Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Susan Stafford, 21–22 July 1888

Date: July 21–22, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03865

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: Braden Krien, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden
Saturday Afternoon
July 21 '88 1

Rather easier to-day—am writing a little & at my proofs (the little new book "Nov: Boughs"2)—have just rec'd three letters, one from my English friend Ernest Rhys,3 friend of Herbert Gilchrist,4 and one from Dr Bucke5—Nothing special, but I will enclose them all (as I believe you are entertain'd—like I am by such)6—I wish you to send the three back to me in the envelope—write a line to tell how you all [got] back—I liked your visit—have enjoy'd the chicken—did you get back all right? did you get the money all right at the bank?—pleasant weather here to-day—cloudy—

Sunday noon July 22

Am sitting up by the window—a little headache, & heavy feeling—but I must take the thick with the thin—moderately cool & rainy—very bearable for July—I am comfortable—good spirits—


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
Susan M. Stafford was the mother of Harry Stafford, who, in 1876, became a close friend of Whitman while working at the printing office of the Camden New Republic. Whitman regularly visited the Staffords at their family farm near Kirkwood, New Jersey. Whitman enjoyed the atmosphere and tranquility that the farm provided and would often stay for weeks at a time (see David G. Miller, "Stafford, George and Susan M.," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998], 685).

Notes:

1. On the back of the first page of this letter, part of Mrs. Stafford's address, ("Glendale"), and the date of July 24 has been written multiple times. This letter is addressed: Mrs: Susan Stafford | Kirkwood | (Glendale) | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | July 23 | 8pm | 88. Whitman's name and address are printed on the envelope as follows: WALT WHITMAN, | CAMDEN, | NEW JERSEY. [back]

2. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) 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," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Whitman may be referring to the July 9–10, 1888, letter he received from Ernest Rhys. In his letter of July 21, 1888 to Richard Maurice Bucke, Whitman refers to a July 19, 1888, letter he had just received from Bucke, but Bucke's letter does not appear to be extant. Herbert Gilchrist had written to Whitman on July 8, 1888[back]


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