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Walt Whitman to Harry and Eva Stafford, 18 November 1884

 loc_vm.00213_large.jpg My dear friends

Your kind letter (Eva's) came this afternoon & it gave me real comfort both to hear from you & have such loving remembrance & friendly invitation—Harry, dear boy, I hardly think I shall be able to come down & be with you this Thanksgiving2—but I will come one of these times—Since I have got into this shanty, although I go out every day, I don't go any distance—havn't been away this past summer, only one short trip to Cape May3—My lameness increases on me—it probably won't be long before I shall be unable to get around at all——General health otherwise about the same as usual—Eva, my dear friend it would be a true comfort for me if it was so I could come in every few days, and you and Harry and I  loc_vm.00214_large.jpg could be together—I am sure it would be good for me——Nothing very new in my affairs—not much sale for my books at present, or for the last fifteen months—Harry your Mother call'd here last Monday, but I was not in, was over to Germantown—I was sorry to be away—I am writing this up in my room—am alone most of the time—write a little most every day—sell a piece once in a while—Maintain good spirits and a first-rate appetite—My dear friends, indeed I appreciate your loving wishes & feelings, & send you mine the same, for both of you—

Walt Whitman

Eva would you like to have me send you some papers now & then? Write me whenever you can. Harry I am sorry about the neck—I think it will get right & heal in time

 loc_vm.00211_large.jpg  loc_vm.00212_large.jpg

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).

Eva Westcott married Harry Stafford in 1884.


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Harry L and Eva Stafford | RR Station | Marlton | New Jersey. It is postmarked: CAMDEN | NOV | 19 | 1884 | N.J.; PHILADELPHIA, PA TRANSIT | NOV | 19 | 8 AM [back]
  • 2. Whitman was with the Smiths on Thanksgiving Day, November 27 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 3. Whitman made a "jaunt" to Cape May on September 14 and had a "pleasant sail around the little inner bay" (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
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