Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 17 November 1877

Date: November 17, 1877

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03973

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, Alicia Bones, Vince Moran, Nicole Gray, Stefan Schöberlein, Kenneth Price, and Elizabeth Lorang

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Kirkwood N.J.
November 17–77

Dear friend Walt—

As I sit here in the office with nothing to do, I thought that I would write a few lines to you:1 I don't know as I have anything to say that will be news to you, but thought I would write more for practice than anything else. Ben has gon away today but Geo. Fox is here with me, Ben will not be home for a coupel of days or more, he has gon to N.Y. I don't feel very well this afternoon, have got the head-ache as usual, worse this A.M. than I have had it for sometime. The folks and I have commenced to miss you aready, they were talking of you as soon as you left. I wish you was down here with us; when you came down Debbie2 said to me, it seems like home now Mr. Whitman is back: I wish you would put the ring on my finger again, it seems to me there is something that is wanting to compleete our friendship when I am [missing you.?] I have tride to studdy it out but cannot find out what it is. You know when you put it on there was but one thing to part it from me and that was death. Isn't it a fine day out, it does not look like a Fall day, more like a day in April, although there is no birds singing, but still I think that the day has more the ppearance of a Spring day than a Fall one. I think I will bring my letter to a close for I have to make out some bills for the Freight-master. Good by.

Ever true [illegible] friend,
Harry Stafford

P.S. Write soon, and come down when you can. Yours.


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. Deborah Stafford (1860–1945) was the sister of Harry Stafford. She married Joseph Browning. See Daybooks and Notebooks, ed. William White (New York: New York University Press, 1978), 1:35. [back]


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