Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 28 November 1883

Date: November 28, 1883

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03915

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: Alicia Meyer, Stefan Schöberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Nicole Gray, and Elizabeth Lorang

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London Ont Canada,
Nov 28–83

My Dear Old Friend:

I arrived here safely Saturday evening 6th. Have had quite a good time so far. Came direct to the asylum. Went on duty as turnkey Monday morning but will not remain here over six weeks or two months as the occupation is not pleasant. Cannot sleep at night there are so many unearthly noises and besides I want to get a position where I can make better wages. And as you know I am of a nervous temperament and the least scene shocks me.

I want to go to Detroit Mic, after I leave here; from there to Chicago, and want you to give me a letter to any business man you know there. Your recommendation has been the means of making me some good friends and I am shure with your letter, I can get something good in either of the cities. If you are not personally acquainted there give me letter to some of the newspaper men. It will carry lots of weight. You know how I have started. I want to make a lot somewhere. If I could only get in a telegraph office I would be one of the happiest fellows you ever saw.

Don't have any privilege here, not even time to write. I am up in my little room writing this while my patients are [sadly?] pacing up and down the hall. Have 42 men in my charge. Will have to close for the present so good-bye. Please don't forget that your boy is away among strangers and a good long letter from his dear friend will do him good.

Ever your

P.S. Don't forget to write soon and send the letters

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).


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