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Letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, October 20, 1863

Whitman, Walt. "Letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, October 20, 1863." Walt Whitman: The Correspondence. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller. New York: New York University Press, 1961. 166-169.
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Whitman writes a long letter to his mother discussing his brother Andrew’s health, his brother Jeff’s cut in wages, the war, and his new rooms in Washington.

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To Louisa Van Velsor Whitman
Washington | October 20, 1863

Dearest mother,
I got your last letter Sunday morning, though it was dated Thursday night. Mother, I suppose you got the letter from me Saturday last, as I sent one the day before, as I was concerned about Andrew—If I thought it would be any benefit to Andrew I should certainly leave everything else & come back to Brooklyn—mother, do you recollect what I wrote last summer about the throat diseases, when Andrew was first pretty bad—well that’s the whole groundwork of the business, any true physician would confirm it—there is no great charm about such things—as to any costly & mysterious baths, there are no better baths than warm water, or vapor, (& perhaps sulphur vapor,) there is nothing costly or difficult about them—one can have a very good sweating bath, at a pinch, by having a pan of warm water under a chair and heating a couple of bricks or stones or any thing to put in one after another, & sitting on the chair with a couple of blankets around him to enclose the vapor—it is a very wholesome sweat too, & not to be sneezed at if one wishes to do what is salutary, & thinks of the sense of a thing, & not what others do—Andrew mustn’t be discouraged, those diseases are painful & tedious, but he can recover & will yet—
Dear mother, I sent your last letter to George with a short one I wrote myself, I sent it yesterday—I sent a letter last Wednesday 14th to him also, hoping that if one don’t reach him another will—hasn’t Jeff seen Capt Sims or Lieut McReady yet, & don’t they hear whether the 51st is near Nicholasville, Kentucky, yet? I send George papers now & then—Mother, one of your letters contains part of my letter to the Union, (I wish I could have got the whole of it.) It seems to be mostly as I intended it, barring a few slight misprints—was my last name signed at the bottom of it? Tell me when you write next—Dear mother, I am real sorry & mad too that the water works people have cut Jeff’s wages down to $50—this is a pretty time to cut a man’s wages down—the mean old punkin heads—mother, I can’t understand it at all—tell me more the particulars—Jeff, I often wish you was on here, you would be better appreciated, there is big salaries paid here sometimes to civil engineers—Jeff, I know a fellow, E C Stedman, has been here till lately, is now in Wall street, he is poor but he is in with the big bankers (Hallett & Co) who are in with Fremont in his line of the Pacific railroad—I can get his (Stedman’s) address, & should you wish it any time I will give you a letter to him—I shouldn’t wonder if the big men, with Fremont at head, were going to push their route, works, road, &c &c. in earnest, & if a fellow could get a good managing place in it, why it might not be worth while—I think after Jeff has been with the Brooklyn W[ater] W[orks] from the beginning, & so failthful & so really valuable, to put down to $50, the mean low-lived old shoats. I have felt as indignant about it, the meanness of the thing, & mighty inconvenient too, $40 a month makes a big difference—Mother, I hope Jeff won’t get & keep himself in a perpetual fever, with all these things & others & botherations, both family & business ones—if he does, he will just wear himself down before his time comes—I do hope, Jeff, you will take things equably all round, & not brood or think too deeply—So I go giving you all good advice—
O Mother, I must tell you how I get along in my new quarters, I have moved to a new room, 456 Sixth street, not far from Pennsylvania avenue, (the big street here) & not far from the Capitol—it is in 3d story, an addition back, seems to be going to prove a very good winter room, as it is right under the roof & looks south, has low windows, is plenty big enough, I have gas—I think the lady will prove a good woman, she is old & feeble, (there is a little girl of 4 or 5, I hear her sometimes calling grandma, grandma just exactly like Hat, it made me think of you & Hat right away)—one thing is I am quite by myself, there is not passage up there except to my room, & right off against my side of the house is a great old yard with grass & some trees back, & the sun shines in all day &c. & it smells sweet & good air, great big bed, I sleep first rate—there is a young wench of 12 or 13, Lucy, (the niggers here are the best & most amusing creatures you ever see)—she comes & goes, gets water & c., she is pretty much the only one I see—then I believe the front door is not locked at all at night—(in the other place the old thief the landlord had two front doors, with four locks & bolts on one, & three on the other-& a big bull-dog in the back yard—we were well fortified I tell you—sometimes I had an awful time at night getting in)—I pay $10 a month, this includes gas, but not fuel—Jeff, you can come on & see me easy now—Mother, to give you an idea of the prices here, while I was looking for rooms, I went in to see a couple of furnished rooms about like our two in Wheelers houses (2d story), nothing extra about them, either in location or any thing, & the rent was $60 a month—yet quite curious vacant houses here are not so very dear, very much the same as in Brooklyn—dear mother, Jeff wrote in his letter latter part of last week you was real unwell with a very bad cold, (& that you didn’t have enough good meals)—mother, I hope this will find you well & good spirits—I think about you every day & night—Jeff thinks you show your age more, & failing like—O dear mother, you must not think of failing yet—I hope we shall have some comfortable years yet. Mother, don’t you allow things, troubles, to take hold of you—write a few lines whenever you can, tell me exactly how things are—Mother, I am first rate & well, only a little of that deafness again—good bye for present.
Mother, I am of course every day in hospitals—they are pretty full now, some very bad wounds—Mother, it is the opinions here this morning that Lee has vamosed back into lower Virginia again but there’s no telling—he’s a cunning old fox—he may make a dash at us here before we know it—

People who Created this Work

Whitman, Walt author

People Mentioned in this Work

Stedman, Edmund [pages:167]

Whitman tells his brother Jeff about a friend he has named Stedman, who is connected to the big bankers in New York City. Whitman hopes that Stedman might be able to find Jeff a better job.