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Harry Stafford to Walt Whitman, 13 January 1879

 loc_vm.00139.jpg Dear Walt:

As I have been hard at work ever since I was up to see you,2 I thought I would write a few lines to let you know how I am getting on with it (threshing I mean) we will finish by Saturday, if nothing happens, and I will be very glad of it for I am very sick of it. Mont.3 is helping me, he is as bad against as I am. Father4 went to the city with a load of straw today; perhaps he will be over in time to stop and see you. I believe the work is doing me good in some ways for it is making me eat more than ever


You will not know me when you see me. I am getting so brown and fat.

Mont. received your papers today, those giving the account of the execution, it went over to Glendale before he got it. He was much pleased with it.

Dear Walt I have saved enough out of that dollar you gave me to come up and see you. I have been trying to find a day to come up and see you but cannot until we finish threshing. I have been thinking it all over and will be up on Tuesday, next, one week from tomorrow if nothing happens. I want to spend the day with you, and have a good talk, have some good cigars for me. (I know you will, won't you?) Debbie and Joe,5 were home yesterday and stayed all day. Capt. Townsend and wife6 were over  loc_vm.00141.jpg too. Lizzie7 was over Saturday afternoon, stayed until late and of course I went home with her, had a good time with her, I told her about you sending your love to her, she sends you back the same, she says she would like to see you.

I have been home ever since I was up to see you: there is but very little news about here now, everything is the same as when you left here. Father is about the same as when you were down. Mother is well and all the rest of the folks. Mont and all the rest sends their love to you. Will have to close as Ed8 wishes to close up the store. Will be up Tuesday if nothing happens.

Ever your true friend, Harry L. Stafford  loc_vm.00142.jpg  loc_gt.00065.jpg  loc_gt.00066.jpg


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden City | Camden City | N. J. It is postmarked: HADDONFIELD | 15 | JAN | N.J. CAMDEN JAN | 15 | 5PM | N.J. [back]
  • 2. Walt Whitman met the 18-year-old Harry Lamb Stafford (1858–1918) in 1876, beginning 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. In 1883, Harry married Eva Westcott. 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]
  • 3. Montgomery Stafford (1862–1925) was one of Harry Stafford's brothers. [back]
  • 4. George Stafford (1827–1892) was Harry Stafford's father. [back]
  • 5. Harry Stafford's sister, Deborah (1860–1945), and her husband, Joseph Browning. [back]
  • 6. Captain Vandoren Townsend was married to Patience, George Stafford's sister. [back]
  • 7. Lizzie H. Hider was shortly to marry Wesley Stafford, Harry's cousin (see the letter from Whitman to Susan Stafford of February 6, 1881). They occupied the former home of Susan and George Stafford (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 8. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was Harry Stafford's brother. [back]
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