Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 18 January 1878

Date: January 18, 1878

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04071

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, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, Stefan Schöberlein, and Elizabeth Lorang

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Kirkwood, N.J.
[January 18, 1878?]

[illegible] Walt:

You know that I have written to you last,1 and I cannot tell how it is that you will not answer my letter, I did not mean to offend you, but if I did will you please foregive me, I am here with friend Sharp,2 and a lonely time I am haveing of it; I have not been away from here any time till Tuesday, since I was up to see you, then as father3 was so sick that he could not do anything I had to stay home and work for him; as he was going to kill hogs Wednesday; so I had to loose three days right off; I was to Camden yesterday and would of stoped to [illegible] until I [illegible] you know that I cannot enjoy myselfe any more at home, if I go up in my room I always come down feeling worse than I do when I go up, for the first thing I see is your picture, and when I come down in the sitting room there hangs the same, and whenever I do anything, or say anything the picture seems to me is always looking at me; so I find that I am better sattesfied when I am here than when I am home. When Herbret4 was down he said you was very well and happy. I talked to him and got out all I could, but that was not much. I have but [found a girlfriend?] and that [is to say, she is a?] good and true friend to me, we have had many good times togeather, but none that hangs with me like those you and I have had. I received a letter from her last night, she said that she was well, and thought of coming over soon. I suppose you know that father has had another hemorrhage, but he is better now but he will never be able to do any more hard work. "Ned Rogers" is coming over to help him to day: the little Irish [illegible] have got through with the deviding of the place: they have each taken a part of it, and now it is settled. I hope that you will not keep this letter or tell anyone what it contains, I don't want our folkes to know that I have been so foolish as to write to you when you will not answer. There is one thing that I have foregotten, it is this Mont has been going to School at the Haddon institute for sometime he likes it fystrait. I will have to close my letter, as the paper is running on so adieu if I never hear from you will think of you as an old friend that is dead and gon.

Good bye
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. B. K. Sharp was at one time Harry Stafford's employer, according to Edwin Haviland Miller (see "Introduction," The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1964], 3:6). [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, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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