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Walt Whitman to Susan Stafford, 6 August [1883]

 loc_jc.00523_large.jpg Dear friend,

Sitting here in the library, alone in a great big house, I thought I would write you a few lines to pass for a letter,—though the Lord only knows what I shall write about, for I have no news to tell, & nothing special to say—

—I came out here on a visit to an old friend2 a few days ago, & shall stay here perhaps the ensuing week—The family, (& a fine one they are) are at Newport for the summer—my friend, the father, goes to his business in Philadelphia absent all day, & I am left here master of a large house garden, library &c. with servants, horses,—a good dinner at 1 o'clock every day—have to eat it all by myself, but I enjoy it— loc_jc.00524_large.jpgIt is a Quaker family I am very much attached to—(I believe I have mentioned them to you before)—all kind & good—but the ones that seem most to me are the eldest daughter Mary (ab't​ 21) the brightest happiest sunniest cutest young woman you ever saw, & probably you would say upon knowing her, a new & different combination of character from any you ever saw—& one I am sure you would like—And then the father himself, my friend—he is in business in Phila:​ —he has been a great traveler in Europe, & something of a preacher—he is a good talker—& very kind—we always have a good long ride, from 5 to 7½ afternoons—which I enjoy very much—& then return to supper—& a couple of hours talking, reading &c.


Then there is all now at Newport as I said another daughter & a son,3 a young man—all dear friends of mine—I have been here quite a good deal the last year & a half, when they were all home—but now no one but the father & myself here—I wish you could have two or three good drives with me about here—we have a fast, strong, gentle young sorrel mare—first rate—the roads & views are the finest you ever saw—& now they show at their best—Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon & evening seem'd​ to me one of the most perfect for weather &c I ever knew—we drove out to a hill about an hour from here & had a view over twenty miles towards Bethlehem,—fields & farms & rolling country—some woods—the richest tract in Pennsylvania. It was an hour before sundown. It was like Paradise. (It will have a good effect upon me the rest of the summer.)


Mont was in to see me ab't​ a week ago—By his acc't​ you must have a house full. I hope you keep up health & spirits—Love to Ruth—Ed also—(I havn't forgot those rides evenings off among the pea-pickers)—Respects to Messrs. Wyld and Edwards4—Nothing specially new with me—I am only middling well—seem to be getting clumsier than ever, more loguey—rheumatic & other ailments—My loss (money, dues, &c) I alluded to, from the letter rec'd​ when I was down there, is worse than I expected5—(I knew all the spring & early summer there would be something, for I was feeling too well & prosperous & sassy)—

—If I could only feel well & sleep well, though (which I do not) I should not care a straw for pecuniary botherations & losses. What a beautiful ten days we have had past! I hope Ed's things are all turning out well. So good bye for this time, dear friend


Ruth fatten up some o'​ them chickens & have 'em​ ready for early fall

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  • 1. This letter is addressed: Mrs Susan Stafford | Kirkwood | Glendale | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Philadelphia | Aug | 6 | 8 PM | Pa. [back]
  • 2. Whitman stayed with Robert Pearsall Smith from August 4 to 28 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 3. Alys and Logan. [back]
  • 4. Whitman noted during his stay at Glendale from July 3 to 17 "the rides over to 'Charlestown' with Ed. evenings to engage 'pea-pickers.'" Wyld and Edwards were Mrs. Stafford's boarders (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
  • 5. What loss Whitman sustained at this time is not known, unless he referred to the 200 shares of stock he purchased on February 26 in the Sierra Grande mines at Lake Valley, New Mexico. According to a prospectus mounted in Whitman's Commonplace Book, shares in the company had a par value of $25. He received his first dividend ($50) on March 6, but he did not receive the second dividend, evidently payable on July 6, when he was with the Staffords, until October 3. Perhaps the delay in payment made him think that he had lost his money. He may have fabricated this story because Mrs. Stafford wanted to borrow money. He lent her $50 on October 24, 1882 (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
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