Title: Walt Whitman to George and Susan Stafford, 14 February 1884
Date: February 14, 1884
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.05713
Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray
Feb. 14 p m
I send the within letter just rec'd from Harry—I am about as usual, & nothing new in my affairs. Susan this will be a mean short letter this time—better luck next time—It is heavy and bad outside, the wind blowing a gale—(I should like to put on my overshoes & old overcoat & go off in the woods for an hour or two)—
Dr Old Friend:
Am quite well with the exception of the abcess on my neck, it has come again. Dr. B—3 lanced it few days ago but it dont appear to get much better. Recieved the papers and am glad to get them for it is the only way I can get posted. Most of my friends appear to have forgotten me or think me of too little importance to drop a line. Will leave here the first of next month and start for Detroit where I will put in a month or so if I can find bread and butter. Please send me a letter of introduction to someone there if you know any body it will make it much better for me and I will not feel entirely alone. I think perhaps Dr. B can give me a letter to some of his friends there as he is going to give a lecture there Wednesday evening. Don't get the blues worth a dam and dont expect to. Will close for the present.
With lots of love, I remain as Ever your true and devoted son
George Stafford was the father of Harry Stafford, a young man whom Whitman befriended in 1876 in Camden. Harry's parents, George and Susan Stafford, were tenant farmers at White Horse Farm near Kirkwood, New Jersey, where Whitman visited them on several occasions. For more on Whitman and the Staffords, see David G. Miller, "Stafford, George and Susan M." Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 685.
1. Mrs. Stafford's daughter, Deborah Browning. [back]
2. Whitman employs a bit of the dialect Melville uses in The Confidence Man, where the confidence man in the guise of "a grotesque negro cripple" says "God bress 'em." [back]
3. Harry was at the time staying with Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902), a Canadian physician and psychiatrist. Bucke grew close to Whitman after reading (and later memorizing) Leaves of Grass in 1867 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." [back]