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Walt Whitman to Susan Stafford, 2 March [1887]

 loc_jc.00564_large.jpg Dear friend

The old story—nothing very new or different with me—Still jog along here as before—have been half sick a great part of this winter—yet every thing goes on comfortably with me—I am sitting here by the window down stairs, in my big chair, writing this—(the sun shining outside, & my little canary singing furiously in his cage in the corner)—I have occasional visitors—Wm Duckett3 is here yet—I don't get out much, the roads are so bad. Come up & see us & spend the day. George4 stop when you come up. Susan I enclose a letter Herbert5 sent me some months ago—nothing particular—Ed6 I still wish to sell my mare

W W  loc_jc.00565_large.jpg  loc_jc.00562_large.jpg  loc_jc.00563_large.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 | Mar | 2 | 8 PM | 188[illegible] | N.J. [back]
  • 2. The year of 1887 appears to be a plausible date. In his Commonplace Book (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.) on February 25 Whitman wrote: "Half sick (or more than half) most of this month." However, he sold his nag and bought a mare from Edwin Stafford in March 1886 (see the letter from Whitman to John Burroughs of March 18, 1886); it is perhaps strange that he considered selling the mare a year later. The whereabouts of Duckett is not easy to trace since he held and gave up jobs frequently. On March 1, 1887, Whitman noted in his Commonplace Book: "W D still at Sewell practising." [back]
  • 3. William H. Duckett (1869–1902?) was Whitman's young Camden friend, who drove the poet's horse and buggy, lived for a while in Whitman's house, and accompanied Whitman on numerous trips. Duckett later established a career in the telegraphy industry; he lived and worked in Ohio and North Carolina before passing away in his native Philadelphia as a result of alcoholism in about 1902. For more information on Duckett, see Stephanie M. Blalock and Brandon James O'Neil, "'I am more interested than you know, Bill,': The Life and Times of William Henry Duckett, Jr.," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 39.2-3 (2022), 89–117. [back]
  • 4. George Stafford (1827–1892) was Susan's husband. [back]
  • 5. 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]
  • 6. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was one of Susan Stafford's sons. [back]
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