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Walt Whitman to Harry Stafford, 28 February [1881]

 loc_vm.00205_large.jpg Dear boy Harry

I sent you a few lines three days ago, but I will write again as I have just rec'd yours of 26—a little wild & nervous & uncertain some parts, (but I am always glad to get any letters from you dear boy)—Harry, you certainly know well enough you have my best honorable loving friendship settled—Of the past I think only of the comforting soothing things of it all—I go back to the times at Timber Creek beginning most five years ago, & the banks & spring, & my hobbling down the old lane—& how I took a good turn there & commenced to get slowly but surely better, healthier, stronger—Dear Hank I realize plainly that if I had not known you—if it hadn't been for you & our friendship & my going down there summers to the creek with you—and living there with your folks, & the kindness of your mother, & cheering me up—I believe I should not be a living man to-day—I think & remember deeply these things & they comfort me—& you my darling boy are the central figure of them all

—Of the occasional ridiculous little storms & squalls of the past I have quite discarded them from my memory2—& I hope you will too—the other recollections overtop them altogether, & occupy the only permanent place in my  loc_vm.00206_large.jpgheart—as a manly loving friendship for you does also, & will while life lasts—Harry dont​ be discouraged by any business or other disappointments of the past—It will all turn out right—The main thing, in my opinion, after finding out as much as possible of life, & entering upon it (it is a strange mixed business this life) is to live a good square one—This I believe you are really anxious to do, & God bless you in it, & you shall have all the help I can give—Your loving ever-faithful old friend & comrade

Walt Whitman

I think I am slowly getting over my chill—it is rainy, dark, muggy day, & I am staying in—had a nice call from a young Beverley merchant Mr Hovey3 yesterday, he bo't a set of books—Did you know young Harry Bonsall4 is & has been some time in the Insane Asylum at Blackwoodtown?—I was out to dinner yesterday to Mr & Mrs Scovel's—turkey and champagne!—but that is the only spree for me in five weeks—

Hank I want you to acknowledge this letter—I hope this won't fail to reach you like some others I have sent—I want to come down before long & then we will have some good square talks—it is now half past 4 & I see the sun is going to set clear5


  • 1. This letter was mentioned in Whitman's Commonplace Book (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 2. Relations between the poet and the young man were frequently strained; see Edwin Haviland Miller, "Introduction" (Walt Whitman, The Correspondence [New York, New York University Press, 1961–1977], 3:1–9). [back]
  • 3. Franklin H. Hovey was a salesman in Philadelphia (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
  • 4. The son of Henry Lummis Bonsall, editor and politician. According to Whitman's letter to Susan Stafford on February 6, 1889, Bonsall died in the asylum in the preceding month; the poet's brother was in the same institution at the time. [back]
  • 5. This last paragraph is written vertically in red ink. [back]
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