Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Susan Stafford, 10 September 1888

Date: September 10, 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.03869

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



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Mickle Street Camden
Monday PM Sept 10 '881

Your letter came in the noon mail & I will write a few lines—Glad to hear little Susie2 is well & send her my love & hope she will grow on & up first rate—Yes dear friend come up & stay a little with us, & of course bring the chicken for me—it will be acceptable—Herbert3 was here this forenoon but did not come up to my room—though I was sure I would have been glad to see him & talk a bit—I think he has some scheme (painting most likely) on the carpet—at any rate I tho't he looks hearty & well—I am still kept in my sick room—don't get worse but don't gain any thing it seems—& I almost doubt if I ever will—weakness extreme—I have sold the mare & phæton—I sold her for a song—my brother Eddy4 is boarding at Blackwoodtown Asylum now5—my sister got quite dissatisfied with the Moorestown place6—My books are being printed nicely—I have two on the stocks—one little one "November Boughs"7—and one big 900 Vol.8 to contain all my works—you shall have them, when ready—Harry9 too—I send my love to Harry & to Eva10 & little Dora11—it is a rainy, cloudy, coolish day, & I am sitting here alone in the big chair in better spirits & comfort than I deserve—


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
Susan M. Stafford was the mother of Harry Stafford, who, in 1876, became a close friend of Whitman while working at the printing office of the Camden New Republic. Whitman regularly visited the Staffords at their family farm near Kirkwood, New Jersey. Whitman enjoyed the atmosphere and tranquility that the farm provided and would often stay for weeks at a time (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], 685).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Mrs Susan M Stafford | Kirkwood | (Glendale) | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Camden | Sep | 10 | 7 AM | N.J. [back]

2. Susan "Susie" Browning was Susan Stafford's granddaughter. She was the daughter of Joseph and Deborah Stafford Browning. [back]

3. Herbert Gilchrist (1857–1914), the artist-son of Anne Gilchrist, was a frequent visitor with Whitman to the Stafford farm. For more on him, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), Walt's youngest brother, was mentally and physically handicapped. [back]

5. On August 1, 1888, Whitman's mother Louisa and his niece Jessie placed Edward in the Insane Asylum at Blackwoodtown, New Jersey. The poet continued to pay his brother's expenses. On September 4, Mrs. Davis and Warren Fritzinger went to see Eddy: "He seems to be all right & as happy as is to be expected" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

6. On August 1, 1888, Louisa Whitman and Jessie placed Edward in the Insane Asylum at Blackwoodtown, New Jersey. The poet continued to pay his brother's expenses. On September 4, Mrs. Davis and Warren Fritzinger went to see Eddy: "He seems to be all right & as happy as is to be expected" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

7. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. Whitman wanted to publish a "big book" that included all of his writings, and, with the help of Horace Traubel, he made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. The book was published in December 1888. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom's Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]

9. 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]

10. Eva Westcott married Harry Stafford in 1884. [back]

11. Dora Stafford was the first child of Harry and Eva Stafford. [back]


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