Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Elizabeth J. Sharpe to Walt Whitman, 16 July 1886

Date: July 16, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03701

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Camden 7. 16. 1886.

Dear Mr. Whitman,

I was shown the new type so kindly given by you to Miss Grace Hunter1 a day or two ago, and I think it, by far, the finest I have seen of you in any form. I am so pleased that I write immediately to beg of you to reserve one for me, if it so happen you have another to spare. I leave the city to day for 2 or 3 months (Marlton N.J. Your friend Mr. Stafford2 is at the station there) as I am in very delicate health, but will call for it, if you will allow me, on my return in the fall, provided of course that you are disposed to favor me so highly.

I have seen Mr. Hunter two or three times daily for months—when both in the city—and I spent last evening with him and his daughter. He read "Eidolons"; Mr. H— several times. I am not prepared to say that I have arrived at its best significance as yet and intend giving full study. Other poems were also read and I think Mr. H is fully impressed he shall like them more and more as he allows a better and more familiar acquaintance. For myself, I have held for years that you are the greatest "master of words" in the language, and although the source is humble you will appreciate from the fact that the prophet is so rarely duly appraised in his own country, and that in local circles my opinion as a wide reader and a student is not without its own little influence.

I have been begging Mr. Hunter to bring me to call with him—fearing otherwise I should infringe upon your time—but he is very selfish and comes by himself. I am sure he thinks you will get all the compliments and it is best for himself to leave me at home. Yet, oh yes, he is very very good and has my interests, literary and otherwise, quite at heart, so it is not so very hard to forgive him, only—well, I should have liked very much to have come, and trust you will comission me the pleasure sometime after the Canadian trip which I understand it is now your intention to take.

Wishing you every benefit form the occasion, and a safe and hearty return. I am

Very Truly Yours
Elizabeth J. Sharpe.

P.S. I have been collecting every little item pertaining to you for the past 2 or three years that I find afloat; shall continue for the next ten if I live. I am now 28. I trust my ability may equal the time & material before me to compile judiciously and in [worthiness?] the subject, as it is my desire to do [sl?] [illegible].

Elizabeth J. Sharpe was a friend of the Stafford family; the Staffords' farm at Timber Creek in Laurel Springs, New Jersey, was a frequent refuge for Whitman in the 1870s and 1880s.


1. Grace was one of the daughters of James Hunter (1818–1894), a Scottish friend of Whitman's. [back]

2. Walt Whitman met the 18-year-old Harry Lamb Stafford (1858–1918) 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. In 1883, Harry married Eva Westcott. 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]


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