Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Susan Stafford, 5 September 1888

Date: September 5, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: med.00855

Source: The location of this letter is unknown. Miller derives his transcription from a transcription supplied by Professor Cora E. Stafford. The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:205–206. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

Sept: 5 '88 P. M.1

Dear friend

I am still here neither worse nor better—but keeping in my sick room & in the big old chair—have had something to see to in printing my books & it has probably done me more good than harm—& it all (the printing) has gone on & is going on satisfactorily—Herbert2 has arrived all right & is stopping over in Philadelphia—quite busy—he is to have a studio there & paint—rather thinks (but it has not yet been settled definitely) he has secured a studio already—He has been over to see me—a short visit this time—He looks hearty & handsome, red & fat & first rate—he will come down before long & see you & then tell you more fully his plans—wh' he did not to-day—but I believe he thinks stopping, working & painting here for a year to come—

I have not heard from any of you for quite a while—send me word how things are—tell me abt Debbys3 baby4 & everything—George5 & Harry,6 as far as you know—& how are you yourself—I am sitting here alone up in my room, writing this—Mrs: Davis7 has been an hour or two ago out to the City Hall to pay my taxes (over $34)8—& some thief there stole a nice valuable silk sun umbrella from her—gone—Hope this will find you well—& God bless all—

Walt Whitman

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. This letter is addressed: Mrs: Susan Stafford | Ashland | Camden County | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Camden | (?) | 6 PM | (?). [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. Deborah Stafford Browning (1860–1945) was Susan and George Stafford's daughter. [back]

4. Susan S. Browning, born November 17, 1886. See Charles L. Stafford, The Stafford Family (n.d.), 17. [back]

5. George Stafford (1827–1892) was Susan's husband. [back]

6. Harry Stafford (1858–1918) was Susan's son and a close friend of Whitman's. [back]

7. 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]

8. According to The Commonplace-Book, Mary Davis withdrew $50 from the bank in order to pay Whitman's city tax ($24.47) and culvert tax ($9.62) (The Commonplace-Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839-1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]


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