Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Deborah V. Browning to Walt Whitman, 18 July 1880

Date: July 18, 1880

Whitman Archive ID: man.00053

Source: Charles Sixsmith Collection at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester. 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 derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Courtney Rebecca Lawton, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein

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Haddonfield, NJ.
July 18th—80

Mr Whitman—
Dear Friend,

I received your much welcome note some time ago,1 but have been so very busy that I have not had time to write to you. You cant think how pleased I was to get your letter and to learn that you thought of your Jersey friends while so far away from us, yet I was sorry to to hear that you have been ill I hope when you get this you will be enjoying better health. Joe was very sick two or three weeks ago, but is better now; and I am enjoying my usual good health. I suppose you wonder what has kept me so busy I will tell you. Lizzie Hider2 has been staying with me for two weeks past, and I have had so much sewing to do for Ruth3— getting ready for festivals, picnics and such—that it all has kept me very busy but the picnics will soon be over and then I shall not have so much to do

Do you hear from the Gilchrists4 often it has been some time since Mother heard from them. You spoke of being reminded of me so much up there. I wish I could be there for I think I should enjoy a visit up that way very much and particularly this warm weather. I think you need to be glad you are away in a cool climate this warm weather, for it has been almost hot enough to roast a body down here. It is getting late and news is scarce I will close

Write soon again and let us know how you enjoyed your trip up the St. L—
Debbie V. Browning

With love from Joe and my self


1. 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. [back]

2. Lizzie H. Hider was shortly to marry Wesley Stafford, Harry's cousin (see the letter from Whitman to Susan Stafford of February 6, 1881). They occupied the former home of Susan and George Stafford (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

3. Ruth Stafford (1866–1939), one of Harry Stafford's sisters, later Ruth Stafford Goldy. [back]

4. Anne Burrows Gilchrist (1828–1885), widow to Alexander Gilchrist, and her four children Beatrice, Grace, Percy and Herbert. Anne Gilchrist wrote 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 visited Philadelphia, Whitman never fully returned her affection, although their friendship deepened after that meeting. Anne's son Herbert (1857–1914) was a painter and shared his mother's fascination for Whitman. For more on Whitman and the Gilchrists, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Anne Burrows," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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