5 & she had not got your letter then—did you send her one a week ago, as you spoke of having written to her? She was very uneasy at not hearing from Jeff6 or any of you, since your mother's death. I wish you to write immediately to your grandmother, direct to her care of Geo. Whitman at Starr's foundry Camden, N. Jersey

I have got just well enough to go out, in a carriage, but, dear Hattie, I am in a miserable condition, as to my power of moving—The doctor says I shall get well, but it is very, very slow and irksome—my mind is clear, but I have to sit in my room alone, by the fire, most of the time—visitors generally have been prohibited—but only a few come in—but now I have ventured out for a few minutes every fair day—It is now afternoon, very pleasant, & I shall just get out on the sidewalk & then back—

O how often I have thought of my dear sister Martha, as I have been alone here, both night & day—I think of your father too, & of you & California7—but here I am, unable to move—I hope Jeff will feel like writing to mother, & she will send it to me—As soon as I can travel I think of going on to Camden—

Dearest Hattie, if we had a house to invite you and California to, how much comfort it would be to your grandmother & me—But I have great thoughts—at any rate a great desire—to get one,8 here, when I get well, & have grandmother & Eddy9 here—& then you & California shall surely come—

Love to you, dearest Hattie—& love to your dear father, & to California—If you can, dear niece, write me again, & dont wait very long, dear Hattie—Hattie dear, you must mind the address—(My letters from St. Louis are addressed wrong)—My right address is

Walt Whitman Solicitor's office Treasury, Washington, D. C.


  • 1. Manahatta Whitman (1860–1886), known as "Hattie," was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson ("Jeff") and Martha ("Mattie") Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother and sister-in-law. Hattie and her sister Jessie were both favorites of their uncle Walt. [back]
  • 2. Mannahatta informed her grandmother on February 27, 1873, that she had written seven pages to Walt Whitman—"the longest letter I have ever written" (Library of Congress). Walt Whitman, obviously pleased with the letter, sent it to Hannah, who on March 5, 1873, (Library of Congress) forwarded it to her mother. [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. Martha Mitchell Whitman (d. 1873) known as "Mattie," was the wife of Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman, Walt Whitman's brother. She and Jeff had two daughters, Manahatta and Jessie Louisa. In 1868, Mattie and her daughters moved to St. Louis to join Jeff, who had moved there in 1867 to assume the position of Superintendent of Water Works. Mattie experienced a throat ailment that would lead to her death in 1873. For more information on Mattie, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Martha ("Mattie") Mitchell (1836–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 5. On February 27, 1873, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman wrote about her uneasiness both to Walt Whitman and to Jeff (Northwestern University). [back]
  • 6. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized name. Whitman probably had his brother in mind when he praised the marvels of civil engineering in poems like "Passage to India." Though their correspondence slowed in the middle of their lives, the brothers were brought together again by the deaths of Jeff's wife Martha (known as Mattie) in 1873 and his daughter Manahatta in 1886. Jeff's death in 1890 caused Walt to reminisce in his obituary, "how we loved each other—how many jovial good times we had!" For more on Thomas Jefferson Whitman, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 7. Manahatta sister, Jessie Louisa. [back]
  • 8. Walt Whitman had also expressed desire to purchase a home in Washington in his February 23, 1873, March 28, 1873, and April 4, 1873 letters to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. [back]
  • 9. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death. His brother George Washington Whitman cared for him for most of the rest of his life, with financial support from Walt Whitman. For more information on Eddy, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Edward (1835–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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