Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Susan Stafford, 22 August 1888


Still keeping in my sick room. Eva was here, with the little girl2. Welcome. Harry3 is pretty well now. Herbert4 leaves London to-day in the ship "British Princess" for Philadelphia. My brother Eddy5 that was at Moorestown is now at Blackwoodtown.6 Is well. I have just eat a hearty supper if that's any sign—

W W  loc_vm.00019.jpg

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 | Kirkwood | (Glendale) | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Aug 22 | 8 PM | 88. There is a second postmark, but it is illegible. [back]
  • 2. Eva (Westcott) was the wife of Harry Stafford. Here, Whitman is likely referring to the couple's first child, Dora. [back]
  • 3. Harry Stafford (b. 1858) was eighteen when he met Whitman. The two began 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]
  • 4. Herbert Gilchrist (1857–1914), the artist-son of Anne Gilchrist, was a frequent visitor with Whitman to the Stafford farm. For more on him, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 5. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), Walt's youngest brother, was mentally and physically handicapped. [back]
  • 6. On August 1, 1888, Whitman's sister-in-law Louisa and his niece Jessie placed his youngest brother Edward in the Insane Asylum at Blackwoodtown, New Jersey. The poet continued to pay his brother's expenses. On September 4, Whitman's housekeeper Mary Davis and his nurse Warren Fritzinger went to see Eddy: "He seems to be all right & as happy as is to be expected" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
Back to top