Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Susan Stafford to Walt Whitman, 21 September 1889

Date: September 21, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07975

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: Zainab Saleh, Brandon James O'Neil, Andrew David King, Stephanie Blalock, and Jason McCormick

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Sep 21st 1889

Dear old friend

I wonder how you are geting on this hot weather! I did hope that we were not going to have any very hot weather this summer but the past two or three days have been very hot.

I have thought of you so much & wondered how you are geting on I should have written to you before this had I not heard from you through pap & Debbie.1 & Herbert2 comes down once in A while & we hear from you through him. I have been in Camden once or twice & should have called to see you but thought perhaps my comeing would not be pleasant to you as we understood that you did not see only A few of your friends.

I went to Marlton to day saw Harry & Eva3 they are all well. Harry looks well he asked after you said he had called once or twice at your place some time A go, but couldnot see you

I suppose you know that Gomery Stafford4 has sold the old place at Kirkwood5 every thing is changed there now it's all laid out in Building lots & Avenues & the old pond has become quite A pleasure resort. one cant go ther now without meeting hundreds of people

how much we should like to see you with us once again but suppose that can never be. Its A pleasure to know that you are comfortable—am glad to know that Mrs D6 & the nurse7 are kind I hope you will write to us something & tell us how you are geting on

with much love [v?]
S M Stafford

Susan M. Lamb Stafford (1833–1910) was the mother of Harry Stafford (1858–1918), 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).


1. Deborah Stafford Browning (1860–1945) was Susan and George Stafford's daughter. [back]

2. 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]

3. 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]

4. "Gomery" is Montgomery Stafford (1862–1925), one of Susan Stafford's sons. [back]

5. Whitman often visited the Stafford family at their farm at Timber Creek in Laurel Springs, New Jersey; in the 1880s, they sold the farm and moved to nearby Glendale. [back]

6. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Edward "Ned" Wilkins (1865–1936) was one of Whitman's nurses during his Camden years; he was sent to Camden from London, Ontario, by Dr. Richard M. Bucke, and he began caring for Whitman on November 5, 1888. He stayed for a year before returning to Canada to attend the Ontario Veterinary School. Wilkins graduated on March 24, 1893, and then he returned to the United States to commence his practice in Alexandria, Indiana. For more information, see Bert A. Thompson, "Edward Wilkins: Male Nurse to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review 15 (September 1969), 194–195. [back]


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