Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Susan Stafford, 12 April 1887

Date: April 12, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05995

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.

Related item: Whitman wrote this note to Susan Stafford on the back of a letter from Herbert Gilchrist of March 31, 1887, which he sent for her to read. The letter from Gilchrist is written in two columns on the same side of the leaf, the letter beginning in the right column and concluding in the left column. An image of the entire leaf is unavailable, but images of each column are provided, in reading order. See loc.03928.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kevin McMullen, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden April 12 '87.

Dear friend

I send you Herbert's1 last letter—he expects to come over in May—He has sent me his book2 ab't Mrs. G3—It is very interesting—Shall I bring or send it down for you to read, or have you one?—Harry4 left here ab't an hour ago—he went up to the Hospital to-day, & the throat was operated on again—but he feels pretty well & in good spirits—I am sorry to hear George5 and Ed6 are not well—I hope they will be over the worst of it, & indeed all right by this time—I am going to New York to-morrow evn'g, to return Friday if I live through it all. I may drive down next Sunday if it is pleasant—


Walt Whitman

C/. Leonard M. Brown.7
THE GLEBE HOUSE.
HUNSTANTON.S.C.
NORFOLK.

31st March 1887.

My Dear Walt,

As you see by my address I am staying with a great friend of yours. You may see him this summer for he is going to America at the end of April,—going out as a schoolmaster to settle somewhere up the Hudson. He is an uncommonly good fellow, quiet earnest serious soul and very practical, full of solid worth, whose knowledge and attainments are sure to be valued in America. His father is a clergyman, and this son of his reads Leaves of Grass silently & unobserved by the rest of his orthodox family.

I posted a copy of my book to you about a week ago: I hope that you will read it and tell me how you [like it?].

Andrew Lang8 wrote a leader in the Daily News about it and fine things have been said in the London, and Scotch Press particularly. As yet, I have not taken my passage, but I hope to come early in May, and to spend a nice slice of my time near you in Camden. I consider that your poems have gained ground here perceptibly within the last 2 years. Leonard Brown sends his love &

with love from
Herbert H. Gilchrist.


Correspondent:
Susan M. Stafford was the mother of Harry Stafford, who, in 1876, became a close friend of Whitman while working at the printing office of the Camden New Republic. Whitman regularly visited the Staffords at their family farm near Kirkwood, New Jersey. Whitman enjoyed the atmosphere and tranquility that the farm provided and would often stay for weeks at a time (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], 685).

Notes:

1. 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]

2. Whitman noted the receipt of Herbert's book, Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings, on April 5 (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]). [back]

3. Anne Burrows Gilchrist (1828–1885) was the author of one of the first significant pieces of criticism on Leaves of Grass, titled "A Woman's Estimate of Walt Whitman (From Late Letters by an English Lady to W. M. Rossetti)," Radical 7 (May 1870), 345–59. Gilchrist's long correspondence with Whitman indicates that she had fallen in love with the poet after reading his work; when the pair met in 1876 when she moved to Philadelphia, Whitman never fully returned her affection, although their friendship deepened after that meeting. For more information on their relationship, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Anne Burrows (1828–1885)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Whitman met the 18-year-old Harry Lamb Stafford (b. 1858) 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. 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]

5. George Stafford was Susan's husband and Harry's father. [back]

6. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was Harry Stafford's brother. [back]

7. Leonard M. Brown, a young English schoolteacher and friend of Herbert Gilchrist, came to America in May, 1887. On March 31, 1887 Gilchrist wrote to Whitman: "he is an uncommonly good fellow, quiet earnet serious soul and very practical, full of solid worth, whose knowledge and attainments are sure to be valued in America. His father is a clergyman, and this son of his reads Leaves of Grass silently & unobserved by the sect of his orthodox family." An entry in Whitman's Commonplace Book on August 29 reads: "Leonard Morgan Brown goes back to Croton-on-Hudson—has been here ab't a week" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). See also Whitman's letter to Leonard Brown of November 19, 1887; his letter to Herbert Gilchrist of December 12, 1886, note 2; and his letter to Leonard Brown of February 7, 1890. [back]

8. Andrew Lang (1844–1912) was a Scottish poet, novelist, and critic, well-known for his fairy-tale collections. [back]


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