Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 21 May 1877

Date: May 21, 1877

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.03985

Contributors to digital file: Kevin McMullen, Alicia Bones, Eder Jaramillo, Vince Moran, Nicole Gray, Kenneth Price, and Elizabeth Lorang



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Camden City. N.J.
May, 21st,—77.

Dear friend—

You cannot imagine how bad I was disappointed in not seeing you to night.1 I went down to the depot to meet you, and not finding you, I thought perhaps you came on the 1 O'Clock train, so I went down to the house but did not find you. I have been over in the City to day, but did not get any thing to do, I went around untill I got sick and then I came over here. I have been to see several over here but none could give me any encouragement. You may say that I don't care for you, but I do. I think of you all the time. I want you to come up to-morrow night if you can. I have been to bed to night, but could not sleep fore thinking of you so I got up and scribbled a few lines to you, to go in the morning mail. I hope you will not disappoint me. I want you to look over the past and I will do my best to ward you in the future. You are all the true friend I have, and when I cannot have you I will go away some ware, I don't know where. Mr Carpenter2 has been to see me several times since I was away and he lef me a book and a letter, the letter was to inform me of his intention of going back to England, I will show it to you when I see you. good bye.

Believe me to be your true and loving friend,
Harry Stafford

I shall be at the station to meet you.

yours
H S


Notes:

1. 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]

2. Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) was an English writer and Whitman disciple. Like many other young disillusioned Englishmen, he deemed Whitman a prophetic spokesman of an ideal state cemented in the bonds of brotherhood. Carpenter—a socialist philosopher who in his book Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure posited civilization as a "disease" with a lifespan of approximately one thousand years before human society cured itself—became an advocate for same-sex love and a contributing early founder of Britain's Labour Party. On July 12, 1874, he wrote for the first time to Whitman: "Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart. . . . For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 1:160). For further discussion of Carpenter, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Carpenter, Edward [1844–1929]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).  [back]


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