Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Susan Stafford, 18 January [1887]

Date: January 18, [1887]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03925

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

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



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Camden
Jan 18—noon1

Dear friend

I will send Herbert's2 letter3 just rec'd this morning & add a word myself. Tho' I have nothing new to say particular—I am comfortable & ab't the same generally in health, (but slowly going down hill I suppose.) Ed4 was here an hour or so last evening, & we were glad to have him. Wish you would come & spend the day here—wish George5 would come & you & he have dinner here with us—Can't you fix a day soon? Mrs. Davis6 would be glad too—As I write the little bird is singing gayly in his cage—first rate cheer & company for me, for I am here mostly alone—sun shining to day here, but cold enough outside frozen hard—

O why hast thou bleach'd these locks, old Time
yet left my heart so young"?7

Love to you & George, Harry & all—
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. This letter is addressed: Mrs: Susan Stafford | Kirkwood | (Glendale) | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Ja [illegible] | 18 | 188 [illegible] | N.J. [back]

2. 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]

3. In a letter dated January 6, 1887, Gilchrist informed Walt Whitman that he had included in the biography of his mother an account of some conversations at the Stafford farm. He also asked specifically about Susan Stafford. In the same letter Gilchrist sent a gift of £3 from Miss R. E. Powell of Guildford, England. The poet visited the Staffords on January 23 when the weather was milder (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

4. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was one of Susan Stafford's sons. [back]

5. George Stafford was Susan's husband. [back]

6. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. E. C. Schellhous wrote "A Dream," published in the Utilitarian-Universalist publication The Gem of Science in 1844, that is about "an aged man" who meets a young man and tells him, "I was like thee, once gay, my son, — / Sweet pleasure filled my heart," but "conquering time / Hath bleached my locks so gray." [back]


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