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Walt Whitman to Harry and Eva Stafford, 28 May 1890

 loc_vm.00217_large.jpg Dear Harry & Dear Eva & Dear babies,

Seems to me the trees & grass & skies never look'd so fine as they do these early summer days.—I suppose this letter to your folks at Glendale1 will give the points of news abt me &c. I keep up Hank (but it is a tough job sometimes)—If I am well enough I go over to a birth day supper2 some friends insist of giving me Saturday evn'g next. From that I enter on my 72d year—

Walt Whitman

here is $2 for the young ones, Eva3

 loc_zs.00218_large.jpg Eva Stafford

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. 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 M. Westcott (1857–1939) was a teacher in New Jersey. She married Harry Lamb Stafford on June 25, 1883, and together they had three children.


  • 1. Glendale, New Jersey, was where Harry Stafford's parents, George and Susan Stafford, had moved after leaving their farm at Timber Creek, where Whitman had often visited. [back]
  • 2. In honor of Whitman's 71st birthday, his friends gave him a birthday dinner on May 31, 1890, at Reisser's Restaurant in Philadelphia. The main speaker was Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, and there were also speeches by the physicians Richard Maurice Bucke and Silas Weir Mitchell. The Camden Daily Post article "Ingersoll's Speech" of June 2, 1890, was written by Whitman himself and was reprinted in Good-Bye My Fancy (Prose Works, 1892, ed. Floyd Stovall, 2 vols. [New York: New York University Press: 1963–1964], 686–687). "Honors to the Poet" appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 1890. See also the notes on Whitman's birthday party in the poet's June 4, 1890, letter to Bucke. [back]
  • 3. Whitman wrote this postscript in the top right corner of the first page of the letter. [back]
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