Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 24 October 1877

Date: October 24, 1877

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03969

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: Eder Jaramillo, Vince Moran, Alicia Bones, Nicole Gray, and Elizabeth Lorang

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Kirkwood NJ
October 24–77

Dear Walt—

I thought perhaps you would like to get a note from me so I have come down to the Store to write to you.1 Father has been to the city to day and came home sick with the head-ache, so sick he had to go to bead, the rest of the family are all well I believe I am getting fat myself you won't know me hardly when you see me, evry one who sees me tells me that I look so much better and what is more I feel better than I have since I left the farm. Walt I want to see you badly, I don't know weather I will get to come down Saturday or no, but if I don't get down Saturday I will come down Saturday week, for certain. I was down to see H. Stafford to day, he wants to get in J Seca's office for the winter if he can and if [H?] he does it will be good for me, he is well and, at present working on the farm. H.G. is down yet, he will be down for several days by the way he talks him and our folks get along well. Mother2 thinks him [tip top?], and it makes her mad if I say anything against him she toled me the other day if I did not want to sleep with him I could go somewhare else for she was not going to keep a bed for me by myself. You will please excuse bad writing and other mistakes for the store is full of men blowing and looking at me and I have to get along the best way I can I will have to stop writing now so good bye for here is [G. Tomlinson?] and I will have to stop

Ever your tru and loving friend
H Stafford


1. 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]

2. 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). [back]


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