Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Deborah Stafford Browning, 19 April 1887

Date: April 19, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07365

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Ted Genoways (Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2004), 7:86. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

Camden N J—1
April 19 '87

I was down at Glendale2 Sunday—all well—all ab't as usual—Your father better, his back hurts some, but I think it will pass over—Ed3 was away—Harry4 has been here to-day—is getting along favorably —I have been to New York5–Send you a paper with acc't—Love to Ruth6, [Jo?],7 and all—

Walt Whitman

Deborah Stafford (1860–1945) was the sister of Harry Stafford, a young man whom Whitman befriended in 1876 in Camden. She married Joseph Browning (d. 1931). See Daybooks and Notebooks, ed. William White (New York: New York University Press, 1978), 1:35. Debbie and 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.


1. This letter is addressed: Mrs: Debbie Browning | Care of Will Goldy | p o box 91 | Topeka Kansas. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | April 19 | 8 P M | 87. [back]

2. Glendale, New Jersey, was where the Staffords had moved after leaving their farm at Timber Creek, where Whitman had often visited. [back]

3. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was one of Debbie's siblings. [back]

4. Harry Stafford (1858–1918) was one of Debbie's siblings. Walt Whitman met Harry 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. Walt Whitman presented his Lincoln lecture in New York on April 15, 1887, before a distinguished audience including Samuel Clemens, James Russell Lowell, John Hay, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Andrew Carnegie, who contributed $350. [back]

6. Ruth Stafford Goldy (1866–1939) was one of Debbie's siblings. When Whitman wrote this letter, Debbie was visiting Ruth in Kansas. [back]

7. "Jo" probably refers to Joseph Browning, Deborah Stafford's husband. [back]


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