Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 26 March 1878

Date: March 26, 1878

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03989

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, Vince Moran, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, Stefan Schöberlein, and Elizabeth Lorang

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Kirkwood N.J.
Mar 26th. 1878.

Dear Walt—

as I have thought of you almost constantly since I came home I thought I would write a few lines to you to let you know that I am feeling pretty well, and sinceerly hope that you are the same.1

Mother2 [illegible] day, [illegible] been [illegible] she [illegible] City before [illegible] if she should [illegible] no doubt but that she will stop in to see you on her her [illegible]. Things are about as they were when you was down here, (any more than we have had a fearful storme of wind and sand). The wind blew so hard last Sunday night, that it almost upset me when I was comeing home, "for I was out then, as usual." Father and all are well: "John" the 'darkey man' is here yet: [illegible] and George have their fun [illegible] has been [illegible] the [illegible] has been [illegible] about drinking it to [illegible] his skin white; it rather gets to him, but he takes it all in good part: he asked Van3 [illegible] other day, wheather the first man on earth was black or white, and Van told him the first man was white, and then John asked him where the black man came from, and Van told hime that a black man was a monkey with his tail cut off, so he gave up talking to him and whent on with Georg.

There is quite [illegible] in the music since [illegible] the wind is [illegible] "Age of [illegible] wish you [illegible], I have been going [illegible] for it for sometime but haven't thought of it before.

I have been thinking of the suit of cloths which I am to have like yours: I have had myself all pictured out with a suit of gray, and a white slouch hat on about fifty times, since you spoke of it; the fellows will call me Walt then. I will have to do something great and good in honor of the name. What will it be? [illegible] have to close, [illegible] out [illegible] at [illegible] Friday [illegible]

Yours truly
Harry Stafford

PS. write soon and let know how you are Yours H.S.


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]

3. Van Doran Stafford (1864–1914) was one of Harry Stafford's brothers. [back]


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