Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to George and Susan Stafford, 26 April 1888

Date: April 26, 1888

Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977).

Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03863

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden
pm April 26 '881

If it sh'd be quite pleasant weather Sunday my present intention is to drive down & see you2—be there between 12½ and 1—Want to come once more, but am getting very feeble. May possibly not feel well enough to come. No special news in my affairs—things much the same old way—Joe3 has stopt by the window a few minutes. I hear from Herbert4 & his picture. Also Dr B.5 Harry6 was here 4 or 5 days ago. Backward spring here—


W W


Correspondent:
Susan and George Stafford were the parents of Whitman's young friend, Harry Stafford. Whitman often visited the family at their farm at Timber Creek in Laurel Springs (near Glendale), New Jersey, and was sometimes accompanied by Herbert Gilchrist; in the 1880s, the Staffords sold the farm and moved to nearby Glendale. For more, see David G. Miller, "Stafford, George and Susan M.," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: George and Susan Stafford | Kirkwood (Glendale) | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Apr 26 | 8 PM | 88; Kirkwood | Apr | 27 | 1888. [back]

2. Walt Whitman went to Glendale on Sunday, April 29, and dined with the Harneds in the evening (The Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

3. Joseph Browning was married to Susan Stafford's daughter Deborah. [back]

4. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Walt Whitman met the 18-year-old Harry Lamb Stafford (b. 1858) in 1876, beginning a relationship which was almost entirely overlooked by early Whitman scholarship, in part because Stafford's name appears nowhere in the first six volumes of Horace Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden—though it does appear frequently in the last three volumes, which were published only in the 1990s. Whitman occasionally referred to Stafford as "My (adopted) son" (as in a December 13, 1876, letter to John H. Johnston), but the relationship between the two also had a romantic, erotic charge to it. For further discussion of Stafford, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Stafford, Harry L. (b.1858)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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