Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 29 October 1877

Date: October 29, 1877

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03970

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

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Blank No. 1. THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY. The rules of this Company require that all messages received for transmission, shall be written on the message blanks of the Company, under and subject to the conditions printed thereon, which conditions have been agreed to by the sender of the following message. O. H. PALMER, Sec'y. WM. ORTON, Pres't.
Oct 29 1877
Received at Kirkwood NJ.

To Dear Walt:

I received your letter this morning and was very glad to get it, and as I have nothing to now I will write to you, and let you know how we are down at the farm.1 The folks are all well and hard at work. Father2 is going to the City to day and Brother is away, so the house is almost diserted of it inhabitants, George & [Routh?] to are at school and there is no-one home but Debbie. I have wrote to you more for to thank you for the dollar than anything else as I dont have any money but what you giv me, I don't know but what it is as well for me not to have any for if I haven't any, I don't smoke any and it is best for me not to I guess, I have not smoked any for nearly a week, so you se I am all alone now for when I have no company I can get a Cigar and pass the time away by myselfe, I did not se Lizzie last night and I think that I will give up going with her if she will be willing for I have so much to think of just at present that it will be best for me, although I love her as well as ever, but I must get in some business before I think of the girls. I am doing well at the Telegraph business they all tell me and like it first rait but don't like the country. I will stay here untill I am fit for an office, though, I think that I will be by the time spring opens if I have good luck. I was very lonly Saturday night. I wanted to come up to see you but did not get to. Cousin Homer was over to se me Yesterday and staied all night, and came over with me this morning and went from here to Philadelphia, he is looking for a situation at telegraphing, him and Ed went to Haddonfield in Ed's new wagon. I have had one ride in it.

Yours Truley
Harry Stafford

write soon


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. 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, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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