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Walt Whitman to Susan Stafford, 23 July 1888


Well I sent you yesterday a letter enclosing others—& here is one now from Herbert,2 just rec'd—as I promised—he does not allude to his visit to America, but there may be something in it3

—I feel better—am working a little at my booklet4 yesterday and to-day—my head feels easier, but the weakness especially in getting about & in my knee power is fearful—Hope you & George and Ed & Deb & Jo & the young one are jolly & sitting up—

Walt Whitman

I don't want this letter of Herbert's returned—

 loc_vm.00021_large.jpg My dear Walt;

I have followed your illness with breathless concern—that is, what I could learn of it from the short and alarming dispatches in the "Daily News." I was so rejoiced to see substantive proof of your part recovery in the firmly written post cards to Mrs. Costelloe.5

We both wanted to telegraph when you were so ill only we didn't know who to telegraph to, as Mr. Smith6 was just leaving Phila.

I have just received a letter from Ernest Rhys7 who speaks of having been back to England 2 weeks.  loc_vm.00023_large.jpg  loc_vm.00022_large.jpg Mrs. Costelloe told me that he told Count Stenbock8 that he (Ernest R) had made & lost a fortune in the States.

It is a cold rainy summer with us—so cold that we feel to want a fire.

Mrs. William Rossetti9 is far from well & is away at Ventnor recruiting.

Saturday Grace10 & I gave quite a large party—58 guests—from 8.30 to 12 o.c. in the evening. Everyone seemed to enjoy it & the evening passed off quite brilliantly.

Mrs. Costelloe is sitting 3 days a week to me —how affectionately and nicely she talks of you.

I think that I shall paint a pretty picture from her.

You forwarded a long & interesting letter from S. Morse11 which I have duly answered: he wrote in excellent spirit—affairs seem to be going well with him.

With hearty greetings & remembrances to Mrs. Davis,12 Herbert H. Gilchrist

I am just starting for a sitting with Mrs. Costelloe

Henry Holmes13 violinist & composer is on the point of writing to buy books from you.14

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, (?) | Jul (?) | 8 PM | 88. [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. Whitman's note was written on the verso of Herbert Gilchrist's letter of July 8. Rhys had mentioned in his letter of July 9-10 that Gilchrist was contemplating "another visit to America in the autumn" (Feinberg). [back]
  • 4. Whitman was working on his small book of poetry and prose, November Boughs, published later in the year. [back]
  • 5. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 6. Robert Pearsall Smith (1827–1898) was a Quaker who became an evangelical minister associated with the "Holiness movement." He was also a writer and businessman. Whitman often stayed at his Philadelphia home, where the poet became friendly with the Smith children—Mary, Logan, and Alys. For more information about Smith, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Robert Pearsall (1827–1898)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 7. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 8. Stanislaus Eric Stenbock (1860–1895) was the count of Bogesund. A poet and short story writer, he was a close friend of the Costelloe family in England. [back]
  • 9. Lucy Madox Brown Rossetti (1843–1894) was a Pre-Raphaelite painter, model and intellectual. She was the daughter of painter Ford Madox Brown (of whom she wrote an unpublished biography) and his first wife, Elisabeth Bromley. She married critic and writer William Michael Rossetti in 1874. An active feminist, she was a signatory of the national petition for women's suffrage and wrote a biography of Mary Shelley, published in 1890. She started suffering from tubercolosis in 1885 and died in San Remo, Italy, in 1894. [back]
  • 10. Grace Gilchrist Frend (1859–1947) was one of Anne Gilchrist's four children and Herbert's sister. She became a contralto. She was the author of "Walt Whitman as I Remember Him" (Bookman 72 [July 1927], 203–205). [back]
  • 11. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109. [back]
  • 12. 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]
  • 13. Henry Holmes (1839–1905) was a well-known English violinist; he also composed violin concertos, cantatas, and symphonies, and he taught at the Royal College of Music. [back]
  • 14. This sentence is written on the manuscript's first page verso. [back]
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