The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing
2016, Volume 37
The Selected Letters of Hannah Whitman Heyde
The Selected Letters of Hannah Whitman Heyde
Aside from his mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, and his brothers George and Jeff, Walt Whitman’s most frequent family correspondent was his youngest sister, Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde (November 28, 1823–July 18, 1908).  Yet information about Hannah has been scarce, mostly limited to short mention in biographies of Whitman and in art catalogues of the work of her husband, Charles Louis Heyde (1820–1892), a Vermont landscape painter. Hannah, Whitman’s favorite sister, was an ongoing source of concern for the Whitman family in the decades after her marriage to Heyde in 1852.  Hannah’s letters provide a compelling account of domestic violence from the standpoint of the abused woman. Verbally, psychologically, and physically abused for decades, Hannah included descriptions of her ongoing traumatic experiences in the letters she addressed to her mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (hereafter referred to as Mother Whitman); these letters were shared with family members. Mother Whitman was Hannah’s primary addressee and confidant, although Hannah also corresponded with her brothers Walt, Jeff, and George. While intimate partner violence was recognized in mid-nineteenth-century America, it was mostly ignored unless it escalated beyond cultural norms of silence and shame. There were no legal remedies for battered women. Relatively powerless and often blamed for the abuse, targets of violence had little recourse against their abuser. In Hannah’s case, her letters became her refuge: an alternate space where she could describe what was happening to her. For the most part, her letters represented a safe place, but in some letters she describes her fear of Charles reading her correspondence or discovering her in the act of writing. Prior to her marriage, Hannah lived at home with her parents and her brothers. For a short while, she taught school in rural Long Island. Hannah loved to read: she frequently expresses gratitude for the newspapers and books that her brother Walt sent to her in Vermont. Sewing was a favorite outlet for her creative talent, and she often describes what she is wearing or what the latest clothing trends are in her immediate community. After her marriage to Heyde at the age of twenty-eight, Hannah became economically dependent on him (shortly after their marriage he refused her access to funds, even for small household expenses). Isolated from her family in New York, and increasingly lonely, as she mentions in her letters, Hannah experienced decades of mistreatment, recording the ongoing abuse in her correspondence to family members. “The Selected Letters of Hannah Whitman Heyde” presents an edited, annotated edition of twenty of the letters Hannah wrote. The letters provide a record of Hannah’s daily life and offer unique access to her point of view. They also enrich our contextual understanding of Whitman’s relationships with family members, and allow for a more nuanced reading of Leaves of Grass.
This edition of Hannah Whitman Heyde’s letters enables readers to make connections within the Whitman correspondence that has already been published, and provides the opportunity to understand more completely the rich interconnectivity between the Whitman siblings and Mother Whitman. Aside from the seven volumes of Walt Whitman’s correspondence, the Whitman family correspondence that has been published to date includes the letters of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman; the letters of George Whitman, brother of Walt Whitman; the letters of Thomas Jefferson (“Jeff”) Whitman, brother of Walt Whitman; and the letters of Martha (“Mattie”) (Mitchell) Whitman, wife of Jeff Whitman and Walt Whitman’s sister-in-law.  Until now, the bulk of the Whitman family correspondence that has been published consists of letters exchanged beginning in 1860, when Walt was in Boston revising the proofs on the third edition of Leaves of Grass, and the Civil War years, when George was serving in the Union Army. Hannah’s letters were written to her mother and to her brothers Walt, George, and Jeff during the years of her marriage to Charles Heyde, from 1852 to 1892, and range in length from four to twelve pages handwritten. More than likely Hannah received letters not only from Mother Whitman but also from George, Jeff, and Walt, since she refers to their letters in her correspondence. Most of the letters that were addressed to Hannah have been lost or destroyed, some by Hannah herself.
Heyde’s violent behavior after reading letters from the Whitman family may have motivated Hannah to dispose of or to hide letters that she had received from her mother and her brothers. “I had just rec’d and was reading your letter to day as Charlie came in to dinner,” Hannah writes to Mother Whitman in spring 1856. “Charlie has not felt good natured to day. When he read your letter he appeared quite angry. He talks so singular when he is angry. I feel so much afraid . . ..”  Years later, in 1891, Hannah described to Walt how she had “destroyed” the letters he had written to her: “think so very much of the letters you’ve written me, meant to keep them long as I lived, Charly had taken them, & I have destroyed all that he had, & he will not get hold of any more."  Several times Hannah asked her mother to destroy the letters she had written to her: “I know this is very silly to write but I sho[u]ld depend certainly upon no one seeing it but you and upon your destroying it at once, I could say much, but I think it is very bad for me to tell or speak to you of disagre[e]able things,” Hannah writes in 1859.  Despite Hannah’s admonition, the letters published here survived primarily because both Mother Whitman and Walt saved the letters Hannah sent to them.
Hannah’s letters provide a glimpse into significant events in the Whitman family during the crucial decade of the 1850s, when Whitman completed the first and second editions of Leaves of Grass and was preparing the third edition. The impact of the death of Walter Whitman Sr. on Hannah and on the Whitman family in July 1855 is evident in several of Hannah’s letters from that difficult month. While his obituary reports that he suffered from “an exhausting illness of nearly three years,”  Walter Whitman Sr.’s death nevertheless seemed sudden to the family, according to Hannah. Unable to attend the funeral because she had not received word of his death (in the spring and summer of 1855 Heyde and Hannah moved continuously from hotel to hotel and from small town to small town in rural Vermont), Hannah felt isolated and miserable in her grief. Yet she expresses repeated concern for her mother’s health and well-being: “I feel for you my mother, I want very much to see you I never felt so much affection for you,” she writes in her letter dated July 19, 1855.  Two weeks after Walter Whitman Sr.’s death, Hannah writes in an attempt to divert her mother from her grief: “Mother dear perhaps my writing about such trifles will take your mind a little I wish it could” (July 24, 1855). 
Hannah’s letters shed light on the activities of other Whitman siblings; in addition to Walt, we learn more about Jeff, Andrew, and George. Hannah refers to Jeff’s health in several of her letters; he suffered from a prolonged illness in the spring of 1856. Hannah mentions the loss of “Janey,” a young woman Jeff was perhaps courting prior to Mattie. She comments on Andrew’s marriage in 1852 and suggests that his second child be named George (1862), after her younger brother, George Washington Whitman, who at the time was serving in the Union Army. Her letters add further dimension to our understanding of the Whitman family’s concern for George’s safety as they read the reports of casualties from the war in the newspapers.
The abiding affection that Hannah and Walt felt for each other is evident as well. In many of her letters Hannah expresses concern for Walt’s health. He continued to correspond with her, often once or twice a week, after Mother Whitman’s death in 1873, until his death in 1892, as the dates of his letters and her responses to him in her correspondence reveal. Many of Whitman’s letters to Hannah unfortunately were destroyed by Hannah as she admits in her letter to Whitman dated 1891. Indeed, the last letter he wrote, dated March 17, 1892, was addressed to Hannah: “Unable to write much, Yr good letter rec’d. $4 encd. God bless you. WW.”  As Paul Zweig notes, “Whitman was embedded in his family, and in some ways, never left it.”  Both of his sisters, Mary Elizabeth and Hannah, were fond of Walt, and their affection for him was reciprocated. Walt remained a part of his sisters’ lives, keeping in touch with them after they were married through visits and letters. “I never in my life see anybody so good & have so much patience with me as Walt does,” Hannah wrote to her mother in 1866. “I dont know what makes him so good . . . its the kindness I care for.”  Hannah knew that she could count on Whitman for emotional support. He never failed her: he wrote faithfully to her, sending small but sustaining amounts of money, recent copies of newspapers and books, and letters and postcards that she treasured. Whitman was never wealthy but he enriched Hannah’s life with his support and his steady concern for her well-being.
In his short biography, Walt Whitman, published as an Evergreen Profile Book in 1961, Gay Wilson Allen included a copy of the only known portrait of Hannah, located in the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana at Duke University; Allen’s caption under Hannah’s portrait reads, “Whitman’s favorite sister, Hannah, Mrs. Charles Heyde.”  A revised edition of Allen’s biography was published in 1969; in this edition Hannah’s portrait is placed next to a Civil War photograph of George Washington Whitman.  After this, Hannah’s image disappears entirely from ensuing Whitman biographies. In this edition of her letters, for the first time since 1969, Hannah’s portrait is made available.Figure 1: Portrait of Hannah Whitman Heyde
Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University
Hannah wears a black dress with white lace half sleeves and a black shawl draped across her shoulders. Her hair, in ringlets, is pulled back from her forehead. Her hands are crossed in front of her and it looks as if her fingers may be entwined. On her wrists she wears what appear to be black cloth bands. Because she is wearing black, it is possible that this portrait was taken after her father’s death in 1855, although no information has been uncovered about its origin or date. Hannah gazes calmly at the camera and seems at peace; in this, she resembles her mother. “I cant think you have grown older (as you said in one of your letters), but mother as I grow older I can see I look more like you, not that I look old, Oh no, but Mother often when I am combing my hair I think how much I begin to look like you,” Hannah writes in 1858.  Later, in a letter to her brother Walt, Hannah claimed “I don’t make a good picture,”  yet her gaze in this portrait shows serenity and self-possession, qualities that would be severely tested during the decades of her marriage. Hannah’s obituary published in the Vermont Bellows Falls Times in 1908 notes that Hannah “bore a strong resemblance to her brother,” probably because of her gray eyes, the color of her hair, and the shape of her face.  Hannah’s portrait also reveals her attention to clothing styles and to fashion. She loved to sew; in her letters she often refers to the shirts that she is making for Heyde. Hannah paid attention to fabrics, to the latest styles, to what she was wearing and why. Her choice to wear mourning after her father’s death was deliberate, because it reflected how she felt. “I wish to have some black dresses and bonnet[s],” she writes. “I do not like to wear such things as I have now . . . I do not like to wear a pink or light dress and if one feels as I do, I think its right to do as you feel,” she notes in a letter to Mother Whitman a few weeks after her father’s death.  Often she includes a brief description of what she is wearing so that her family could imagine how she looked that day.
Reading Hannah’s selected correspondence provides readers with deeper insight into the phenomenon of domestic violence in the United States during the mid-nineteenth century. Understanding contemporary sociocultural responses to intimate partner violence in this time period allows readers to contextualize Hannah’s individual situation and to weigh this information against the portrayal of Hannah in previously published biographical studies of the Whitman family. For the most part, the characterization of Hannah that exists in the biographies of Whitman and the critical studies of Heyde’s work has been dismissive, blaming Hannah for the abuse she suffered and criticizing her for her supposed lack of domestic skills. The seriousness and the complexity of Hannah’s situation have been misconstrued by Whitman’s biographers. Justin Kaplan dismisses Hannah as “psychotic”; David Reynolds reports that “the neurotic Hannah dressed carelessly, never learned to cook, and kept a messy house”; Jerome Loving concludes that Hannah was a “hypochondriac caught up in a bad marriage.”  Referring to the three letters Hannah sent to Mother Whitman in July 1855, in which she expresses her regret that she is so far away, Gay Wilson Allen concludes that Hannah “secretly enjoyed her misery—subsequent letters were to reveal an unmistakable masochistic tendency.”  As countertestimony to these portrayals, Hannah’s correspondence with her mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, and with her brother Walt reveals that she experienced a spiraling pattern of emotional, psychological, and physical abuse beginning in the summer of 1855. “I feel I don’t deserve the treatment I get,” Hannah writes in one of her letters to Walt.  For the first time, readers are provided with an alternative perspective—Hannah’s own, in which she describes her living conditions, her loneliness and isolation, and her response to Heyde’s violent behavior. The evidence in the correspondence records the repeated physical, verbal, and emotional abuse that she suffered. The Whitman family knew about her situation, but while they expressed great concern to one another, and at times formulated plans to remove Hannah from Vermont, they were ultimately unable to intervene.
As late as 1888 Whitman described to Horace Traubel his concerns about Hannah: “That whelp, Charlie Heyde, always keeps me worried about my sister Hannah: he is a skunk—a bug . . ..He has led my sister hell’s own life: he has done nothing for her—never: has not only not supported her but is the main cause of her nervous breakdowns.”  It is rare that Whitman would feel such anger toward anyone, but his characterization of Heyde was rooted in the knowledge that his sister was the subject of physical, psychological, and emotional abuse. Walt had always felt great affection for Han. “I could not say that Walt was fonder of me than of the others or of any other,” George Washington Whitman told Horace Traubel. “He was fondest of Han, if he had any preference.”  Walt’s fondness for his sister stemmed from their common love of books, their experiences teaching in Hempstead, Long Island, and Hannah’s lively and cheerful disposition, much like her mother’s, prior to her marriage. In this same conversation with Traubel, George explained why Walt was always the sibling that others relied on, and why Mother Whitman counted on his good judgment: “One of the greatest things about Walt was his wonderful calmness in trying times when everybody else would get excited. He was always cool, never flurried; would get mad but never lose his head; was never scared....We all deferred to his judgement, looked up to him. He was like us—yet he was different from us, too....He was forbearing and conciliating. He was always gentle till you got him started—always,” George notes.  Heyde was one of the few people who could get Whitman started. “It is a great pleasure, though sometimes a melancholy one, to hear from Han, under her own hand,” Whitman writes, to Mother Whitman. 
Various poems and passages in Leaves of Grass may have been influenced by Whitman’s awareness of Hannah’s situation and his concern for her, specifically, section 11 of “Song of Myself” where a “lonesome” and isolated woman looks out of her window. Reading the second edition of Leaves of Grass alongside Hannah’s letters to Mother Whitman from winter, spring, and summer of 1856 is especially revelatory: the placement of “Poem of Women” as the second poem in the 1856 edition underscores Whitman’s focus on the themes of “justice” and “sympathy.” In “Poem of the Body” Whitman added an extended catalogue to complement his 1855 assertion that “the human body is sacred.” In the middle of the mostly joyous “Poem of the Road" (later, “Song of the Open Road") Whitman includes a disturbing passage about “a duplicate self,” nicely “attired,” who underneath its false exterior represents "death” and “hell”—perhaps an allusion to Heyde’s duplicitous behavior, often described in Hannah’s letters. Whitman ends “Poem of Remembrances for a Girl or Boy of These States" with an assertion that “the creation is womanhood.” In "Song of the Broad-Axe" Whitman portrays women as part of the public sphere, processing “the streets the same as the men,” and in “Salut au Monde” he provides a vision of the limitless potential of men and women. In these poems, Whitman answers Heyde’s abusive dismissal of women (recorded in Hannah’s letters), creating a space within the boundaries of the poems where Hannah could find affirmation and support.
Most of Hannah’s extant letters are addressed to her mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. Because Mother Whitman lived in New York while Walt lived in Washington, DC (from 1863 to 1874), Mother Whitman may be credited with collecting and saving the letters that were addressed to her from Hannah, but it is also possible that some of the letters Hannah wrote to Mother Whitman were then sent to Walt or to other family members. After Mother Whitman died in 1873, more than likely the majority of Hannah’s letters that were in Mother Whitman’s possession were then saved by Walt. If the letters had been returned to Hannah after Mother Whitman’s death, Hannah might have destroyed them. Seventeen of Hannah’s letters to Walt survive; more than likely these letters were kept by Whitman.
Hannah’s letters to both Mother Whitman and to Walt are mixed in with each other in the largest collection of her letters, the “Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde Papers, 1853–1892” at the Library of Congress, which suggests that Walt was most likely the last Whitman family member to own the composite collection of Hannah’s letters. Since most of the letters were addressed to her, Mother Whitman most likely kept Hannah’s letters, but after her death in 1873 the letters that Mother Whitman had kept were probably turned over to Whitman, whose appetite for acquiring written materials seemed boundless. “Whitman was probably the greatest collector of his own letters,” Edwin Haviland Miller notes, in his introduction to Whitman’s Correspondence. “As thousands of extant manuscripts testify, few writers have shown more concern for future renown.”  Since Whitman felt great affection and love for Hannah, her letters more than likely became part of the collection of materials and documents that Whitman kept. Dr. J. Johnstone, who visited Whitman in 1891 and 1892, described the mountain of material that surrounded Whitman:
All around him were books, manuscripts, letters, papers, magazines, parcels tied up with string, photographs and literary material, which were piled on the table a yard high, filled two or three waste-paper baskets, flowed over them onto the floor, beneath the table, on to and under the chairs, bed, washstand, etc., so that whenever he moved from his chair he had literally to wade through this sea of chaotic disorder and confusion. And yet it was no disorder to him, for he knew where to lay his hands upon whatever he wanted, in a few moments. Fortunately, Whitman was also a steadfast collector of Whitman family correspondence.
The first stage of the project was to locate all of Hannah’s extant letters. In most instances Hannah’s correspondence is categorized as part of a larger collection of Walt Whitman materials. Sometimes Hannah’s letters were mixed in with other collections of correspondence, from Mother Whitman, for example, or Charles Heyde. While more letters may exist, to date the majority of Hannah’s correspondence may be found at the Library of Congress. The Trent Collection at Duke University possesses seven of Hannah’s letters. The New York Public Library (Berg Collection of English and American Literature) has two of Hannah’s letters. These are the only two surviving letters that Hannah addressed to recipients other than Mother Whitman and Walt; one is to her brother Jeff, and the other, to her brother George. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has one of Hannah’s letters, addressed to Mother Whitman and tucked into a letter that Mother Whitman sent to Walt. Three of Hannah’s letters had been published (in 1949) in an edited collection of Whitman correspondence, Faint Clews & Indirections ; six of Hannah’s letters are displayed on the Walt Whitman Archive. 
For this project I had originally intended to select ten letters, thinking that the letters I chose would adequately illustrate the range of Hannah’s experience. When it came to the actual selection, however, ten letters did not seem sufficient. Including twice as many letters (20) provides a greater range of information about Hannah’s life: her first letter, written when Hannah was newly married, expressing her homesickness; the letters that capture her itinerant life with Heyde, moving from boardinghouse to boardinghouse in Vermont; the letters after her father died in July 1855, when she could not be with the Whitman family, much to her sorrow; the letters from the 1860s when George was away in military service; her ongoing emotional connection to her mother despite the distance between them; Hannah’s emotional descriptions of the abuse she experienced over time; the affection, admiration, and gratitude she expresses in her letters to her brother Walt. The twenty letters presented in this edition range from her earliest letter to her mother (when first married to Charles and arriving in Vermont) to her last letters, addressed to Walt. The letters are revelatory, providing a glimpse into verbal and physical abuse from the victim’s point of view; they also attempt to conceal anguish and suffering, as demonstrated by the numerous blotches (perhaps from tears), smudges, crossed-out words and sentences, and sections removed with scissors. The reader is encouraged to scrutinize Hannah’s handwritten letters as well as the transcribed versions next to them; the handwritten texts provide remarkable testimony of Hannah’s emotional state as she was writing and allow the reader to get a deeper sense of the woman who exists behind the words. As the letters demonstrate, Hannah was at first bewildered by the abuse that Charles directed at her, and somewhat shocked; as the cherished youngest daughter in the Whitman household, Hannah was not prepared for the way Charles treated her, belittling her abilities and physically assaulting her. As the weeks and months went by, however, the letters provide evidence of the ways in which she became more attuned to potentially explosive situations: guarding her emotions; weighing her words before articulating them; assessing his moods; and attempting to mollify his potentially explosive responses.
Once Hannah’s letters were located, the next stage of the project was to obtain a high-quality image of each page of each letter. Since the bulk of her letters were at the Library of Congress, reviewing the manuscripts in person provided a more nuanced understanding of the letters as physical texts. It was clear that the letters had been read and reread many times, perhaps by Whitman family members, from the way the pages were folded and the texture of the paper, which in some cases had been worn smooth. Some of the pages were torn; other pages were missing whole passages, which Hannah (or perhaps Charles) had cut out. Page width and thickness varied. Some letters were written in pencil, others in pen. Heyde did not provide Hannah with the small amount of money necessary to purchase ink, so at times she had to write in pencil. Over time, the color of the paper and the color of ink had faded or changed. Because the letters were loosely assembled in a folder, pages had been rearranged and separated from the original letter, possibly by earlier researchers. Nevertheless, the letters were scanned in the order that they were assembled in the folder at the Library of Congress. Two rulers were used to measure the page width and length. Placing the ruler alongside the bottom and the top of the page proved to be invaluable later in the editing process, because measuring the page width and length provided greater ease in matching separated pages. When scanning, all pages were copied—even the back of the page of a letter if it had not been written on, although this was rare, since Hannah usually filled the entire pages of her letters, often writing upside down at the top of the page if there was a small margin, to include a postscript.
Hannah’s letters more than likely had originally been put together in chronological order. Because some of the pages had been separated from each other and were out of order, several of the letters in the collection at the Library of Congress needed to be reassembled digitally. Returning the letters to their original form and order required a careful examination of the physical characteristics of the document (paper used, ink or pencil) as well as the contents of each letter. If the letter was incomplete, reviewing the fragments and pages of letters that clearly had been separated sometimes resulted in a match. At times, there were contextual clues present in the incomplete pieces that provided a connection between the incomplete letter and the fragments. Before the match could be finalized, both pieces were examined for similar wording, phrases, or references to places and persons. Handwriting also was helpful in piecing together the missing parts of letters. Hannah’s handwriting changed over the decades; in the 1850s the way she shapes her words and letters was much closer to the models in the penmanship manuals of the 1830s and 1840s. The paper that Hannah used was also helpful in determining a match between pieces of an incomplete letter: the paper was often (but not always) similar in size. The ruler measurements taken during the scanning process became useful in this part of the process. Some of the paper Hannah used was lined; at times she used paper available at the boardinghouses where she stayed.
The majority of Hannah’s letters are addressed to Mother Whitman; after Mother Whitman, Walt is her most frequent correspondent. Hannah often included information in the header of her letters regarding time of day or month, or even the date itself, but she did not indicate the year. The date and location of each letter revealed the itinerant nature of the Heydes’ marriage until 1864, when Heyde purchased a home in Burlington. The years can be deduced from the Whitman family events Hannah mentions in her letters: the boardinghouses, hotels, and towns where the Heydes stayed in Vermont; the death of her father in 1855; George’s military service during the Civil War; Jeff’s marriage and the birth of his children; Andrew’s illness and death. Many of the letters possess a superimposed date handwritten in red ink or in pencil in the hand of Richard Maurice Bucke, one of Whitman’s literary executors. That Bucke had access to Hannah’s letters, read through them, and wrote dates on them based on the incidents mentioned in the letters lends further support to the likelihood that Whitman had collected and kept Hannah’s letters after Mother Whitman’s death. Usually Bucke wrote the year, since in some instances Hannah wrote the day of the week, the month, and the day of the month. I have placed brackets around the dates of the years to indicate that these were not written by Hannah. Bucke did not date all of the letters, however, so some of the letters I dated based on the events mentioned in the letters. In all cases, the year dates are indicated in brackets to denote either my dating of the letter or Bucke’s. The justification for the dating of the letters as a particular year is provided in the first note to each letter. Because there may have been some uncertainty that Whitman might have written the year date on each letter, it was important to discern whose handwritten date was superimposed on the letters, usually in red ink. In order to establish that Bucke wrote the dates on Hannah’s letters rather than Whitman, Bucke’s handwriting was compared to Whitman’s, particularly the way they wrote numbers. For instance, the number “3” has a distinct shape in Bucke’s hand; see, for instance, the “3” written in red on Hannah’s letter from March 4, 1873: Figure 2: Richard Maurice Bucke’s handwriting
From letter of Hannah Whitman Heyde to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, March 4, 1893, Library of CongressCompared to the way Whitman writes the letter “3,” it is clear that Bucke was the person who was dating Hannah’s letters. Figure 3: Walt Whitman’s handwriting
From “Scribal Documents,” J. Hubley Ashton to William Hunter, August 3, 1865, Walt Whitman ArchiveAnother example is the way Whitman writes the number “5” versus the way Bucke writes the number “5”: the above example shows that Whitman did not connect the top bar of the letter “5,” and the lower section of the “5” was more roundly shaped. Contrast this to Bucke’s “5,” marked on Hannah’s letter to Mother Whitman from 1853: Figure 4: Richard Maurice Bucke’s handwriting
From letter of Hannah Whitman Heyde to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 1853, Library of CongressFinally, the way Whitman shaped the letter “W” is very distinct. Figure 5: Walt Whitman’s handwriting
From “Correspondence,” Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, February 23, 1872, Walt Whitman ArchiveHannah’s letter dated 1853 has the phrase “Written in Early Autumn 1853” written across the top; the “W” in this instance is clearly in Bucke’s hand.
The next step was to date the letters. Those that had Bucke’s handwritten date on them were carefully checked to corroborate—or to correct—the year Bucke had written on the letter. Bucke’s dates were mostly accurate, except for a few instances. For example, he wrote “77-83-88” on one of Hannah’s letters, above her handwritten date of “June 16, Saturday afternoon.” Checking the calendar years for 1877, 1883, and 1888 revealed that June 16 fell on a Saturday in 1883 and 1888, so 1877 was ruled out. Walt’s letter to William D. O’Connor in May of 1888 confirms the context of Hannah’s remarks in her letter: Whitman was suffering from a bad head cold as well as indigestion.  Thus, Hannah’s letter of June 16 was assigned the date of 1888. Some letters possessed no dates at all. Hannah’s letter to her brother Walt asking urgently if George is safe was not dated. Fortunately, Hannah had also written a letter to her mother, probably on the same day, using this same distinct paper. Thus, Hannah’s undated letter to Walt could be dated with some certainty with the same date as the letter to her mother, September 1862. In some instances letters had to be dated approximately, based on events described in other letters from the same time period. For instance, in several of her undated letters Hannah refers to the weather and to wearing black; indeed, she wears black dresses and bonnets so often that they wear out. “My old black silk dress the thin one is worn out entirely Mother what shall I do, I stuck to it long as I could,” she writes to Mother Whitman in February 1856.  Hannah refers to dental work that she needed, and reports on her impending appointment with the dentist. At times, the weather prevented her from leaving the hotel. Because of these details, the date of spring 1856 was assigned to these letters, and they were placed in sequence based on Hannah’s descriptions of the seasons, her mourning attire, and the progress of her dental work.
All the letters in this selected edition were written by Hannah Whitman Heyde. Seven letters are addressed to Walt Whitman, twelve letters are addressed to Mother Whitman, and one letter is addressed to George Whitman. The word transcriptions of the letters and the encoding of the letters were prepared from the images of the handwritten letters. The letters have been placed in chronological order, beginning with Hannah’s arrival in Vermont in 1852 and ending with her last letter to her brother Walt in 1892. The first note appended to each letter indicates the date of the letter. Images of the handwritten letters accompany the encoded, annotated text. Hannah often indicated her location in the heading of her letters; these were included in the transcription and the encoding process. In most cases Hannah began a letter by addressing her recipient as “dear.” After she finished her letter, in many instances she included small postscripts, usually written in the top margins of the page, upside down. Probably Hannah chose to write these passages upside down so that the reader would know that what she had written was a postscript, and not part of the writing on that page. Writing upside down helped the reader to find her additional thoughts. Postscripts, notes, and afterthoughts have been placed at the conclusion of the letter. Sometimes Hannah added interlinear words and phrases using carets in some but not all cases to indicate the extra thoughts. Hannah did not recopy her letters; she sent the first draft. This practice may have been due to the cost of paper. Before she mailed the letter, in many instances she edited what she had written by carefully rereading, adding sentences, phrases, and words, crossing out phrases, or cutting out whole sections of the letter. Sometimes she began a letter, put it away (or hid it), and finished it the next day or a few days later. Some of the letters were written hurriedly. Others were written in daily pieces and returned to over the course of a few days, with a designation in the middle of the letter to indicate the day of the week that she was recommencing her writing.
The letters are transcribed, encoded, and presented in as close a state as possible to the original letter; thus the letters are presented in a diplomatic edition. Spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors have not been corrected. Sentences are not always divided from each other by a period, and clauses are not always divided by commas. Some of Hannah’s commas could be interpreted as periods; some of her periods, as commas. The context and meaning of the surrounding text often helped to determine whether to interpret the mark as a comma or period. Readers can check the punctuation in the letter against my transcription and decide whether they agree. Editing each letter called for dozens of micro-editing decisions; my objective was to follow the context of the writing situation as carefully as possible. In some cases, because of the sheer number of periods or commas, it appears likely that Hannah may have simply been resting her pen on the paper as she wrote, pausing briefly while she thought of her next sentence. In addition to these variations in punctuation, Hannah’s paragraphing is not always consistent. Some of the paragraphs are very long; others are short. The larger sections of her letters are sometimes separated by a dash. Hannah’s variable punctuation style and loose paragraphing may be attributed to several factors. First, Hannah knew that her addressees (her brothers and her mother) would not expect grammatically perfect letters, so she did not need to be overly attentive to punctuation. Second, many of her letters were written surreptitiously, because Heyde was surveilling her correspondence to her family. In some instances Hannah had to write her letters quickly and bring them to the post office without Heyde’s knowledge. The transcription may assist in the reading of the handwritten letter; in some instances Hannah’s handwriting may be unclear. Hannah commonly misspells certain words—such as “immagine” and “disagreable.” She forms some letters in an unconventional manner. For instance, “x” is very loosely written, with a small space between the two halves of the letter: Figure 6: Hannah’s “x”
From letter of Hannah Whitman Heyde to Mother Whitman, September 1853, Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde Papers, 1853–1892, Library of CongressIt is possible that when she wrote the “x,” Hannah was mimicking the way her mother formed the letter “x.” As Wesley Raabe notes, Mother Whitman “formed the letter ‘x’ with two concave strokes (like two back-to-back parentheses rather than two crossing strokes).” 
Prior to commencing the transcriptions, I devised a style guide and a statement of editorial procedures so that my two teams of undergraduate students could follow a similar set of instructions when transcribing and encoding. Displaying portions of the handwritten letters on a large screen computer allowed us as a group to decipher those places in the letters that initially seemed illegible. Some of the pages in the letters are closely written, because Hannah usually tried to get as much information on the page as she could when she was nearing the end of a letter. For these passages, the large screen display was especially helpful. Transcribing the letters into Microsoft Word documents facilitated the editing, annotating, and encoding process. Rather than having to reread the original handwritten images of the letters, the transcribed Word documents were far more accessible. The transcriptions were helpful in dating the letters, because the information within the transcriptions could be pieced together more easily. Common threads and themes could be discerned; place names, patterns, names of people, and events were more accessible. At times, a narrative could be pieced together. Letters that shared common references could be read side by side. For instance, when Hannah writes about getting her teeth fixed in the spring of 1856, her letters could be placed in a loose sequence. The Word transcriptions also helped to facilitate the annotation process: common references and repeated names or places could be referenced quickly. After the Word document transcriptions were completed, the next step was to encode the documents. Weekly meetings, with the encoding displayed on a large screen, allowed my editorial team to present questions about the encoding process. The arduous work of transcribing the letters into the Word documents, fortunately, facilitated the encoding part of the process. In most instances handwriting that was difficult to decipher did not present a difficult obstacle to the encoder; these challenges had already been addressed and resolved by the transcribers. As editor I oversaw the encoding of the letters by my undergraduate student assistants, proofreading and checking the TEI transcriptions against the original images of the letters.
The next stage of the process was annotation. Striking the proper balance between including enough information versus including too much information about the places and people mentioned in the letters was a delicate task. Because the letters were to be displayed on the Internet rather than presented in print format, I decided to treat each letter as if it were its own discrete entity. Thus, each letter was prepared for the hypothetical reader who might view one letter and one transcription, or jump to another letter that was not necessarily next in the chronological sequence. References to Whitman siblings, to places, and to Heyde’s patrons were repeated from letter to letter, with slight variation. The information in each note was modified slightly to accommodate the context of the letter. My primary goal was to provide helpful information about the references in the letter for the reader unfamiliar with the material. On the other hand, I also wanted to avoid impeding the reading experience by providing too many notes. Hannah and Heyde traveled widely and often throughout Vermont during the early years of their marriage, so ascertaining their location and identifying place names by specific dates and the names of persons mentioned in the letters could in some cases be discerned by checking the dates and locations of Heyde’s paintings. Heyde also took shorter day trips around the towns where they were boarding; for these he would often take the train and sketch his painting near the tracks, or he would walk to locations, as he mentions in several of his letters. Hannah did not accompany him on these day trips, and spent long hours alone in her room, as she notes in several of her letters. To track down the references, I relied heavily on regional histories of Vermont, local newspapers, ancestry websites, and city directories to explain references to people and places. In some instances I was able to identify a person based on likely birthdates and years of residence in a Vermont town; in others, I could not locate information.
Material Construction of the Letters
An examination of Hannah’s handwriting reveals that she had received instruction in cursive. In contrast, Mother Whitman did not receive instruction in penmanship and this may be the reason why she uses the lowercase “i” throughout her letters; executing the “I” would be a complicated maneuver for someone not formally trained in cursive.Figure 7: Hannah’s “I”
From letter fragment, Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde Papers, 1853-1892, Library of CongressFigure 8: Mother Whitman’s “i”
From letter to Walt Whitman from Mother Whitman, December 3, 1872, Walt Whitman Archive
Undaunted by her lack of formal penmanship instruction, Mother Whitman’s lowercase “i” endears her to the reader and provides her with a signature style that is at once humble and intimate.  Hannah signs her name with a capital “H” that is fairly sophisticated in its execution.Figure 9: Hannah’s “H”
From letter fragment, n.d., Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde Papers, 1853-1892Figure 10: Hannah’s “W”
From letter fragment, n.d., Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde Papers, 1853-1892
The same sophisticated execution can be seen in the way that Hannah writes the capital letter “W,” used most often for her brother Walt. American penmanship had evolved gradually from the copybooks used first by the British and then developed in the American colonies in the eighteenth century. The style of Hannah’s capital “H” suggests that the Whitman children may have learned penmanship from a popular series of copybooks devised by George J. Becker, The American System of Penmanship:Figure 11: Becker Copybook cover
George J. Becker, The American System of Penmanship, Series 9
Image courtesy of Pepperdine University Special Collections
This copybook is number 9 of a series; each page consisted of copying a phrase repeatedly so that the execution of the letters would mirror the phrase at the top of the page:Figure 12: “Humility” exercise
George J. Becker, The American System of Penmanship, Series 9, p. 7.
Image courtesy of Pepperdine University Special Collections
The loop at the bottom of Hannah’s capital “H” could be a variation of this lesson. If the Whitman children did not learn penmanship from Becker’s series, they may have taken lessons from one of the numerous itinerant writing teachers who devised their own writing manuals. 
Another factor in the material construction of Hannah’s letters is the invention of the steel pen (also known as a dip or nib pen) in the early part of the nineteenth century, manufactured after 1825 and widely used by Americans. Prior to this, the primary writing instrument was the quill pen, “cut out of the feather by the user” and which “lent itself to shading and thin line lettering, but it never equalled in efficiency the springy steel pen,” Charles Carpenter notes.  Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (1850) hails the invention of the steel pen as consonant with the growth of a literate population by noting that the number of those who cannot write, and therefore must make their mark, is declining: “the proportion of those who make their marks in the marriage-register has greatly diminished since 1844.”  Hannah writes most of her letters in ink using a steel pen; in some cases her letters are written in pencil. “Dear Mother, I am just going to write a line with a pencil,” she writes in March of 1856, “I expect you must think my letters carelessly written this time I have no ink.”  Hannah runs out of ink or does not have ink in the house fairly often. Early in their marriage, Hannah reported that Heyde did not provide her with funds for household expenses, so it is possible that she was not able to purchase ink when she needed it. During her visit to Burlington in 1865 Mother Whitman used a pencil: “i would not write with a pencil if i had pen and ink but i must write with something,” she tells Walt. 
In the late 1830s, railroad lines were built throughout Vermont. Prior to this, Burlington relied on ferries and steamboats that crossed Lake Champlain, or stagecoaches, for transportation.  Two railroad companies established lines in Burlington: the Rutland & Burlington Railroad, with rail lines south and east to Bellows Falls as part of a route to Boston, as well as lines to Bennington and then on to Troy and New York.  Hannah refers to the Rutland Railroad and to one of its builders, Mr. Thomas Hawley Canfield, in several of her letters; Mother Whitman took the train from New York to Troy when she visited Hannah in 1865. The second railroad company was the Vermont Central Railroad, known as the “Green Mountain Route,” which ran from southern Connecticut to Montreal, Quebec. More than likely this was the train route that Charles Heyde took when he went to Ottawa in 1862. The train lines in and out of Burlington and the small towns in Vermont where they stayed allowed Heyde to leave town for the day, sketch a scene not too far away, and return by evening. One of Heyde’s first studios in Burlington was located in the Rutland and Burlington Depot, with train tracks that ran alongside Lake Champlain. In her letters Hannah often refers to Heyde being at the “Depot.”
Railway networks also allowed for the efficient delivery of mail to Burlington. Prior to the railroads, mail and newspapers were delivered to rural communities by steamboats and/or stagecoach.  Hannah refers to the Post Office (which she shortens to “P.O.”) in nearly every letter. Prior to 1863, mail had to be picked up directly at the post office or mailed directly from the post office; there was no home delivery. In addition, postal rates in the early 1860s were reduced, so the cost of mailing a letter was based on weight rather than distance.  For Hannah, walking to the post office to retrieve letters or to mail letters could at times be challenging, depending on the weather, her health, Heyde’s proximity and state of mind, and her ability to pay the postage for the letters she sent to Walt and to Mother Whitman. Another factor in the material construction of Hannah’s letters was the cost of paper; until 1867 rags (textiles) were primarily used in paper making; the “hollander,” or rag engine (invented in 1710), beat rags into a pulp.  The technology of producing paper continued to improve during the nineteenth century, so that by 1850 reams of paper could be produced cheaply; nevertheless, paper for letter writing remained expensive. Prices averaged about 20–25 cents per sheet; sometimes more, depending on the fluctuations of the market and local demand.  Because of this, Hannah often tried to include as much information as she could in her letters, often writing upside down at the top of the page, or reducing the size of her handwriting as she came to the last page of a letter.
Embedded Letters as a Way of Communicating
In order to keep in touch with each other, Whitman family members often included letters from each other when writing to a third family member, commenting on the earlier letter and creating a conversational connection between two or more recipients. For instance, in November 1868 Mother Whitman enclosed a letter she had received from Hannah when she wrote a letter to Walt (see Hannah’s letter to Mother Whitman, November 10, 1868). In her letter to Walt she comments on Hannah’s letter, framing it with her concerns about Hannah: “dear walt i don’t want to worry you but i thought i would send you hannah’s letter but god only knows what will be the end of her troubles. i have got one from him one of his ranting ones i cant tell what an awful letter it is.” Walt would then read Hannah’s letter alongside Mother Whitman’s letter, taking into consideration Mother Whitman’s commentary on Hannah’s situation. Or, Walt would include in a letter to Jeff a letter from Heyde, with news about Hannah: “Dear Brother, I have just finished a letter to mother, and while my hand is in, I will write you a line. I enclose in my letter to Mother, a note from Hyde —nothing in it at all, except that Han is well—and comfortably situated.”  Sometimes they would let each other know that they were tucking letters they had received into letters they were writing to other family members. Whitman writes to Mother Whitman: “I have written Han & sent her George’s last two letters from Kentucky, one I got last week from Mount Sterling."  This brief note allowed Mother Whitman to know that George had written to Walt, and that Hannah would now have in her possession these two letters from George. This practice of including an earlier letter from a different family member enabled the Whitman family members to keep in touch with one another despite geographical separation. During the years when they were apart from one another, letters became their sole form of interfamilial communication: they could express concern for each other; one family member could be particularly singled out as needing attention; and more than one pair of eyes could read, digest, and assess information from an earlier correspondent.
In several instances, both Mother Whitman and Hannah requested that their recipients destroy the letters they had written, but for different reasons. The Whitman family practice of embedding letters may explain why Mother Whitman directed that a specific letter she had written be burned, as Wesley Raabe points out.  For instance, in her letter to Walt dated December 15–19, 1868, Mother Whitman writes, “burn this letter.”  If she had not made this request, it is possible that a letter she had written that included critical commentary about one of her children (in this case, Jeff) could inadvertently be tucked into a letter that was addressed to the very child she was being critical of. While she trusted that the recipient of the letter (Walt) would do as she had asked, in fact, the letter was not destroyed (but there is no indication that Jeff read it). Hannah also asked her mother to destroy particular letters, but her motivations for doing so differed from Mother Whitman’s. In some of her letters, Hannah was more explicit about Heyde’s abusive behaviors. She asked that Mother Whitman destroy some of the letters, perhaps because she did not want her brothers or other family members to know the specific details about Heyde’s abusive behavior toward her. “I should depend certainly upon no one seeing it [her letter] but you and upon your destroying it at once,” she tells Mother Whitman.  It is possible that Hannah did not want other family members to know about her situation because, as our contemporary understanding of victims of abuse reveals, targets of domestic violence often feel ashamed; they do not wish to be perceived by others as gullible, duped, or naïve.  Moreover, in addition to her concern that family members would read her letters, it is likely that Hannah did not want Heyde to find out that she had written about him out of fear that his abuse of her would escalate. Mother Whitman did not destroy these letters, however; she may have kept them so that she could confer with Walt, George, and Jeff about Hannah’s situation.
Hannah’s Education and Writing Style
In addition to her penmanship, the sophistication of her insights and her writing style indicates that Hannah had received formal schooling. Katherine Molinoff reports that Hannah “had what was considered in her day an excellent education, attending a ‘select’ school in Brooklyn and a ‘young ladies seminary’ in Hempstead, Long Island.”  Sandford Brown, who had known Walt Whitman when he was a young man, recalled that “‘He kept school for a year . . . and then his sister’—Fanny, he thought—‘succeeded him.’”  “Fanny” more than likely is a reference to Hannah. The school year was comprised of three terms, of three months per term; males usually taught during the fall and winter terms, and females, during the summer terms. It is possible that Hannah taught in Hempstead during one or more of the summer terms in the early 1840s while the Whitman family lived in Long Island. Katherine Molinoff reports that “another bond with Walt was that she also taught school, as he did, and at least once took over his school on Long Island.”  If this was indeed the case, then Hannah and Walt would have had much in common aside from their sibling relationship.
Hannah was writing not only for a private audience of select family members but also secretly; often she did not want Heyde to know that she was writing letters. This need for secrecy affected her style of writing. She omits periods and instead runs sentences together with commas, using the comma to indicate a pause in her thought or a change in direction or topic. Because of this practice, some of her letters possess a breathless quality, as if she is trying to write as much as she can, as quickly as she can. “I have no time to say what I wish to,” she writes, in spring 1856.  The majority of her extant letters are addressed to her mother or to her brother Walt, so more than likely Hannah felt comfortable enough with her recipient/reader to dispense with the formal details of grammar that would slow down her writing. She reports that she writes surreptitiously, knowing that Heyde would want to read her letters before she sent them in order to censor her comments: “I do not wish Charlie to see this,” she writes on December 20, 1855.  One of Hannah’s favorite marks of punctuation is the dash, often placed at the end of sentences to indicate that she would like to write more but did not have the space on the page or the time to do so. Other times she would use the dash to indicate that she could not finish a thought because it was too emotionally charged. In one instance, Hannah describes Charlie choking her: “I said oh Charlie you tried to choke me he said if he had killed me it was no more than I deserved, I can never explain how I felt, I was not the least angry but so miserable . . . but never felt so bad it appears to me as I did then and as I often do when he is so unkind such a deathly sick faint horrid feeling—.”  There are numerous smudges, crossed-out words, crossed out lines, and excised passages in her letters. These revisions suggest that Hannah reread her letters, at times carefully revising phrases, adding words in between lines, crossing out sentences, or cutting out whole passages, underscoring the way in which her letters both reveal and conceal information about the misery of her married life.
Heyde controlled Hannah’s behavior through attempted surveillance of her correspondence to her family and by reading the letters that she received from them, often confiscating the funds and reading materials that were enclosed as small gifts for her: “you remember how I like books on the table,” she writes to Mother Whitman, “sometimes Charlie will take them, most all away when he is angry, & the Book of Ruth that you gave me and Walts picture, I own. Leaves of Grass is gone."  Heyde was not able to read all her letters or to intercept all the correspondence, however. Some of the letters from her family arrived intact; some of her letters were written without his perusal. His oversight, and the threat of his oversight, however, compelled Hannah to write furtively and, at times, hurriedly. Nevertheless, before posting them, she often reread her letters if she had time, adding words or sentences in between the lines or at the end of the letter, writing upside down at the top of the page, or in the margins, for clarification or expansion of her ideas. Because of their distinct shape, some of the marks suggest that she may have been crying when she wrote, and her teardrops have stained the page.  Indeed, there are stains throughout the letters that might be interpreted as teardrops. The letters that go into detail about the abuse are more heavily edited by Hannah; there are numerous passages that have been crossed out, more smudges suggesting that she has been weeping, and in some instances whole sections of particular letters have been removed with scissors. Hannah’s letter from July 1856 is particularly revealing, as she goes into detail about Heyde’s episodes of violence. In this letter, passages have been excised with scissors by Hannah herself; it is unlikely that Heyde would have done so, since if he had seen this letter he probably would have destroyed it. Below is an image of what appears to be a teardrop on the second page: Figure 13: Hannah’s teardrop
Letter from Hannah to Mother Whitman, July, 1856.
Trent Collection of Whitmaniana,
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke UniversitySurely Walt noticed the teardrop stains on the pages of Hannah’s letters. Hannah’s tears, and her situation, may have served as inspiration for his poem “Tears,” added to Leaves of Grass in the 1867 edition:
Tears! tears! tears! In the night, in solitude, tears, On the white shore dripping, dripping, suck’d in by the sand, Tears, not a star shining, all dark and desolate, Moist tears from the eyes of a muffled head; O who is that ghost? that form in the dark, with tears? What shapeless lump is that, bent, crouch’d there on the sand? Streaming tears, sobbing tears, throes, choked with wild cries; O storm, embodied, rising, careering with swift steps along the beach! O wild and dismal night storm, with wind—O belching and desperate! O shade so sedate and decorous by day, with calm countenance and Regulated pace, But away at night as you fly, none looking & O then the unloosen’d ocean Of tears! tears! tears! The “muffled head” and “moist tears” may be a reference to Hannah, who possibly served as a model for the “ghost,” the “form in the dark, with tears,” crouching on the sand. The storm perhaps signifies her marriage to Heyde; as it moves along the beach, Whitman describes it as “dismal,” “belching,” and “desperate,” forcing from the isolated figure on the beach “sobbing tears, throes, choked with wild cries.” The silence of the night serves as cover for the “unloosen’d ocean” of tears. By day all seems “decorous” and “sedate”—perhaps a reference to Heyde’s duplicitous behavior when he first formed a friendship with Walt. The poem begins and ends in the repeated trio of “Tears! tears! tears!” punctuated dramatically with three exclamation points. The sobbing figure, “dark,” “desolate” and alone, seems beyond solace, caught up in forces beyond her control.
In the letters where she has removed whole passages with scissors (see, for instance, her letter to Mother Whitman dated March 1856), it is possible that what she had written was too disturbing, in her judgment, for her family to read. She must have gained a small measure of comfort, however, from being able to express her feelings and from describing what was happening to her, even if she later excised or crossed out these too-revealing passages. Hannah may have experienced anguish, not knowing how much she could reveal, or should reveal, to her family, yet having no one else to communicate with about her situation. Her primary interlocutor was her mother, but it is possible that during the decades after her marriage Hannah may have written many more letters to her brothers Walt, George, and Jeff, and that very few of these letters have survived. Her brothers were reading at least some of these letters, however; Mother Whitman more than likely passed them along to other family members. Surely Walt Whitman noticed the anguish and misery that his sister was experiencing, as these letters testify.
The Epistolary Genre, Mother Whitman, and Walt
According to Mikhail Bakhtin, the epistolary form is inherently dialogic, comprised of a writer and an addressee. The writer is constantly aware of the ways in which the letter can be read by the recipient:
epistolary form in and of itself does not predetermine the type of discourse. In general this form permits broad discursive possibilities, but it is best suited to . . . reflected discourse of another. A characteristic feature of the letter is an acute awareness of the interlocutor, the addressee to whom it is directed. The letter, like a rejoinder in a dialogue, is addressed to a specific person, and it takes into account the other’s possible reactions, the other’s possible reply. This reckoning with an absent interlocutor can be more or less intensive. An examination of the letters that Hannah addresses to her brother Walt and the letters that Hannah addresses to Mother Whitman reveals a striking difference in tone, in subject matter, and in specific details. Hannah’s letters to Walt are much shorter than her letters to Mother Whitman. The first extant letter that exists to Walt is dated 1862; by this time Hannah had experienced approximately seven years of physical, psychological, and emotional abuse. Hannah’s primary concern as reported in this letter was to obtain news about their brother, George Washington Whitman, who was serving in the Union Army. Her next letter to Walt, dated November 1868, describes her suffering during the time when her left thumb was infected. Hannah has a specific intention in this letter: she wants Walt to write to her doctor in Vermont, to thank him for his medical attention to her case. In spring 1873 Hannah writes Walt because she is worried about his health: Whitman had experienced a paralytic stroke in January 1873. The majority of Hannah’s extant letters to Walt, however, are dated after the death of Mother Whitman; it could be that if earlier letters existed they were destroyed or lost. Based on the correspondence that exists, it is clear that Hannah and Walt remained connected to each other despite the geographic distance between them. She appreciated the gifts he sent: the copies of Leaves of Grass, the small amounts of money that sustained both her and Heyde, especially in their later years, and the newspapers. The encouragement and support he expressed in his letters to her may have been the only consistent expression of kindness (aside from that of Mother Whitman) that she experienced after 1852. After her mother’s death in May of 1873, Walt became Hannah’s lifeline in terms of financial and emotional support.
While she loved her brother Walt, Hannah considered Mother Whitman her confidant. After July 1855, she increasingly shared with Mother Whitman the details of the abuse that she suffered at Heyde’s hands. Hannah’s closeness to her mother was rooted in trust. Hannah begins many of her letters to Mother Whitman with “Dear dear Mother” or with “Dear darling Mother,” salutations that reveal her deep love and affection for Mother Whitman. In the body of the letters, she sometimes uses the term “Mamy”; this was perhaps a common way of addressing Mother Whitman among the Whitman siblings. In his letter dated May 8, 1865, George refers to Mother Whitman as “Mammy"; Jeff also refers to Mother Whitman as “Mammy” in his letter dated December 8, 1872 (both letters are on the Walt Whitman Archive). The term “Mamy” or “Mammy” is not used in the salutation of the letter but in the body of the letter as the adult child addresses Mother Whitman, usually expressing concern for her or taking note of some emotion. "How do you do, dear Mammy How goes it with you?" Jeff writes. In many of the letters, Hannah takes into account her mother’s possible responses to the violence that she reports in her letters, and at times expresses her hesitation because she does not want to upset her mother too deeply: “I have written to you Mother several long letters and not sent them. I have now two by me that was written two weeks since and one written lately . . ..I was afraid there was something in the letters about to trouble you was the cause of my not sending them,” she writes  The abuse is reported for the first time in the extant letters beginning in July 1855, the same month as the death of her father. “I have written very many letters and then would feel different and would not send them,” Hannah writes.  The term she used initially was “bothers”: “I have had some bothers, Charlie is not always very good to me but its best to say as little about it as possible . . . when he is angry he is sometimes very violent but I do not mind it much.” After describing Heyde’s violent behavior, Hannah would sometimes downplay the way that the violence affects her, wanting to maintain a cheerful tone: “its better to look on the bright side Charlie has not been unkind to day I do not write with my mind agitated and I do not immagine things and I do not exaggerate I have one comfort he cant be much worse than he has been,” she writes.  Hannah’s comments in this letter may have been in response, perhaps, to Heyde, who may have accused her of writing letters with her “mind agitated,” of exaggerating, and of imagining “things.” Because of her phrasing, she seems to be talking back to Heyde in a way that she could not, perhaps, in real life. Her letter to Mother Whitman represented an alternate, safe place where she could speak her mind without being retaliated against. The white space of the page allowed Hannah to try to comprehend what was happening to her.
The evidence in the letters suggests that the abuse escalated in the spring of 1856, when Heyde became increasingly physically violent. She reports his jealousy of “Mr. Hagadone, a boarder” in March 1856, and describes her reaction to his abuse as “sometimes I mind it not so much at other times I fret untill I am sick. . . .what I cannot possibly help I must make the best of.” A month later, Hannah reports that she wishes she could leave Heyde, but she does not possess the economic means to do so: “if I could only support myself someway I hardly think I should bear so much abuse at any rate all the time.”  In this letter she reports that Heyde abuses her verbally, telling her to pack and leave, knowing that she cannot do so because she does not have the money to purchase a train ticket. In this same letter, for the first time she becomes more explicit in the way she describes Heyde’s violent behavior: “he does not hurt me much when he gets angry he threatened to choke me to death he has struck or pushed me about some, once he bit me a little on the shoulder more to hurt tore or wripped the sleeves of my dress that I wore but all that I care nothing at all about, if he would not talk so to me." Hannah was never sure what actions or statements of hers might set off Heyde’s violent behavior. She reports that the verbal abuse was in some ways worse than the physical abuse, perhaps because it was unrelenting in nature: “Little things make him angry,” she writes; “there was never a woman abused as I be I mean with talking.” Recent studies of intimate partner violence may help us understand Hannah’s mindset. These studies reveal that the “survivor” of “multiple traumatic events" experiences post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. Her daily existence is comprised of unrelenting negotiations with her partner, whose violent responses can be triggered by small missteps. A sense of powerlessness may develop.  Writing letters to Mother Whitman allowed Hannah to cope in some small way with the violence she experienced, but the damage to her health, both physical and emotional, was lasting.
In July 1856 Hannah tells her mother that she must express her feelings to someone: “To save my life I cannot help his getting angry. He is very violent he is ugly. I feel as if I must sometimes speak of it to some one, and Mother I don’t think you will mind it or feel bad about it.”  Geographically separated from her family and relatively friendless, Hannah had no support network to turn to; she did not attend church, and until 1864 the Heydes did not live in any one place long enough for her to develop deep friendships or connections. Moreover, because Heyde was a public figure in the communities they visited, he developed networks that allowed him to marginalize Hannah and to call into question her supposed behavior, her mental capacity, and illness, as a way of undercutting any questions about the physical abuse. In this way, Heyde sabotaged Hannah’s ability to report the abuse to an audience that would view her as credible. Hannah, insulated and protected within her large family until her marriage, was not as socially adept as Heyde and could not navigate the transient communities in the hotels and boardinghouses where they stayed with the same facility as Heyde could. As a way of explaining Heyde’s duplicitous behavior, Hannah reports the following incident to her mother: “The Chamber maid and others have spokeof his being in the habit of speaking of me to Mrs. Blodgett the landlady. They only say he was often in her room I understood it because I once heard him speaking or complaining to her, but did not know he was in the habit of doing so. . . . I know that he has spoke very ill of me to her.”  Heyde’s behavior in public was pleasant and cordial; thus, he could blame Hannah should any questions be raised about “noise or confusion or disputes.” In this same letter she reports that “he can leave my room with the most horrid mouth and be as pleasant as any one you ever saw to any one he meets.” Hannah’s illnesses may have been a result of the ongoing abuse she experienced: “I know by myself one’s mind affects the body so very much,” she tells Mother Whitman.  At times, she discloses that she blames herself: “Every one is apt to think they are not to blame always ready to excuse themselves. I was the cause of our living this way, then I would have some hopes for the future.”  In this case, Hannah may be referring to their transient lifestyle and the cost of room and board at the hotels where they stayed. Mother Whitman’s response to Hannah’s situation had an impact on Hannah’s ability to cope with the abuse; Hannah must have felt that Mother Whitman reacted in a supportive manner, otherwise she would not have continued to disclose the abuse. While Mother Whitman’s commentary on Hannah’s situation survives in the form of correspondence with her other children, no letters from Mother Whitman to Hannah have been located. Over time, Heyde became increasingly critical of Mother Whitman, blaming her for Hannah’s behavior and perhaps referencing Mother Whitman’s letters to Hannah when he writes in a letter to Walt, “Much of this difficulty has arisen from the miserable teachings of her mother, who enjoined upon her, when we were first married not to perform these little services for me, which naturally would suggest themselves to a kind and considerate wife, and endear her to her husband: Because I might be spoild, by it.”  Heyde was reading, and in some cases intercepting, the letters Mother Whitman wrote to Hannah. He may have resented the close bond between mother and daughter that the letters represented; he may also have felt threatened by Mother Whitman’s formidable personality. Yet try as he might, Heyde was unsuccessful in his attempts to sabotage Hannah’s relationship with her family.
Hannah married Charles Louis Heyde, a landscape painter, on March 16, 1852. “Heyde was impressed with the beauty of Whitman’s slight, gray-eyed sister, Hannah,” Alice Cooke Brown writes.  Katherine Molinoff notes, “Tall, pretty, gray-eyed, Hannah was said to resemble Walt a good deal.”  Perhaps because she was the youngest girl in the family, Hannah was the favorite; since Mary Elizabeth had married at a relatively young age (nineteen) and moved away from the immediate Whitman family circle to Greenport, Long Island, she was physically removed from their daily activities after 1840 and increasingly engrossed with her growing family and with the Van Nostrand clan.  After her marriage to Heyde, Hannah closes many of her letters with “give my love to my brothers,” often asking for them by name: Jesse, Walt, Andrew, George, Jeff, and Eddy.
Hannah was named after her paternal grandmother, Hannah Brush Whitman (1753–1834).  “I remember when a boy hearing grandmother Whitman tell about the times of the revolutionary War,” Whitman writes, in a journal entry.  Sarah Whitman, Walter Whitman Sr.’s sister, also named her daughter Hannah. Whitman describes meeting his Aunt Sarah and his cousin Hannah while he was visiting West Hills with his father in 1855.  Aside from Walt, Hannah was perhaps the most well-read of all of his siblings; her handwriting resembles his and her writing style suggests a literate, lively sensibility. Hannah was twenty-eight when she married Charles Heyde, a relatively late age for marriage for a woman in the nineteenth century; the average age for marriage was twenty-three.  Because she lived at home until her late twenties, Hannah forged close bonds with her siblings and with her parents, particularly her mother and her brothers, who she refers to as “the boys” in her letters. During the twelve years that her sister Mary was away and until her marriage to Heyde (1840–1852), Hannah was the sole sister in a household of six brothers. Hannah possessed a cheerful disposition; she liked to dress stylishly and to sew clothing for her brothers. “I have now begun to wear the summer clothes sister Hannah made me which I find very comfortable,” Jeff wrote to Louisa in 1848, when he was in New Orleans with Walt.  Later, she would sew shirts for Heyde: “I have made Charlie a great lot of shirts eight or nine I don’t know but more,” she writes to Mother Whitman in September 1853.  She also loved to read. After he moved to Washington, DC, Walt often sent her books and newspapers in the mail. “I have written again to Han,” Whitman notes in a letter to his mother  “I send her some book or something to read, occasionally.” Heyde intercepted these letters, taking the funds and the books, but some would slip through and Hannah would be able to enjoy a brief respite of reading and contact with her brother. “It is a great comfort to know you feel so much interest in me,” she writes in 1884.  In 1892, she expressed her gratitude to Walt for his concern and care by telling him, “There is no words to say what I feel for you.” 
More than likely Whitman introduced Heyde to Hannah, although the exact circumstances about how Hannah and Heyde met are not clear. Whitman was a member of the Brooklyn Art Union and he may have met Heyde at one of their exhibitions.  Heyde was a frequent participant in art exhibits in New York, New Jersey, and Brooklyn prior to his marriage to Hannah in 1852. Both Whitman and Heyde admired William Cullen Bryant. Heyde published a small book of poems in 1844, titled Louie and Marie: A Tale of the Heart: And Other Poems, clearly derivative of Bryant.  “I remember Bryant,” Heyde wrote to Whitman in 1890. “You once brought him to my studio in Brooklyn. I can imagine or recall him now as he sat on the extreme end of my lounge—High Priest of Nature!—Thanatopsis.”  Born in France in 1820, Heyde was raised in Pennsylvania and in 1850 had lived in Hoboken, New Jersey.  “My father was a sea captain; sailed from Philadelphia to France, was wrecked, lost at sea,” Heyde writes in one of his letters to Walt.  It is possible that Heyde lived with the Whitmans for a brief time: on the back of one of his earliest paintings, River Scene (1850), a depiction of a New Jersey landscape, Heyde noted his address as “Ch Hyde Artist Myrtle Ave Brooklyn”—the street where the Whitman family lived, and where Whitman had a small printing office and bookstore on the first floor. 
Five months after their marriage, in late August 1852, Hannah and Charles left for Vermont. They initially arrived in North Dorset, in the Green Mountains of southwestern Vermont, on August 27, 1852. Heyde writes to Mother Whitman,
We arrived here last night about 7 « Oclock, safe. being three hours in the cars from Troy. Hannah is getting along pretty well this morning. She has just eaten a piece of your cake, but she sufferd considerable last night. We took a walk together this morning and visited the pond which is about half a mile from the house. The scenery of its kind is very grand. You are obliged to look up on both sides to see the sky and the whole distance is so shut in. 
Hannah also comments on the narrowness of the landscape in her letter to Mother Whitman one month later (September 1852), her first letter home after her marriage to Heyde: “it is the queerist looking place here you ever saw just room enough to walk between the mountains.”  In his letter Heyde describes trout fishing and the initial difficulties of obtaining his painting materials; he notices that the foliage is rapidly changing but states that “he has plenty of material.” In contrast, Hannah’s letter seems more subdued. She mentions that she has been “away four weeks that is longer than ever before Walter knows how home sick I was when I was at Greenport.” Hannah is referring to her sister Mary’s home in Greenport, Long Island; she probably visited her sister with Walt, who enjoyed seeing Mary and staying with her at her home during the 1840s.
The Heydes initially stayed at the Curtis Hotel, whose proprietor may have been a relative of Heyde’s, referred to by Hannah as “Uncle Dan” one year later, in autumn 1853.  Tellingly, as she nears the end of this letter, Hannah confides that Heyde will not provide her with any funds: “Charlie is very very afraid of giving me money I have had or spent scarcely anything since I have been from home, he seems to think I do not need anything.” In this way, a pattern commences; Hannah would have little say in the economic expenditures of their household, and thus she would not be able to purchase small items or to plan trips to visit her family. Nevertheless, Hannah tries to make the best of her situation, telling her mother that “she is perfectly contented.” Refusing her small amounts of money to purchase what she needed indicates that Heyde distrusted her judgment and was perhaps already beginning to control her behavior, curtailing the possibility of independence. A pattern also begins to develop in the way Hannah structures the information in her letters to Mother Whitman. She usually begins with news about her living situation—the boardinghouse, the names of boarders and some biographical detail about them. She then includes some information about herself—what she is wearing, what the weather is like, what activities she has recently engaged in (sleighing, visiting, sewing, cooking), as well as information about Heyde’s painting—how much he made, what he sold, and to whom. After July 1855, at the end of her letter she would report Heyde’s abusive behavior, her attempts to conciliate him, and her responses to the abuse.
In the early years of their marriage, the Heydes continuously moved from one boardinghouse to another, and from one small town or village in Vermont to another: Rutland, Bellows Falls, Jericho, Underhill, Arlington. Hannah provides the place names and sometimes, the names of the boardinghouses in her letters, so that her mother and brothers will know how to direct their letters to her. She writes to Mother Whitman: “your letter being directed to Bellows Falls was delayed some days, dear Mother if you direct you[r] letters, Rutland Vermont and if you like Bardwell House we will get them direct.”  Hannah struggled to make friends among the hotel clientele; her sensibility and her background differed from theirs. In March 1856 she describes the death of Mrs. Eagre, “a young married woman,” “about twenty four,” who died very suddenly.  She had seemed to be healthy, “lively,” “always dancing around” and “singing all over the house.” Mrs. Kimble, her friend, asked Hannah to visit Mrs. Eagre shortly before her death. Hannah writes, “you know how I be Mother”—in Mrs. Eagre’s presence she was so overcome she “could not speak.” Mrs. Eagre’s death deeply affected Hannah: she was especially shocked when she observed the callousness of the other boarders, and particularly, of Mrs. Kimble, who “danced all the evening” at a large ball the next day: “they were together most of the time used to sleep together be like sisters, Mrs. Kimble was the same as usual never shed one single tear the other women boarders never cried or appeared affected.” She reports that Heyde called her response “weakness”: “I am not childish or foolish but mammy I don’t want to die in a hotel.” Their transient lifestyle, her feelings of disconnectness from the community, and Heyde’s ongoing verbal, psychological, and physical abuse contributed to Hannah’s self-reported “melencholly."
Influenced by the Hudson River School, Heyde’s paintings depict wilderness landscapes. His favorite subjects were Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest mountain, Lake Champlain with the Adirondacks in the distance, Camel’s Hump Mountain, and the Winooski River High Bridge. In 1853 he exhibited work at the National Academy of Design and at the New Jersey Art Union.  Heyde painted several landscapes for Thomas Hawley Canfield, who commissioned him to paint landscapes set in the area of Arlington, Vermont, Canfield’s hometown: Battenkill River at Arlington, Vermont, also known as The Battenkill (1853); View of Arlington, Vermont (n.d.); The Battenkill (1853). After 1856 Heyde established a more permanent presence in Burlington, renting a studio and acquiring patrons among the middle and upper class members of the Burlington elite: bankers and businessmen who appreciated Heyde’s subject matter. Because Heyde used the train to travel to his painting sites, often the place where he set up his easel near the tracks can be determined.  Heyde painted in oil, and often framed his paintings himself, using the best materials available.
Initially, Heyde possessed talent and potential as a painter, but several factors impacted his ability to earn a living from his painting. The most significant factor was the rise of photography in the latter half of the nineteenth century, which displaced the demand for landscape painting. Despite this, Heyde was consistent in his representational approach to his subject matter. As late as 1892, Heyde wrote to Whitman, “My sign reads C.L. Heyde, Painter of Vermont Scenery.”  Gay Wilson Allen notes that Heyde’s decision to paint in the landscape painting genre was a financial misstep since in the mid-nineteenth century, “portrait work was practically the only kind of painting that offered any chance of a livelihood. This was merely one example of Heyde’s impracticality, poor judgment, and stubborn persistence.”  In the 1860s, Heyde gave art lessons in his studio, but this did not prove to be a lasting or reliable form of income.
Heyde exhibited his work in hotel lobbies and storefront windows in an effort to attract traveling businessmen as patrons; he also sold paintings by lottery and by raffle.  In a letter addressed to Whitman in 1860 Heyde mentions that he was considering a move to New York or to Boston: “We shall see you some time—I want Han to see her Mother—for a change. I shall come to New York for her myself—I want to visit it—I think that I shall have to return to that place or Boston or get nearer some city.”  Nevertheless, Heyde and Hannah did not leave Vermont. Barbara Knapp Hamblett notes that there is no “indication that Heyde travelled to New York or Philadelphia after 1856 to submit his paintings for exhibition.”  Nor is there evidence that Hannah visited the Whitman household after 1857. “I think I shall come home,” Hannah mentions in a letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman in 1860. “Only think dear Mother its more than three years since I have seen you, and so near, only one days ride.”  Her desire to come home is repeated throughout her letters up until her mother’s death in 1873; after Mother Whitman died, there was no longer any home for Hannah to return to. Mother Whitman’s presence transformed the space she occupied—even if it was a humble basement in a rented house—into “home” for her adult children. “I have much to say to you,” Hannah continues in this same letter, but she cannot commit what she has to say to paper. She wanted to communicate with her mother in person, not by letter, but she would only be given one opportunity to do so when Mother Whitman visited her in September 1865. One year earlier Heyde had purchased a home on 21 Pearl Street in Burlington, a house the Heydes would continue to occupy until Heyde’s death in 1892 and Hannah’s death in 1908.  The location of the house must have been ideal for Heyde’s work as a painter. Across the street from where their house was located, Battery Park affords beautiful views of Lake Champlain. Whitman walked along the paths in Battery Park when he visited Hannah in June 1872, after reading “As a Strong Bird on Pinions Free” at Dartmouth’s commencement.
There was a limited market in Burlington for Heyde’s paintings. Founded in 1791, Burlington depended heavily upon the lumber industry to sustain its economy. During the decades that the Heydes lived there the population fluctuated. It grew steadily from 7,713 in 1860 to 13,596 in 1870, but in 1880 Burlington suffered a decline in its population, to 11,365, but by 1890 the population had climbed back up to 14,590.  That Heyde pursued landscape painting as a livelihood in such a small community is a testimony either to folly or to fortitude; the living situation of the Heydes must certainly have been difficult, especially during the 1870s when Burlington experienced a 16 per cent drop in its population. Increasingly frustrated because his paintings did not provide economic stability, Heyde resented Hannah’s presence and his economic responsibilities toward her as his wife. “He frets very much, gets quite discouraged,” Hannah writes in December 1855, “but I do not think we shall be here very long. I don’t care where he goes if he could only feel more cheerful. I of course would feel contented anywhere where his business was good.”  Beginning in 1855, Hannah repeatedly reports in her letters that she represents an additional burden and expense to Heyde: “Charlie[’s] expenses are of course very great he had found very much fault with my being with him, with its being double expence,” she writes.  The wealthy families could afford to purchase a few of Heyde’s paintings, but there was no wider clientele as there might have been in a larger city such as New York or Boston. Nor did Heyde have access to the public exhibitions that took place in larger cities, providing artists with a network of potential sponsors for the wider dissemination of their work. Thus, many factors contributed to the diminished need for the realistic reproduction of natural scenery that Heyde specialized in. Instead of adopting the techniques of contemporary artists in response to this challenge, Heyde remained mired in the past, unable or unwilling to change. As an artist, Whitman might have sympathized with Heyde’s predicament, but as a brother, he could not overlook the misery Heyde inflicted upon his sister.
Once the abuse escalated in 1856, Heyde began a campaign of letter writing in which he attempted to undermine Hannah’s scriptive authority,  claiming that she was ill, insane, selfish, lazy, messy, and mentally incompetent. Heyde’s letters to Mother Whitman and to Walt catalogued his perceptions of Hannah’s faults, complaining about her behavior, her appearance, and her lack of housekeeping skills. Over time, his letters signified, for Hannah, another form of abuse. Heyde suspected that Hannah would report the abuse to Mother Whitman, and that Mother Whitman would share Hannah’s letters with her sons, particularly Walt. Heyde’s letters represent an effort to circumvent Hannah and to appeal to the Whitman family to take his side, as he had done successfully with his acquaintances in Burlington. Heyde’s letters to her family were a source of tension and anxiety for Hannah; she did not know exactly what Heyde wrote about her, but she must have felt humiliated and embarrassed that he would be reporting false information about her behavior to her family. “There is not the slightest truth in what he says or writes when he is angry,” Hannah writes. “He is sometimes very violent but I do not mind it much I scarcely ever get the least bit angry at him only remember Mother to not believe anything he writes of me in the slightest particular.”  Writing to her family, or threatening to write, was an attempt on Heyde’s part to control Hannah’s behavior, and is a common tactic used by abusers: isolating the abused person from her family and undercutting her credibility with them allows the abuse to continue and absolves the abuser of responsibility for his actions. In one of his letters to Mother Whitman, for instance, he writes, “Certainly I never met with so much selfishness and imbecility; so little true pride, or sense of justice. It is whine—whine—whine on forever—slur—slur.”  In this description, the reader can get a sense of Heyde’s verbal abuse: he attacks Hannah’s mental capacity, her self-image, her moral capability, and her verbal ability, mimicking her speech in a derogatory manner. In a letter to Walt dated May 1873, Hannah refers to the way in which her mother’s attitude may have been influenced by Heyde’s unrelenting criticism: “Perhaps I might know you would not believe anything Charlie said I have often thought what dear Mother said when she was here, that she thought by Charlies letters I had changed greatly.”  Hannah is referring to Mother Whitman’s visit to Burlington in 1865. Prior to her visit, Mother Whitman had “thought by Charlie’s letters I had changed greatly”—, according to Hannah. Heyde’s campaign had been somewhat successful. But Hannah reports that when Mother Whitman saw Hannah, conversed with her, and witnessed her living conditions, Heyde’s accounts were dismissed. Hannah had not changed in the ways that Heyde claimed, nor was she a terrible housekeeper. Mother Whitman writes, in a letter to Walt, “she keeps house very nicely and is very forbearing puts up with every thing.” 
Heyde’s letters were addressed to Mother Whitman and to Walt, but they were also read by other members of the Whitman family, particularly Jeff and George. His letters represent an extension of his practice of criticizing Hannah publically, to friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and boarders, thus undermining her ability to share her situation with potentially sympathetic interlocutors. “I have heard of such absurd things he has said and written to his friends of me too unlikely to speak of,” Hannah writes. Because Heyde was a public figure, he was able to make connections in the wider Burlington community and beyond. He was adept at isolating Hannah from the immediate community, often turning them against her by negatively characterizing her behavior and blaming her for the loud physical altercations that he instigated. In July 1856, Hannah writes, “it makes some talk of course about [the] Hotel I have to bear the blame, I am willing it should be so, its necessary he should be respected to succeed in his profession. The Chamber maid and others have spoken of his being in the habit of speaking of me to Mrs. Blodgett the landlady....I have reason or indeed by what he said I know that he has spoke very ill of me to her." Because of their transient lifestyle, it was difficult for Hannah to make lasting friendships and to cultivate a circle of friends who would feel concern for her. That Hannah, beloved by her parents and brothers before her marriage, would become so desperately unhappy and subjected to ongoing abuse was painful for the Whitman family to witness from a distance. Yet Hannah’s emotional closeness to her family could not be severed by Heyde, as much as he tried. His attempts to weaken her relationship with them resulted, paradoxically, in a stronger concern for Hannah on their part. “I have thought every single day for three months I should write to you. I commence letters and do not finish them and of course do not send them,” she writes.  “I have felt unhappy because I have not written. I have thought about it every day. I want to see you very much indeed dear Mother. I think of you often and always.” In nearly every letter he wrote to Mother Whitman during the decade while he was away in Washington, DC, Walt asks for Hannah, wanting to know if there is any news from her: “I see you still have letters from Heyde,” he writes on August 25, 1863.  “I hope they dont never come just as you are setting down to the table, for they would take away your appetite I know—Mother, I have some idea Han is getting some better, it is only my idea somehow—.” The Whitman family rallied around Hannah, and she sensed and felt their support and concern despite the distance between them.
Unable to earn a living wage from his painting, Heyde turned increasingly to alcohol to assuage his feelings of failure.  By this time Hannah had become a convenient target for his anger and unhappiness; her corresponding with her family exacerbated his feelings of worthlessness. Jealous, possessive, and insecure, his letters represent an attempt to prevent Hannah from revealing his failures to her family in New York, especially since he and Walt had some of the same friends and acquaintances. Heyde was protecting himself not only from the possible intervention of Hannah’s family, but also from any damage to his reputation. Ill, isolated, without financial resources or close friends, Hannah resisted Heyde’s abuse by adopting strategies that would allow her to survive: silence when he mistreated her and passive resistance through her letters to her family, chronicling the abuse. In one of her letters, Hannah reports that there were some individuals in Burlington who knew about the abusive episodes. Mr. Blodgett, one of the owners of the Exchange Hotel where the Heydes stayed in the 1850s, asked, “is Mr Heyde any better or kinder to you now. I dont know how you can stand it I said why Mr Blodgett I never spoke to you of Mr Heyde he said I know you never did not a word, but I’ve known it ever since you been at the Hotel . . . said he thought I did very wrong if I had any friends to not let them know it, I made no answer but was never more supprised he said no more.”  Mr. Blodgett’s kind concern meant a great deal to Hannah, because her experiences were for the first (and perhaps only) time acknowledged by a member of the community where she lived.
A recurrent refrain in Hannah’s letters is her desire for her mother and her siblings to visit her. More than likely, her difficult situation curtailed their wish to visit. Heyde’s letters kept the Whitmans away, further compounding Hannah’s isolation. It is possible that part of Heyde’s motivation was to prevent the Whitmans from visiting Vermont—they might remove Hannah, create a public scene, or perceive at first hand his increasingly failed vocation as a painter. Thus, Hannah’s most powerful allies were kept at a distance from her, further undermining the chance that she could extricate herself. Nevertheless, Hannah’s connection with her family could not be broken. Her mother and brothers continued to agonize over her situation. The Whitman family’s response to the abuse that Hannah catalogues in her letters may have been based on a number of complex factors: they were probably uncertain about how best to respond to Hannah’s situation; they lacked the financial resources to extricate Hannah; and, since there was little or no public discourse or understanding of violence against women (aside from the gains made by the temperance movement), they did not possess any resources for aid outside their small circle.
Heyde’s veiled threats and his unrelenting criticism of Hannah caused Mother Whitman great anxiety and worry; she felt powerless to help her adult daughter because she had little to no financial resources and because Hannah was so far away. The immediate impetus for her visit to Burlington was a letter that Mother Whitman had received from Heyde in June 1865. After reading the letter, Jeff wrote to Walt: “it is plain to me that they have had a quarrel abt some women that Heyde had in his room—they had a big row and Heyde has written to mother while the thing was fresh in his cussed head.”  Mother Whitman was determined to bring Hannah home, according to Jeff, but Jeff felt that she should have waited for George to go with her:
Mother of course is considerably exercised about it—and thinks she will go on there and bring Han home—thinks she will go next week Of course it is foolish for Mother to attempt any thing of the kind and I dont mean to let her go—I am in hopes that George will get home next week and then he could go—I am sure that Mother would never live to get there and back let alone bringing Han.Mother Whitman was sixty-nine years old at the time; she would turn seventy on September 22. It was understandable that Jeff would be concerned not only about the arduous nature of the journey, but also about the difficult situation Mother Whitman might find when she arrived in Burlington. Jeff’s interpretation of the events, however, overlooks an important detail in Heyde’s letter, a detail that Mother Whitman surely took note of and that may have contributed to her sense of urgency in visiting Hannah. Heyde writes, “I never make a remark but what it is met with some personality. I know that she [Hannah] is sick, but I cannot help it if her back snaps in two and she dies the next minute—I think that I am entitled almost to veneration for the services I have rendered and the extraneous duties, clearly belonging to women’s sphere.”  . Mother Whitman’s visit may have been motivated by Heyde’s implied threat of lethal physical violence toward Hannah.
The visit began peacefully enough: Mother Whitman describes the house as “a very nice place indeed it looks as if their might be comfort but such is life.”  Perhaps referring to Heyde’s repeated criticisms of Hannah’s housekeeping abilities, Mother Whitman reports that Hannah “keeps house very nicely and is very forbearing puts up with every thing”—yet “she has few cloths only what she fixes over.” One week later, matters deteriorated. Mother Whitman writes that she is ready to leave: “there was quite a blow out of course I did not participate in the scrap but walt i felt bad i cant write it.”  For Mother Whitman to lose the ability to articulate what had happened suggests that the “scrap” must have been formidable; moreover, Mother Whitman witnessed the altercation and seemed shaken by it. She closes the letter with an allusion to Heyde’s verbal abilities: “dont of course you wont write any thing about what i say about the little conceited fool [Heyde] but write about every thing you can think of if heyde would only go off schetching i should be very glad but i suppose i must stand it the best ican. . . . i wish you could come for a few days dont be worried about me i will try to stand the gramatical phrases.” Having witnessed first hand Heyde’s violent behavior, in this letter Mother Whitman cautions Walt not to write anything to Hannah about Mother Whitman’s reactions, but rather, to write about everything else. Mother Whitman’s caution may have been motivated by concern for Hannah, who would be subjected to Heyde’s violent behavior after Mother Whitman left, should Walt write a letter to Hannah about the incident.
Mother Whitman’s term “gramatical phrases” refers to Heyde’s mannered phrasing and overblown rhetoric, which suggests that there was an inside criticism of Heyde among the Whitman family. Mother Whitman will do her best to withstand the verbal posturing, she notes wryly in her letter to Walt. An example of Heyde’s “gramatical phrases” is provided by Hannah in a letter to Mother Whitman from July 1859, so the family had known about Heyde’s pretentious rhetorical style for some time. Hannah had discovered a letter in his portfolio on the table where he had been working, and copied passages from it: “it is a precious privilege to address another by such a title believing that our sentiments are understood to be rightly understood is to be truly appreciated, I am inspired to speak of myself though not egotistically,” Heyde writes, as reported by Hannah.  The Whitmans probably read these lines with amusement, at Heyde’s unsuspecting expense. Recognizing Heyde’s pretentiousness perhaps provided the Whitman family with a small amount of gratification. “Some artists are articulate beyond the brush; their style spills over into words and they are not limited to the canvas alone for expression," Barbara Knapp Hamblett notes. “Heyde was one of these.”  Heyde published poetry in the local paper, the Daily Free Press and took French lessons in the 1850s, anticipating a trip to Europe. But his plans to make his mark as part of the cultural elite never materialized. Heyde placed a notice in the Montpelier Argus and the Daily Free Press declaring that his tour as an “elocutionist of Shakespeare” had to be cancelled due to “the protracted illness of his wife." 
Despite the “blow out” that she had witnessed, Mother Whitman was captivated by the beauty of the landscape, as well as the affordability of property in Vermont. In several of her letters to Walt she mentions the possibility of moving to Burlington, but she also expresses an anxious desire to return to Brooklyn: “i told han to day imust go back in two weeks she made a great time she said you said i must stay 3 months.”  Hannah’s pleading kept Mother Whitman in Burlington until October 17. Walt, home in Brooklyn on furlough from Washington, DC for a month, noted that his mother would be returning soon. “I shall probably go for her very shortly,” he writes to Nelly O’Connor; “I find it makes a mighty difference in my visit —(What is home without—&c)—.“  Whitman, however, did not travel to Burlington to accompany Mother Whitman home; he observes in a letter to Byron Sutherland dated October 15, 1865, that “Mother is absent at Burlington, Vt, but returns to-morrow—the others have gone to church etc.—so I am entirely alone to-day.”  On October 20, he reports to Nelly O’Connor that Mother Whitman arrived “home last Tuesday – and now it looks something like home in reality.” 
In the mid-nineteenth century, there were no social agencies for abused women; violence against women was rarely brought to the judicial system. Domestic violence was usually addressed by the immediate family of the woman who was being battered, by neighbors, by the community, or by the local church authorities. From 1824 through 1883, court decisions involving domestic assault and battery were handed down in Mississippi, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Texas, Nebraska, and Kentucky.  In some of these cases abusive husbands were found guilty; wives were beaten, bruised, threatened, or permanently injured, but “the likelihood of conviction was high only in egregious cases or in cases including also non-support and/or intemperance,” Linda Gordon notes.  Between 1853 and 1903 eight states passed anti-wife-beating statutes: Massachusetts, Tennessee, Nebraska, Georgia, Maryland, New Mexico, Delaware, and Arkansas.  “The law elsewhere was vague,” Elizabeth Pleck writes.  Until the mid-twentieth century, the legal system did not routinely or effectively handle domestic violence; intimate partner violence, though the community was in many instances aware of it, was ignored or kept silent. American husbands, it was commonly perceived, had the right to chastise their wives, and wives were expected to be obedient and submissive to their husbands. If the violence spiraled out of control too noticeably, however, the community might step in, warning the husband to cease. Religious groups sometimes intervened, particularly the Baptists and the Quakers.  According to Pleck, the Protestant church attempted to “regulate the moral behavior of its members. Clergyman classed wife beating with the ‘sins’ of gambling, drinking, dancing, and horseracing.”  The Quakers had the most effective approach toward domestic violence, perhaps because they were extremely close-knit and watchful of each other: “Friends developed elaborate mechanisms of surveillance and discipline; each Quaker was expected to call attention to the moral failings of other Quakers.”  Church might have been one of the places in Burlington where Hannah could have found community support and intervention, but there is no evidence that Hannah or Heyde attended religious services. Heyde spent long hours in his studio, even on Sunday, as Hannah reports in her letters. Speaking more broadly of his childhood and upbringing, George Washington Whitman observed to Horace Traubel that “There were, of course, no religious exercises or observances in the family at all.” 
An abused woman could turn to her family for help, but even if they were aware of the violence family members could do little to extricate their daughters and sisters from these situations, aside from threatening the husband to desist. Divorce was not a viable option for abused women because the process was arduous, expensive, and skewed to favor the husband. A husband’s abuse and cruelty had to be proven, and, unless the wife’s complete submission in the relationship was evident, women bore the blame for the male’s behavior: “‘The ill treatment she has received has been owing mainly to her own misconduct,’” one court of law concluded in a divorce case in the mid-1850s.  It was not until the 1870s that the first social agencies were established to address domestic violence; these were called “Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.” They focused on child abuse, but as Linda Gordon notes, they soon widened their scope to include “other forms of family violence as well.”  Prior to the 1870s, then, there was little that an abused woman in the United States could do to extricate herself from her situation in terms of legal or social support. The church seemed to be the one venue that could offer any assistance or intervention, but in most instances this assistance was dependent on the minister and/or the congregation and the willingness of these constituencies to become involved.
Women who experience violence may feel denial and shame about their situation; shame and denial, in turn, contribute to “the continuation of the abuse of women,” Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite notes.  Often these feelings of denial were exacerbated by economic dependence. Hannah relied on Heyde for her subsistence; she knew that she could not return to her mother’s home easily, especially since Mother Whitman was constantly struggling for funds. Moreover, as Thistlethwaite points out, “One of the crucial issues for abused women is the psychological and physical intimidation they experience that prevents them from leaving.”  The fear of “destitution” and of “further violence” from the abuser contributes to the woman’s difficulties in extricating herself from an abusive marriage.  Sometimes the violence is deliberately hidden due to the woman’s feelings of shame and low self-worth. In addition to low self-esteem, battered women also experience “severe stress reactions, with psychophysiological complaints.”  Hannah’s unhappiness and ill health and her family’s response to her ongoing distress were part of wider mid-nineteenth-century social, judicial, and cultural attitudes about women and about domestic violence, as well as the lack of contemporary understanding of domestic violence and abuse. Many abused women “did not seem to believe they had a ‘right’ to freedom from physical violence. . . . In a patriarchal system there were neither institutions nor concepts defending absolute rights, but rather custom and bargaining,” Linda Gordon writes; because women did not directly speak out against their abusers does not mean “that they like being hit or believed that their virtue required accepting it.”  Hannah survived because she developed tactics to avoid debilitation: silence in response to Heyde when he was abusive; maintaining the connection to her family through her diligent correspondence despite Heyde’s surveillance and threats; and episodes of illness that may have shielded her from Heyde’s violence.
Because Whitman was in Washington, DC, during the 1860s, the letters that he exchanged with his mother during these years reveal the family’s ongoing concern for Hannah’s situation, one that was simultaneously hidden and apparent. In early May of 1863, Walt writes, “About Hannah, dear mother, I hardly know what advice to give you—from what I know at present, I cant tell what course to pursue. I want Han to come home, from the bottom of my heart. Then there are other thoughts & considerations that come up. Dear mother, I cannot advise, but shall acquiesce in any thing that is settled upon, & try to help.”  Twice Whitman affirms that he “cannot advise” his mother about what to do, an unusual response for Whitman, who was usually forthcoming with advice and assistance to his mother. When he thinks about acting “from the bottom of [his] heart” and directly intervening, however, “other thoughts and considerations” gave Whitman pause: he may have been concerned about the economic impact of Hannah’s return on his mother and Eddy, whose existence was already financially tenuous. One week later (May 13, 1863), Whitman writes again, “Dear mother I should like to hear from Han, poor Han—.”  Instead of Hannah responding to Walt’s letters, however, Heyde wrote to Whitman. Whitman writes,
I received a letter from Heyde this morning, one of the usual sort, about as interesting as a dose of salts. Says Han has not been able to stand erect for the past five months—the doctor told her that she might possibly recover in one year if she was careful—then says he thinks, —he don’t think,—has taken a little place,—Han has a girl to wait on her,—c.—c. All amounts to nothing more than we knew before,—only serves to make one feel almost heart-sick about Han, —the awful snarl in which we are all fixed about it all,—what to do. I wrote to Han yesterday, (before I received this letter of Heyde’s), I wrote a short letter of my own,—sent her George’s letter to you, (I cut out what was said about the money, as I did not wish Heyde to see it. Heyde was intercepting not only the correspondence addressed to Hannah from her family but also any funds they may have been sending to her. “I am always afraid to write, for fear he would know I had told something, sometimes dear mother I get weary making the best of everything,” Hannah writes.  Whitman’s letter indicates the family’s awareness that Heyde was reading the family’s correspondence to Hannah. Because of this, the letters were altered by the family. Knowing that his sister’s marriage was violent and unhappy explains Whitman’s heartsickness and his acknowledgment of the “awful snarl” in which Hannah was entangled. “Well mother, you must keep a good heart,” Whitman writes, in an attempt to keep up Louisa’s spirits.  Two decades later, Whitman told Horace Traubel that there was little the family could do to help Hannah:
‘My mother was very gentle, though strong: you have seen her, talked with her: she had sad days over this thing, which almost amounted to tragedy. George would get indignant: used to want to go to Hannah—raise hell—handle Charlie without gloves: but my mother restrained us—thought it would do no good. You can’t very well break in on domestic situations and straighten them out: they generally have to be scrupulously avoided: the third person as a rule finds himself helpless.’ Whitman’s comment speaks to how “helpless” the immediate families of abused women may have felt in the mid-nineteenth century; they knew that their female relative was involved in an unhealthy and possibly dangerous relationship, but they felt powerless to intervene because of a judicial system that protected perpetrators of domestic violence, and the widespread cultural acceptance of violence toward married women.
Influence on Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
Rather than reinforcing contemporary cultural norms and expectations about women, in Leaves of Grass Whitman insisted on the equality of men and women, the sacredness of the female body, and the dignity of women. He did so not only because he had cultivated friendships with a circle of women involved in the women’s movements of the 1850s, as Sherry Ceniza has so convincingly argued,  but also because of his concern for Hannah. Her situation may have haunted him; he read her letters to Mother Whitman, and Whitman family members discussed her situation at great length. The evidence in Hannah’s letters reveals that the violence and abuse escalated during the winter, spring, and summer of 1856. “You would hardly believe he could be so ugly and violent as he is sometimes, I have been sick quite a great deal this winter sometimes I make myself sick by worrying and fretting, I never do unless I have plenty cause. I dont fret for slight things like I used to,” she writes, in January 1856.  Perhaps part of the tension during this time was caused by Hannah’s need to have work done on her teeth. Heyde ultimately paid for Hannah’s dental work by offering a small painting to the dentist, but Heyde resented the expense. “I know I depend on him for my support,” Hannah writes. “I dont know how I could live without him, still sometimes I think I am knocked about rather too much.”  Hannah did not have the resources to leave Heyde. She could not find support in the legal system or in any local social support systems, nor did she wish to add to Mother Whitman’s already heavy burden in caring for Eddy. So when she writes “I dont know how I could live without him,” she does not mean that she cannot exist without him, but that she had no alternative than to rely on Heyde for economic sustenance.
The 1856 edition of Leaves of Grass, published in September, may reflect Whitman’s heightened sensitivity to Hannah’s situation; many of the poems in the second edition include passages that assert the equality of men and women and the sacredness of the female body. Hannah’s letters and her embattled situation provide the reader with an enriched and more deeply nuanced context when reading the 1856 edition. The second poem of the edition, dramatically titled “Poem of Women,” affirms the interconnectedness of women and men.  In contrast to Genesis, where Eve is drawn from Adam’s rib, the beginning of each line of the poem repeatedly affirms the “unfolding” of man from the womb of woman. “Unfolded only out of the inimitable poem of the woman can come the poems of man—only thence have my poems come,” the speaker asserts, affirming women as the origin of creativity.  In the last lines of the poem, the speaker draws attention to the significance of “justice” and “sympathy” – both qualities that are necessary for “a man” to be “a great thing upon the earth.” In the next poem of the 1856 edition, “Poem of Salutation,” Whitman writes, “I see male and female everywhere”  (line 157) and affirms,
Each of us inevitable, Each of us limitless—each of us with his or her right upon the earth, Each of us allow’d the eternal purports of the earth, Each of us here as divinely as any is here. (lines 195–98)The speaker emphasizes repeatedly the individual person (“each of us”) who possesses not only a unique “right” but a presence that is “divinely” inevitable. All that the speaker has seen has reinforced his understanding of equality: “My spirit has pass’d in compassion and determination around the whole earth, / I have look’d for equals and lovers and found them ready for me in all lands, / I think some divine rapport has equalized me with them” (lines 211–13).
Based on the context of Hannah’s letters, “Poem of the Road,” the twelfth poem in the 1856 edition, may be read from a new perspective.  At the end of section 13, the speaker dramatically commands that what was hidden be revealed:
Out of the dark confinement! Out from behind the screen! It is useless to protest, I know all and expose it. Behold through you as bad as the rest, Through the laughter, dancing, dining, supping of people, Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash’d and trimm’d faces, Behold a secret silent loathing and despair. No husband, no wife, no friend, trusted to hear the confession, Another self, a duplicate of every one, skulking and hiding it goes, Formless and wordless through the streets of the cities, polite and bland in the parlors, In the cars of railroads, in steamboats, in the public assembly, Home to the houses of men and women, at the table, in the bedroom, everywhere, Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, death under the breast-bones, hell under the skull-bones, Under the broadcloth and gloves, under the ribbons and artificial flowers. Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable of itself, Speaking of anything else but never of itself. (lines 191–205)The speaker condemns the duplicitous behaviors that mask violence and that protect the abuser on an individual level, but also on a communal and a societal level. The code of silence allows the abuse to continue, “speaking not a syllable of itself, / Speaking of anything but never of itself.” Whitman may have been alluding not only to Heyde and his duplicitous behavior (“smartly attired” yet corrupt underneath) but also to those in Hannah’s community who knew of the abuse but remained silent.
“Broad-Axe Poem” includes a vignette that portrays an inclusive political order:
Where equanimity is illustrated in affairs, Where speculations on the soul are encouraged, Where women walk in public processions in the streets the same as the men, Where they enter the public assembly and take places the same as the men. (lines 126–29)In this passage, women participate in public discourse, walk freely on the streets, and engage in philosophical “speculations” the same as men—an equality that is evident not just in personal relationships but also in the political and religious spheres. The poem ends with a utopian vision of a female “shape” that arises,
She less guarded than ever, yet more guarded than ever, The gross and soil’d she moves among do not make her gross and soil’d, She knows the thoughts as she passes, nothing is conceal’d from her, She is none the less considerate or friendly therefore, She is the best belov’d, it is without exception, she has no reason to fear and she does not fear, Oaths, quarrels, hiccup’d songs, smutty expressions, are idle to her as she passes, She is silent, she is possess’d of herself, they do not offend her, She receives them as the laws of Nature receive them, she is strong, She too is a law of Nature—there is no law stronger than she is. (lines 239–47)While Whitman could be speaking of America figured as a woman in this passage, it is possible that he was also thinking of what Hannah had recorded in her letters: her need for “guarded” behavior; her resolve to make the best of her situation; her refusal to give in to fear; Heyde’s abusive language; her silence; and paradoxically, her strength. “The freest and most self-possessed woman in Leaves of Grass, in the prophetic eleventh section of ‘Song of the Broad-Axe,’ moves fearlessly through the city streets, uncorrupted by the license and abuse of the loafers,” Harold Aspiz writes.  The judicial system could not assist Hannah, so her resilience had to be stronger than the law and prevail outside a legal system that could not serve justice to her or to the countless other women who were experiencing chronic abuse. In these lines it is possible that Hannah, the “best belov’d” of the Whitman family, is being recast as triumphant survivor rather than the voiceless victim of “Oaths, quarrels... smutty expressions." “Charlie says its weakness but Mother I know if it was necessary I could do as much as anyone,” she writes in March, 1856. “I am not childish or foolish.” 
Section 11 of “Song of Myself” portrays a woman in her twenty-eighth year, looking down from her window on twenty-eight young men who are bathing in the river below her house:
Twenty-eight young men bathe by the shore, Twenty-eight young men and all so friendly; Twenty-eight years of womanly life, and all so lonesome.Vivian Pollak argues that Hannah may have been the source for the twenty-ninth bather. Pollak’s interpretation of this passage connects it directly to Hannah’s married life: “by the time the 1855 Leaves of Grass was published, she was beginning to settle into a life of mutual torment with her husband Charles.”  The evidence in Hannah’s letters suggests that the violence and abuse escalated in July 1855, the same month that the first edition of Leaves of Grass was published. Significantly, it was also the same month as the death of Walter Whitman Sr. Hannah’s distress at the death of her father, and her inability to get home because of financial constraints, may have caused tension in the marriage. The Heydes had lived in Brooklyn in 1854 and returned to Vermont in 1855.  While the reasons for violence and abuse are complex, it could be that the onset of these behaviors in Heyde was consonant with economic difficulties, geographic isolation from Hannah’s family, resentment at having to provide for her, and an increasing realization of vocational failure. Hannah could indeed be the source for the twenty-ninth bather, but for different reasons than the ones that Pollak suggests. The biographical facts seem consonant. Hannah was twenty-eight when she married Heyde, and her birthday was on the twenty-eighth day of November. Heyde often painted landscapes that included water scenes: rivers, bridges, and lakes. Hannah reports that she often felt lonely when Heyde left to go sketching, sometimes all day. However, unlike the woman in section 11, Hannah was never wealthy. Heyde repeatedly made her feel guilty about the expenses incurred for the two of them at the numerous boardinghouses and hotels where they stayed. The woman in section 11 is separated from the young men by social class; she lives in a “fine” house by the bank, and observes them from her window. Even if she were of the same class, however, her joining the young men she sees would be highly unlikely because of social norms about nudity and public bathing. The only way for her to be among the young men is if she imagines being among them, and through an imaginative understanding of her situation. The speaker, seeing her “lonesome,” “aft the blinds of the window,” latches on to her desire and imagines what it would be like if she were to join the young men as an unseen presence. The young men cannot know she is there, because her presence would be disruptive. Her imagined presence, however, is joyful to those who can see it. The readers of section 11 also latch on to this double voiced desire, and envision the scene as unfolding the way the speaker describes it: “Dancing and laughing along the beach came the twenty-ninth bather, / The rest did not see her, but she saw them and loved them.”
“Immagine” is one of Hannah’s favorite words—she misspells the word with a double “m,” but the misspelling forces the reader to dwell on the error and to pause over the first syllable, thus giving the “I” greater emphasis. “Immagine,” Hannah writes repeatedly. Like her brother, Hannah used her imagination, and her pen, to escape from the constant criticism she faced, writing letters and never mailing some of them, but mailing enough letters so that Mother Whitman and her family members would know what her situation was and where she was living. Whitman imagined that his sister might have had a better life had she lived in a society where “the wife . . . is not one jot less than the husband.”  The twenty-ninth bather is and is not Hannah; as she mentions in her letters, at times Hannah felt lonely and isolated, and looked out from the windows of the boardinghouses and hotels where she lived with Heyde, watching and waiting. Her letters reveal that despite the abuse Hannah’s life was not “emotionally impoverished,” as Pollak argues,  but it could have been if she had not had a strong bond to her family, inner resources that allowed her to prevail, and the determination to record what was happening to her in her correspondence. Until Hannah’s letters became available, she remained behind the blinds, half-seen, obscured, and misunderstood. Of all the revelations that Hannah’s letters contain, perhaps the most significant is not that she was a suffering human being whose situation seemed inescapable, but that she had the temerity to record what was happening to her so that we could see her no longer obscured behind the blinds, but as clearly as the self-possessed gaze in her portrait allows.
After her mother’s death in 1873, Hannah continued to correspond with her brother Walt. She offered him consolation in his grief, noting her gratitude to Walt, “ for your being so thoughtful and unselfish in your own great grief, to write to me . . . when dear Mother was here she said that sometimes she felt bad to think we all thought so much of her, for at most she could not be with us a great while.”  Seventeen of Hannah’s extant letters to Walt have been located; thirteen of the letters were written after Mother Whitman’s death. In these letters, Hannah is not as revelatory about the abuse she suffers as she was in her letters to Mother Whitman; probably she did not wish to burden her ailing brother with information that he would find troubling, even though he had read and kept her earlier letters to Mother Whitman. Whitman helped to support Heyde and Hannah for the next two decades until his death in May 1892, sending small but sustaining amounts of money to Heyde, and books and newspapers to Hannah. After Whitman’s death in May and Heyde’s death in November 1892, Hannah was supported financially by her brother George Washington Whitman.  George, who died on December 20, 1901, “left a sizeable estate,” which helped to support Hannah.  Hannah died at her house on Pearl Street in Burlington in 1908 at the age of eighty-five, outliving Charles by thirteen years, who died at the age of seventy-two.  After the funeral, Hannah’s body was taken to Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey, where she was buried alongside Walt, her mother Louisa, and her brothers George and Jeff. Hannah had come home to her family at last.
This project could not have been completed without the assistance of Jason Eggleston, senior lead client technologies analyst, Pepperdine University, and the team of undergraduate students who transcribed and encoded the letters: Maddie Perrin, Fordham University; Kelsey Barkis, Caroline Kempe, Allan Spencer, Madison Neill, and Eliza Riegert, Pepperdine University. For grant support, I thank the following: Lee Kats, vice provost for research and strategic initiatives; Katy Carr, director of research programs; Michael Ditmore, chair of humanities and teacher education division, Pepperdine University. I would like to thank Elizabeth Parang, Melissa Nykanon, and Mary Ann Naumann, librarians at Payson Library, Pepperdine University, Mr. Brooks Buxton, private collector of Heyde’s paintings, Margaret Tamulonis, manager of Collections and Exhibitions, Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont. Connell B. Gallagher, manager of Special Collections, University of Vermont. Anne Marie D’Alton, office assistant, Lakeview Cemetery, Burlington. Ben Tietze, engineering intern, Burlington Department of Public Works. Elizabeth Dunn, research services librarian, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University, Ken Price, Ed Folsom, and Nicole Gray from the Walt Whitman Archive, and Andrew Jewell, Amanda Gailey, and Karin Dalziel from Scholarly Editing. Finally, I would like to thank my travel partner, Paul J. Contino, for his assistance in Vermont and his support of this project.
1. For purposes of clarity, the Whitman siblings will generally be referred to by their first names, and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman as Mother Whitman. Initially, biographical notes will be provided for each sibling.
2. Clarence Gohdes and Rollo G. Silver note that Hannah was “undoubtedly the favorite sister of the Whitman boys” (Faint Clews & Indirections: Manuscripts of Walt Whitman and His Family ([Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1949]), 209, an assertion that Gay Wilson Allen echoes (in The Solitary Singer [(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985)], 68).
3. The last volume of Whitman’s correspondence was published in 2004. For the letters of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, George Washington Whitman, and Thomas Jefferson Whitman, see the Walt Whitman Archive. For Mattie’s letters, see Mattie: The Letters of Martha Mitchell Whitman, ed. Randall H. Waldron (New York: New York University Press, 1977). Mattie’s letters have not yet been digitized.
4. Hannah Whitman Heyde to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, n.d. This letter can be dated as spring 1856 because of the context of letters that precede and come after it as a sequence. Hannah Louisa Whitman Heyde Papers, 1853–1892, Library of Congress.
7. Cited in Walt Whitman, Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, ed. Edward F. Grier (New York: New York University Press, 1984), 1:17, n. 6.
10. Walt Whitman to Hannah Whitman Heyde, March 17, 1892, Walt Whitman Papers, Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress.
19. Justin Kaplan Walt Whitman: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980), 166; David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1995), 409; Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 7. Reynolds acknowledges that Hannah was the “victim of constant physical and verbal abuse,” and cites several of her letters in which she describes being pushed down, knocked over, and told to pack up and leave the house (409).
22. Walt Whitman, as cited in With Walt Whitman in Camden, ed. Horace Traubel (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1914), 3:498.
23. George Washington Whitman to Horace Traubel, cited in In Re Walt Whitman, ed. Horace Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas B. Harned (Philadelphia, David McKay, 1893), 37.
26. Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., introduction to Walt Whitman: The Correspondence (New York: New York University Press, 1961) 1:4.
29. Walt Whitman to William D. O’Connor, May 18, 1888, in The Correspondence: 1886–1889, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1969), 4:170–71.
31. See Wesley Raabe’s editorial introduction to the Letters of Mother Whitman, “ ‘walter dear’: The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to her Son Walt,” Walt Whitman Archive, for a discussion of “qualities peculiar” to Mother Whitman’s “cursive hand.”
32. For further information about the way in which Mother Whitman learned to write, see Raabe’s editorial introduction. Raabe notes, “it is unlikely that she had access to primary schooling or tutoring, and one can detect no hint of formal instruction in writing. But she nonetheless managed from a smattering of instruction, access to printed and handwritten texts, and force of will to acquire the ability to write” (Walt Whitman Archive). It is possible that Mother Whitman was lef-handed because there are numerous smudges on the left-hand side of the pages of her letters when she writes in ink.
33. For a discussion of the development of the teaching of penmanship in America, see Charles Carpenter, History of American Schoolbooks (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1963), 181.
38. For further information about the development of the railroads in Vermont, see David J. Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods (Burlington, VT: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1997), 2:7, as well as Middlebury College Library, Digital Collections, “1898 Rail-Road Map of Vermont, Accompanying report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners," Image X (web).
39. See the Rutland Railroad Historical Society website for a list of the stations and subdivisions that the Rutland Railroad served (web).
40. For a description of mail delivery by coach in rural Vermont see Ide Clee Bemis, “A Walk through the Village of East Calais, Vermont, in the Late Nineteenth Century,” edited with commentary by Sylvia B. Larson, Vermont History 74 (Summer/Fall 2006): 161.
41. See The United States Postal Service: An American History, 1776–2006 (Washington, DC: Government Relations, 2006), 11. In 1863, “for the first time, Americans had to put street addresses on their letters,” the document notes (20).
42. A.J. Valente, Rag Paper Manufacture in the United States, 1801–1900: A History, with Directories of Mills and Owners (North Carolina: McFarland, 2010), 6.
43. A. J. Valente, 46. Prior to 1867, however, paper was made not only from rags, but also from leather, grapevines, banana leaves, ropes, and asbestos, among other substances. See Joel Munsell, A Chronology of Paper and Paper-Making (Albany: Trubner, 1857), iv–v, for a useful overview.
46. For a helpful analysis of Mother Whitman’s letters to Walt, see Wesley Raabe, “ ‘walter dear’: The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to her Son Walt,” Walt Whitman Archive.
50. Katherine Molinoff, Some Notes on Whitman’s Family (Brooklyn: Comet Press, 1941), 24. Hannah’s obituary notes that she was “educated at a select school in Brooklyn and at a young ladies’ seminary in Hempstead, Long Island” (“Death of Mrs. Louisa Heyde,” Bellows Falls Times, July 23, 1908, 6). In 1833 the Whitman family moved to Long Island from Brooklyn. They resided in various small towns in rural Long Island (Norwich, Hempstead, Babylon, Dix Hills) until they returned to Brooklyn in 1845. See Joann P. Krieg, “A Whitman Chronology,” Walt Whitman Archive.
51. Sandford Brown, as told to J. Johnston, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 (London, 1917), 71. See also Katherine Molinoff, Some Notes on Whitman’s Family (Brooklyn: Comet Press, 1941), No. 2, 25.
52. Molinoff, Some Notes, 24–25. See Whitman’s “Brooklyniana” for a description of Hempstead, in The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, ed. Emory Holloway (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1972), 2:309–12. For a more detailed history of schools in New York State in the 1830s and 1840s, see Floyd Stovall, The Foreground of Leaves of Grass (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1974), 28–29.
57. I am indebted to Kelsey Barkis, an undergraduate student at Pepperdine University, for this insight.
58. Walt Whitman, “Tears,” in Leaves of Grass and Other Writings, ed. Michael Moon, rev. ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002) 215. Unless otherwise notes, text references to Leaves of Grass are to this edition.
59. Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, trans. Caryl Emerson (Minneapolis, 1984), 205.
62. Hannah Whitman Heyde to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, July 1856, Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.
64. See Lisa A. Goodman, et al., “When Crises Collide: How Intimate Partner Violence and Poverty Intersect to Shape Women’s Mental Health and Coping," Companion Reader on Violence Against Women, ed. Claire M. Renzetti et al. (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2012), 275, 278.
70. Alice Cooke Brown, “Charles Louis Heyde, Painter of Vermont Scenery,” Antiques 101 (June 1972): 1027.
72. Gohdes and Silver note that “Walt’s oldest sister, Mary Elizabeth (1821–1899) was married at the age of nineteen to a shipwright, Ansel Van Nostrand, and lived in the whaling village of Greenport, Long Island" (Faint Clews & Indirections), 206.
73. Walt Whitman, “Nehemiah Whitman,” in Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, ed. Edward F. Grier (New York: New York University Press, 1984), 1:8.
74. Walt Whitman, “September 11, 12, 13—1850,” Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, 1:4-7. Grandmother Hannah’s wealthy aunt, Vashti Platt, adopted Hannah and her sister after her parents died. Whitman notes that his great aunt “must have been mistress of quite an estate,” because his paternal grandmother once mentioned that she recalled fourteen young slaves eating dinner one night at her aunt’s home (“Isaac Joseph,” Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts 1:12). Also on his paternal side, his great grandmother Sarah White Whitman, “who lived to be ninety years old,” owned slaves (“Nehemiah Whitman,” Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts 1:11).
75. Walt Whitman, “September 11, 12, 13—1850,” Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts, 1:4–7. Hannah was Sarah’s only child.
76. United States Census Bureau, Decennial Census (1890–2000), American Community Survey (2010) (web).
82. Whitman gave a lecture to the Brooklyn Art Union, “Art and Artists: Remarks of Walt Whitman Before the Brooklyn Art Union,” on the evening of March 31, 1851 (Brooklyn Daily Advertizer, April 3, 1851).
83. See Wendy J. Katz, “A Newly Discovered Whitman Poem about William Cullen Bryant,” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 32 (2014): 69–76. Heyde’s poetry (Louie and Marie: A Tale of the Heart: And Other Poems [New York: R. P. Bixby]) demonstrates technical proficiency but lacks originality in theme, expression, and subject matter. Because he wrote and published poetry, Heyde may have felt that he was especially qualified to judge Whitman’s work. The Burlington Free Times published several of Heyde’s poems in the 1850s and 1860s.
87. See Charles Louis Heyde: Nineteenth-Century Vermont Landscape Painter, ed. Nancy Price Graff and E. Thomas Pierce (Burlington, VT: Robert Hull Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, 2001), 96. For information about Whitman’s printing office and bookstore on Myrtle Avenue, see JoAnn Krieg,"A Whitman Chronology,” Walt Whitman Archive, 21–22.
93. Heyde’s address was listed as 22 Court Street, Brooklyn in the 1854–1855 City Directory, which indicates that the Heydes returned to Brooklyn for a brief time, then departed for Vermont prior to July 1855.
94. E. Thomas Pierce and Eleazer D. Durfee, introduction to Charles Louis Heyde: Nineteenth-Century Vermont Landscape Painter, 11. Many of Heyde’s painting are in private collections, but several of his paintings can be viewed at the Robert Hull Fleming Museum, Burlington, VT, and the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT.
96. Allen, Solitary Singer, 116. In 1863 Heyde was commissioned to redesign and paint the Coat of Arms of the State of Vermont, a form of public affirmation that meant a great deal to Heyde; nevertheless, he continued to struggle to earn a living.
97. Heyde exhibited in French’s Bookstore, O. V. Hill’s Music Store, with Loomis and Company, and at the American Hotel. See Barbara Knapp Hamblett, "Charles Louis Heyde Painter of Vermont Scenery" (MA thesis, State University of New York College at Oneonta, 1976), 36, for a complete list.
105. The term “scriptive authority” comes from an essay by Elizabeth C. Goldsmith, “Authority, Authenticity, and the Publication of Letters by Women,” in Writing the Female Voice: Essays on Epistolary Literature, ed. Elizabeth C. Goldsmith (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1989), 48.
112. See Barbara Knapp Hamblett, “Charles Louis Heyde Painter of Vermont Scenery," in Charles Louis Heyde: Nineteenth-Century Vermont Landscape Painter, ed. Nancy Price Graff and E. Thomas Pierce (Burlington, VT: Robert Hull Fleming Museum, University of Vermont, 2001), 15. Knapp notes that due to excessive drinking, later in life Heyde’s "appearance became slovenly; the proud aristocratic stance gave way, and pride no longer kept the secret from the public" (16).
125. Elizabeth Pleck, “Wife Beating in Nineteenth-Century America,” Victimology 4, no. 1 (1979): 62.
126. Linda Gordon, Heroes of Their Own Lives: The Politics and History of Family Violence (Boston: Viking, 1988), 259.
135. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, “Every Two Minutes: Battered Women and Feminist Interpretation,” in Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality, ed. Judith Plaskow and Carol Christ (New York: Harper, 1989), 308.
146. Sherry Ceniza, Walt Whitman and 19th-Century Women Reformers (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998).
150. “Poem of Women,” line 5, 1856 edition of Leaves of Grass. Text references to the 1856 edition are from the Walt Whitman Archive.
151. “Poem of Salutation,” line 157. This poem was titled “Salut Au Monde!" in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass.
153. Harold Aspiz, Walt Whitman and the Body Beautiful (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980), 229.
156. The Hearne Brooklyn City Directory (1854–1855) lists Heyde as a “landscape painter,” and his address as 22 Court Street.
160. Heyde was “adjudged insane” and committed to the Waterbury State Asylum (in Vermont) on October 29, 1892 (Burlington Weekly Free Press, November 3, 1892, 5). He died of a cerebral hemorrhage a few days later, on November 4, 1892. He is buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Burlington, lot 40. The lot is listed in the Lakeview Cemetery record book as sold to “Mrs. C. L. Heyde.”
161. See Martin G. Murray, “Whitman, George Washington (1829–1901),” in Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 778.