ABOUT THIS BOOK
The correspondence of Hannah Whitman Heyde (1823-1908), younger sister of poet Walt Whitman, provides a rare glimpse into the life of a nineteenth-century woman. Married to well-known Vermont landscape artist Charles Louis Heyde (1820-1892), Hannah documented in letters to her mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795-1873), and other family members, her lived experience of ongoing physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband. Hannah has long been characterized in biographical and scholarly studies of Whitman’s family as a neurotic and a hypochondriac—a narrative promulgated by Heyde himself—but Walt Whitman carefully preserved his sister’s letters, telling his literary biographer that his intention was to document her plight. Hannah’s complete letters, gathered here for the first time and painstakingly edited and annotated by Maire Mullins, provide an important counternarrative, allowing readers insight into the life of a real nineteenth-century woman, sister, and wife to famous men, who endured and eventually survived domestic violence.