Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Eva Stafford to Walt Whitman, 29 December 1890

Date: December 29, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03961

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, Ryan Furlong, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

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Lodi N. J.
Dec. 29, 1890

My Dear Friend,

Thinking of you and wondering how your Christmas was spent has tempted me to write a few lines to you to-night. We all spent that day very happily with Debbie,1 New Years day we expect them to spend with us. How nice it would be if you could join us. I don't know whether any of the folks at home will be able to come over or not. Van2 or Ed3 may come but Pap4 does not go out a great deal since his illness. He does not improve as rapidly as we would like to have him. Mother5 was pretty well for her when we were home last.

We are all well excepting the baby6 who has quite a severe cold at present.

We do not expect to remain here another year. Harry7 has made application to the R. R. Co, but has not received much encouragement yet. I suppose you have heard of Mont's8 removal to Elwood N. J. He is quite well pleased with his new home.

Please accept my thanks for the $2 which you sent the children.9

I hope this letter will find you in good health and spirits. With best wishes and love from us all I say good night.

Your loving friend
Eva M. Stafford

Eva M. Westcott (1857–1939) was born in Michigan and later became a teacher in New Jersey. She married Harry Lamb Stafford, a close acquantaince of Whitman, on June 25, 1883. The couple had three children.


1. Stafford is referring to her sister-in-law (her husband Harry Stafford's sister), Deborah Stafford Browning (1860–1945). [back]

2. Van Doran Stafford (1864–1914) was one of Harry Stafford's brothers. [back]

3. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was the brother of Harry Stafford, a close acquaintance of Whitman. [back]

4. Stafford is referring to her father-in-law George Stafford (1827–1892). George Stafford was the father of Eva's husband 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]

5. Stafford is likely referring to her mother-in-law, Susan Stafford (1833–1910). [back]

6. Stafford is referring to her son and second child, George Westcott Stafford (1890–1984), who would have been about eleven months old at the time of this letter. [back]

7. 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]

8. Montgomery Stafford (1862–1925) was one of Harry Stafford's brothers. [back]

9. In 1890, the Staffords were the parents of two children: Dora Virginia Stafford (1886–1928) and George Westcott Stafford (1890–1984). [back]


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