Title: Walt Whitman to Harry Stafford, 2 January 1884
Date: January 2, 1884
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 3:361. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library
Whitman Archive ID: nyp.00535
Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein and Kyle Barton
Wednesday Evn'g Jan 2 '84
Dear Son & Comrade
I have got word from you once or twice1—& glad to hear that you keep well & in good spirits—that's more than half the battle—& I'm sure its the best half too—I got a letter from Dr B[ucke] to-day—he mentions you in it, & speaks very friendlily indeed of you—I also rec'd a letter from your mother to-day, which I will enclose, as every thing from home is welcome, (even if she has written already to you, as is very likely)—I have written to your mother this evening—
I jog along very much in the old way—am pretty well, so far this winter—(they say I am fatter & more red-faced than ever)—I spent my Christmas over in Germantown at Mr and Mrs Williams's,2 new friends, very nice, & a big family of children—was there four days—had a jolly time—a sleigh ride, or two—fine traveling, but too cold to enjoy it—Ruth and Burt3 were up here to see me last week—Ruth is going to make a fine looking woman, & good-sized, like her mother (Shape first, face afterward, was the saying of a old sport I used to know)—I met Ed Stafford (John's son)4 yesterday at the ferry—he asked about you—the boys are all curious to know about you—all wish you luck, sincerely—Well good bye for the present, my darling boy—Keep a good heart—we will be together yet & have good times yet—(I shall break up from here in the Spring & leave Camden—I don't know where)5—
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).
3. Ruth was Harry's sister. [back]
4. John Stafford (1825–1900), a cousin of Mr. Stafford, had a son named Edmund (1860–1939). [back]
5. Since George was shortly to move to Burlington, N.J., Whitman had to make new living arrangements. According to O'Connor's letter to Whitman on February 22, the poet evidently discussed with Burroughs the possibility of going to Esopus. [back]