Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 17 October 1877

Date: October 17, 1877

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03982

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, and Elizabeth Lorang

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Kirkwood N.J.
October 17 – 77

Dear Friend Walt:

I dont know as I have any thing to say that will interest you,1 but I feal as if I would like to write something, and so I will begin by telling you about the fun I had last night, it was with a fellow that has been thinking for a long time he could throw me, so last night him and I came togeather for, the first; he said he could throw me and I said if he thought so he was welcome to try his hand, so we [bucked?] in, he his first holt and mine second, his holt we puled around for a short time and then I let loose on him and down he went, then came my holt (he did not want me to [hav?] it but I got him in to it) and I asked him if he was ready and he said he was so I stood him on his head, he got up and said he would go home, but he did not have much to say all the way home, I guess that I hurt his neck by the way he went, but he did not say anything. There is one more fellow who I want to take the conceat out of, and that is B.K. Sharp,2 he thinks he could do what he pleased with me but I want to show him he cannot do it. I was out Sunday night had a good time, went to church and then, come home. Cousin Lizzie was over to our house Sunday and went to Sunday school, then came home ate our suppers and then went out for a ride. I will be down to see you Saturday if nothing happens more than I know of now, will be down on the (5 ½) train, perhaps on the (2) I don't know yet for certain.

The folks are all well, and my-self the same. I think of you where ever I have a moment to think, I don't get much time to think about anyone for when I am not thinking of my business I am thinking of what I am [shielding?], I want to try and make a man of my-self, and do what is right if I can do it. I havent seard from J I Allen yet. I will have to stop writing now for my sheat is giving out and I must [on?] to work, so good bye. [illegible] write and let me know how you are

Ever your true and loving friend
Harry 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. B.K. Sharp was Harry's employer, according to Edwin Haviland Miller (see "Introduction," The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1964], 3:6). [back]


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