Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 24 January 1878

Date: January 24, 1878

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03987

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Vince Moran, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, Stefan Schöberlein, and Elizabeth Lorang

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[Kirkwood?] N.J.
Jan 24 /78

I am [illegible]1 Ed2 [illegible] to let [illegible] I am: I have been well since I saw you, but Father3 is very sick today, he has been in bed almost all day, he looks very badly; he wanted to know wheather you asked after him or no, he asked me if I asked you to come down he wants to see you and so do I and [illegible] of us

I did not get to go away last night. I wanted [illegible] but the [illegible] so [illegible] so [illegible] not [illegible] asked about [illegible] I got home that night wanted to know when you was coming down &c, They all seem put out because you don't come down. You must come down soon as you can. I will be up to see you soon. You did not give me what you said you was going to was it because I [illegible] this one if so I will give it back to Lizzie.4 [illegible] you will [illegible], you [illegible] I [illegible] bit [illegible] this [illegible] I am in such a hurry I hav to write fast but I will show you some of my writing on the envalope. I will have to close now as there is some folks here that are waiting for me now. Goodbye write soon

ever true 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. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was the brother of Harry Stafford, a close acquaintance of Whitman. [back]

3. 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, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 685. [back]

4. Lizzie H. Hider was shortly to marry Wesley Stafford, Harry's cousin (see the letter from Whitman to Susan Stafford of February 6, 1881). They occupied the former home of Susan and George Stafford (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]


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