Walt Whitman and His Mother
Walt was the second son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. “How much I owe her!” he wrote. “Leaves of Grass is the flower of her temperament active in me.” Walt Whitman’s comment illustrates the opening of “Song of Myself”: “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” It pleased Whitman to think that people noticed his strong resemblance to his mother. Her marriage to a carpenter produced nine children. When twenty-four years old she gave birth to her second child, Walter. What survives of their relationship is a correspondence of about three hundred letters between mother and son. Some of the letters are long, the printed edition of the manuscripts ending up as three pages.