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Walt Whitman to George and Susan Stafford, 13 March 1884


Thank you for the nice chicken—had some for my dinner—was glad to see Van & to hear from you all—

I am getting over my bad spell of health—but very slowly—& have been depressed a great deal by the sudden taking down & death by hasty consumption of a dear friend, a young man in his 19th year—I was there all Saturday and Sunday—till he died ab't noon—I hadn't been out of the house for three weeks, before—& was only able to get there with assistance—he sent for me to be with him—The funeral was yesterday afternoon—I did not intend to go to the cemetery & burial, but his father wished me to so earnestly, I went—So all these things hang like a cloud for a while—but I shall without doubt soon be nearly as usual—(though I think likely a little weaker & clumsier permanently).


I have got to get out of this house too, & very soon—for the new tenants take possession April 1. Don't know yet what move I shall make—but shall have to do something in a few days—If it hadn't been for my sick spell should have been out before this—I will let you know—(most likely shall come down & tell you myself)2

I am sorry I missed Harry—I want to see him & have him with me—was in hopes he would come up in the Friday, (or Saturday) morning train—& still have some hopes—but I have just rec'd his postal card from Haddonfield that he would try to come up early next week—I send him my best love, & always welcome3

Susan I rec'd your good letter—If we only lived near, so I could come in & spend a couple of hours every day or two I know it would do me good—Harry, come up soon—

W W—

George Stafford (1827–1892) was the father of Harry Stafford, a young man whom Whitman befriended in 1876 in Camden. Harry's parents, George and Susan Stafford, were tenant farmers at White Horse Farm near Kirkwood, New Jersey, where Whitman visited them on several occasions. For more on Whitman and the Staffords, 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).


  • 1. Since Whitman's young friend Tasker Lay was buried on Wednesday, March 12, this letter can be positively dated. See the letter from Whitman to Robert Pearsall Smith of March 10. [back]
  • 2. See the letter from Whitman to John Burroughs of March 27, 1884. [back]
  • 3. According to Harry's letter on February 10, he expected to go to Detroit about March 1. Apparently he changed his mind suddenly, for Whitman wrote in his Commonplace Book on March 8: "Harry S. left London, Canada—now in Detroit," but later interpolated after "Canada"—"for home in N.J." (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
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