Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Harry Stafford, 28 May [1884]

Date: May 28, 1884

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04011

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "[1884]," is in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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328 Mickle St Camden
Wednesday night May 28

Dear Harry

I recd your letter over two weeks ago—Am glad you have a good place at Marlton—such a spot is so much pleasanter than Phila. or Camden or any close city—Hank I am sorry you have that trouble with your throat but I have no doubt it will go over in time—your mother was up here yesterday—bro't me a nice chicken—said every thing was all right with your folks home—I am pretty much as usual again after quite a long siege—I am here in a little old house I have bought—my room is a big one in the 2d story—get along well enough (nothing to brag of)—there is a couple of elderly folks, acquaintances of mine, Mr and Mrs Lay, they live in the house, & I take my meals with them. Any how I like it all ever so much better than the Stevens Street business—Am not doing any thing lately, & the sale of my books has been very slim for some time1—Met a lady on the ferry last week, she came up to very pleasant & said, "Your friend Jo Allen is in Laredo, Texas, keeping store doing well, & has a family"—

So long, Harry dear boy—write soon, & I will the same—I send you some papers2


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).


1. Whitman continued to sell books to people who wrote directly to him. According to entries in his Commonplace Book, he received about $30 from these sales since the first of the year (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). David McKay paid him $91.41 in royalties in June and $71.63 in December (University of Pennsylvania). [back]

2. In his letter Harry evidently mentioned his impending marriage, since Whitman noted it in his Commonplace Book. Interestingly, the poet ignored it in his letter, as he had done in the past when his soldier friends reported their matrimonial plans (see his letters to Benton H. Wilson on April 12, 1867, and to Alfred Pratt on July 1, 1869). On June 25 Harry was married to Eva Wescott by Claudius W. Bradshaw, mayor of Camden. The young man was accompanied by Whitman, who noted the fact in his diary and referred to the bridegroom's "throat trouble." [back]


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