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Walt Whitman to Mannahatta Whitman, 22–26 June [1878]

Dear Hattie (& all the rest)

I came up here last Thursday afternoon in the steamboat from N Y​ —a fine day, & had a delightful journey—every thing to interest me—the constantly changing but ever beautiful panorama on both sides of the river all the way for nearly 100 miles here—the magnificent north river bay part of the shores of N Y​ —the high straight walls of the rocky Palisades—the never-ending hills—beautiful Yonkers—the rapid succession of handsome villages & cities—the prevailing green—the great mountain sides of brown & blue rocks—the river itself—the innumerable elegant mansions in spots peeping all along through the woods & shrubbery—with the sloops & yachts, with their white sails, singly or in fleets, some near us always, some far off—&c &c &c—

& here I am, this is now the third day having a good time—Mr Burroughs & his wife are both kind as they can be—we have plenty of strawberries, cream &c & something I specially like, namely plenty of sugared raspberries & currants—(I go out & pick the currants myself, great red things, bushels of them going to waste)—

Albert Johnston, (the Jeweler's son, I am staying with in N Y​ ) is here too on a visit to the Burroughs's—& makes it still more agreeable—

Yesterday we all (Mr B, Al & I) went out on a long drive—I tell you it is very different country here from out west, or down in Jersey—the old stone fences, two feet thick—the scenery—the many splendid locust trees, often long rows of great big ones—the streams down the mountains, with waterfalls—"Black Creek"—the Cattskills, in the distance—all did me good. It is lucky the roads are first rate (as they are here) for it is up or down hill or around something continually—

We pass'd many tramps on the roads—one squad interested in me—it was a family of five (or six) in a small flat ricketty​ one-horse open wagon, with some poor household traps huddled together, some new baskets for sale (they were basket makers I suppose) & some three young children—the man driving, the woman by his side, thin & sickly, & a little babe wrapt in a bundle on her lap, its little feet & legs sticking out towards us as we went by—

On our return at sundown a couple of hours afterwards, we met them again—they had hauled aside in a lonesome spot near the woods, evidently to camp for the night—the horse was took out & was grazing peacefully near by—the man was busy at the wagon, with his baskets & traps, & the boy of 11 or so had gather'd a lot of dry wood & was building a fire on the open ground—As we went on a little on the road we encounter'd the woman with the little baby still in her arms, & her pretty-eyed 6 year old barefoot girl trotting behind, clutching her gown—the woman had two or three baskets she had probably been on to neighboring houses to sell—we spoke to her & bought a basket—she didn't look up out of her old sunbonnet—her voice, & every thing seem'd queer, terrified—then as we went on, Al stopp'd the wagon & went back to the group to buy another basket—he caught a look of the woman's eyes & talked with her a little—says she was young, but look'd & talk'd like a corpse—the man was middle aged—

I am having a good quiet time here—eat lots of strawberries, raspberries & currants—(O I wish Lou could have a lot of the latter to do up)—I am well—To-day for a change it is raining—but altogether I have enjoyed fine June weather for my trip—Will finish my letter in New York—

Came away from Esopus Monday afternoon 4th, by RR, & got here at dark—Still keep pretty well & shall stay here a few days longer—I find it hard to get away—(then I take things quiet, & a change is good for me)—Jeff's telegram came & Mr Johnston tells me he telegraphed back Monday late in the afternoon—I should much have liked to see Jeff—I suppose he has gone back2—I suppose you women folks are having great times all to yourselves—

Yesterday I went out on a steamboat sail down the bay to Sandy Hook with a party of Sorosis ladies—very pleasant—a real sea-sail, sea-breeze &c—(I went up with the pilots in the pilot house)—we had dinner aboard—got back before dark—the weather keeps fine—plenty cool enough for me—Love to you, dear Hat, & dear Jess & dear Aunt Lou, & every body—

Uncle Walt.


  • 1. Much of the material in this and the letter from Whitman to Anne Gilchrist of June 23–26, 1878 appeared in similar form in "A Poet's Recreation" in the Tribune on July 4, and later in Specimen Days. There are phrasal similarities between the letters and the printed versions. [back]
  • 2. On October 27, Jeff wrote to Whitman about an epidemic of yellow fever during the warm months in St. Louis and about Hattie Whitman's illness. [back]
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