Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Harry Stafford, 28 February [1881]

Date: February 28, 1881

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03997

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

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schoeberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, and Nicole Gray

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Feb. 28 late afternoon1

Dear boy Harry

I sent you a few lines three days ago, but I will write again as I have just rec'd yours of 26—a little wild & nervous & uncertain some parts, (but I am always glad to get any letters from you dear boy)—Harry, you certainly know well enough you have my best honorable loving friendship settled—Of the past I think only of the comforting soothing things of it all—I go back to the times at Timber Creek beginning most five years ago, & the banks & spring, & my hobbling down the old lane—& how I took a good turn there & commenced to get slowly but surely better, healthier, stronger—Dear Hank I realize plainly that if I had not known you—if it hadn't been for you & our friendship & my going down there summers to the creek with you—and living there with your folks, & the kindness of your mother, & cheering me up—I believe I should not be a living man to-day—I think & remember deeply these things & they comfort me—& you my darling boy are the central figure of them all

—Of the occasional ridiculous little storms & squalls of the past I have quite discarded them from my memory2—& I hope you will too—the other recollections overtop them altogether, & occupy the only permanent place in my heart—as a manly loving friendship for you does also, & will while life lasts—Harry dont be discouraged by any business or other disappointments of the past—It will all turn out right—The main thing, in my opinion, after finding out as much as possible of life, & entering upon it (it is a strange mixed business this life) is to live a good square one—This I believe you are really anxious to do, & God bless you in it, & you shall have all the help I can give—Your loving ever-faithful old friend & comrade

Walt Whitman

I think I am slowly getting over my chill—it is rainy, dark, muggy day, & I am staying in—had a nice call from a young Beverley merchant Mr Hovey3 yesterday, he bo't a set of books—Did you know young Harry Bonsall4 is & has been some time in the Insane Asylum at Blackwoodtown?—I was out to dinner yesterday to Mr & Mrs Scovel's—turkey and champagne!—but that is the only spree for me in five weeks—

Hank I want you to acknowledge this letter—I hope this won't fail to reach you like some others I have sent—I want to come down before long & then we will have some good square talks—it is now half past 4 & I see the sun is going to set clear5


1. This letter was mentioned in Whitman's Commonplace Book (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

2. Relations between the poet and the young man were frequently strained; see Edwin Haviland Miller, "Introduction" (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York, New York University Press, 1961–1977], 3:1–9). [back]

3. Franklin H. Hovey was a salesman in Philadelphia (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]

4. The son of Henry Lummis Bonsall, editor and politician. According to Whitman's letter to Susan Stafford on February 6, 1889, Bonsall died in the asylum in the preceding month; the poet's brother was in the same institution at the time. [back]

5. This last paragraph is written vertically in red ink. [back]


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