Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to John and Ursula Burroughs, 29 June [1873]

My dear friends John and 'Sula Burroughs,

I am here again in Camden, stopping awhile, with the intention, as soon as I can move with comfort, of getting to the sea-side—probably Atlantic City1—about an hour & three quarters from here, by rail—I am not much different from when I saw you last—have been a good deal worse, (by spells, several of them)—but have now brought round again to where I was six or eight weeks ago.

Mother2 died here on the 23d of May—I stood it all better than I would have expected. I returned to Washington about nine days afterwards—but I was very restless & dissatisfied there—staid about a couple of weeks—obtained two months leave of absence, & (after almost making up my mind to go into quarters at a Hospital, as boarder, but was persuaded out of it)—here I am & have been for about two weeks—(I think comparatively better the last two days)—occupying the rooms in which my mother died—waiting for time to restore my health, which I still think it will—but I feel that the blank in life & heart left by the death of my mother is what will never to me be filled—

I am comfortably fixed here, have great kindness—I try to compose myself to writing at some of my themes, already outlined, but it don't amount to much yet. 'Sula, O how I wish you was near-by keeping house—I should consider it such a privilege to hobble there for an hour or two every day, while I am in this condition—The last nine or ten days in Washington, I left my den on 15th, & visited the Ashton's on K st. & lived there.

John, I don't think I have any news either of Washington, or of literary affairs or persons, to tell you, nor have I heard any thing since from abroad. Love to you & 'Sula. I hope you will write me soon, and spread yourself about gossip, about self & 'Sula, and the place & every thing—a letter written when you are in the mood, & let your pen run—I depend much on letters, as I am tied up here, & it is pretty lonesome.3



  • 1. According to her letter of June 5(?), 1873, Louisa inquired of one of her friends about rooms in Atlantic City (Library of Congress). Walt Whitman was too ill in 1873 to undertake the trip. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. On April 11, 1873, and again on June 2, 1873, Burroughs urged Walt Whitman to visit them. [back]
Back to top