Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 21 July 1877

Date: July 21, 1877

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03983

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

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July 21 1877

Dear friend—1

I thought I would write a few lines to you and let you know how I am. I cannot get you off my mind somehow. I heard something that made me feel bad, and I saw that you did not want to bid me good bye when you went away yesterday. I will tell you what it was. I heard that you was going to Washington and stay and be gon fore some time, is it so? I thought it was very strange in you, in not saying anything to me about it. I think of it all the time, I cannot get my mind on my work the best I can do. I should like to come up to Camden next week, and stay all night with you if I could, but I suppose I can not do it. I wish you would write to me soon and let me know how you are. Things are verry dull down here to day, there isn't any Excursion to day and It is quiet and I don't like it very well. There was an Excursion here yesterday, it was given by a rich man of Philadel. to the poor children of the ward in which he lived, there was over 200 on it. They appeared to enjoy it verry well. I was up there in the afternoon a little while. Mother2 got home all safe last night, she was home when I got there. Perhaps I will be up Wednesday night in the 6 train, I will if I can, if I do I will have to come back on the Earley train in the morning so I will be in time to help Mr. Sharp load the car's. I am sitting by the window and the flys are almost eating me up. We have been trying to kill them but seems to me the more we kill of them the more we have. Mr. Sharp got out of patience in trying so he took the poison out this morning. I have got to scrub the office out this afternoon, so you can imagin me down on the floor. Good bie write if it pleases you.

Ever your
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. Susan Stafford, mother of Harry Stafford, a young man who 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, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 685. [back]


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