Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Susan Stafford to Walt Whitman, 3 December 1890

Date: December 3, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03884

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: Kirby Little, Ian Faith, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

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Glendale NJ
Dec 3rd 1890

Dear Mr Whitman

I received your letters1 & should have written to you long before this but I have had so much to do paps illness2 & Monts3 little family have keept me busy for the past month & I have an old lady staying with me & Jane4 away so you see that my time is about taken up. Pap does not improve very rapidly one day he is better the next worse cannot sit up all day more than an hour or two at any time, I suppose that Ed5 told you he had paralyses he did not know that he had a left hand for five days but he has regained the use of his hand but not the feeling also the lift foot the Dr6 says it was caused by blood—pressure of or on the brain & also says that he is likely to "have another attack at any time" I have seen pap ill but never like this he cant remember any thing long at a time & seems to be all broken up. I don't know how long Monts family will be here as he has left Woodstown his health was poor so he gave up his position there & has gone out in Pensylvania & has sent his wife & little ones here until he can get a house. The old lady that is staying with me is a sister in law of John Stafford,7 she is 83 years old is poor & has no home she came here last august to stay 3 weeks has been here ever since waiting for her children to provide a house for her.

I am sorry to hear of your Brothers8 death, was he ill long? it must be very trying for his daughter9 poor girl she must feel very much a lone. Harry10 was here last night he was well he is going to Camden soon & will call at your place. I will say goodby for this time please write to us when you feel able to—we always like to get a letter from you

with much love
Susan Stafford

Susan M. Lamb Stafford (1833–1910) was the mother of Harry Stafford (1858–1918), 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).


1. Whitman had last written to Susan Stafford and her husband George on November 12, 1890[back]

2. George Stafford (1827–1892) 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, eds., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 685. [back]

3. "Mont" is Montgomery Stafford (1862–1925); he was the son of Susan Stafford and her husband George. He was the brother of Whitman's close friend Harry Stafford. [back]

4. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

5. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was one of George and Susan Stafford's sons. He was the brother of Harry Stafford, a close acquaintance of Whitman. [back]

6. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

7. Stafford may be referring to a sister-in-law of John Stafford (1825–1900), a cousin of her husband George. However, George Stafford's father was also named John Stafford (1790–1876). [back]

8. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized figure. For more on Jeff, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

9. Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the second and youngest daughter of Whitman's brother Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890) and Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873). [back]

10. 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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