Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 4 April 1881
Date: April 4, 1881
Editorial note: The annotation, "letter from Harry May 4 '81," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.
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.
Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.03977
Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Stefan Schöberlein, Nicole Gray, and Elizabeth Lorang
Apr 4, 81
I have watched and waited for some friendly line from you, for about one month yet not a line have you pened. I suppose you have forgotten your rural friend, in the bustle and fashion of Boston life. I don't blame you very much; yet it seems to me that you would occasionally think of the loving times we have had in days gone by. I notice that is the way you always use me, but I will get square with you when I go off on my lecturing trip, not a line will I write you, and dont you forget it. Here I have been waiting in this dry and dusty office for some account of you and your happy [trip?], and this is the way you serve me is it. Well I have a new gal and a mighty nice little thing she is too; just such a one as you would like, and I know if you were to see those pretty rosy lips you would be charmed beyond measure with them, yet you shan't see her now that you used me so. She is a wild rose, plucked from the [bosom?] of the forest, pure as a lily, and gentle as the summer breezes.
Mother is unwell and has been for some time, she has to work too hard I think: she has tryed to get some one to help her but it seems that she dont [succeed?] very well. Hope she will be able to have some one ere long. Aunt Lizzie has been to see us twice since you were here, and is coming down to stay three or four days next week. Would like you to see her, think you would like her. Father is well as usual, and so we all are with the exception of mother. Hoping to see or hear from you soon. I am yours as ever,
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).