Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Harry Stafford, 18–19 June [1877]

Dear Harry,

I am still stopping here,1 & we are having quite nice times, all of us, (Mrs Gilchrist, Mr. Carpenter, Herbert and the two girls and I)—but I miss the creek, a good deal—yesterday, (Sunday) I thought if I could only go down to the creek, & ramble about in the open air by myself & have a leisurely wash & some exercise, it would do me more good than any thing—but I staid in all day. Still it is all very pleasant here, every thing is so gentle & smooth, & yet they are all so jolly & much laughing & talking & fun—we have first rate times, over our meals, we take our time over them, & always something new to talk about. Mr Carpenter has travelled much in England, & met many people & he is one of a large family of brothers & sisters, all in active life in various parts of the world, & he shows us their pictures & tells us about them—

Dear Harry, not a day or night passes but I think of you—I dont suppose it would be so much fun for you here—but it suits an old man like me, (& then it pleases one's vanity to be made so much of)—Harry, I suppose you get the papers I send you—I don't know whether you care about them, but I thought they might amuse you a moment there for a change—I want you always to take them home for your father—At present it is about 11½ o'clock—Herbert is down stairs painting—The girls are sewing—Mrs G is out shopping & at the groceries—Mr Carpenter has gone upstairs to write some letters—& I am sitting here in my front room in the great bay window at a big table writing this—a nice cool breeze blowing in—Why there it goes, the bell for 12 o'clock—right opposite us, the masons &c building a big house, all knock off work, & there are groups sitting down in shady places & opening their dinner kettles—I too will knock off for this time—Dear son, how I wish you could come in now, even if but for an hour & take off your coat, & sit down on my lap—

Tuesday afternoon  
 June 19

Every thing about the same with us—was over to Camden yesterday afternoon—Mrs Gilchrist went over too, & my brother took her out on a good drive about the country—My sister was up & in good spirits2—Herbert & Mr Carpenter went out to the park & didn't get back till 9—I came home to Phil. by myself—The girls & I had our supper together, & had a jolly time—the younger daughter came out finely, & she showed that she could make herself very agreeable & interesting when she has a mind to—but the elder one is the noble one3—the more I see of her the better I like her—

Harry, how are you getting along there? I suppose you are learning—& I hope you are having good times4—Something Mr Carpenter has told me about the effect working at telegraphing has on a person disturbs me a little—but I will talk with you more particularly about it when we are together again—I send you the enclosed from Mr C5—I shall be down Friday6 in the 6 o'clock train—I want to see the creek again—& I want to see you, my darling son, & I can't wait any longer—

Your old Walt


  • 1. Whitman remained at the Gilchrists' until about June 25, when once again he visited the Staffords (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 2. Louisa, George's wife, was in poor health. On July 4 Whitman noted that Louisa was "very sick" (Whitman's Commonplace Book). She had a miscarriage about July 7 (see the letter from Whitman to Emma Dowe of July 12, 1877). [back]
  • 3. Grace and Beatrice Gilchrist, respectively. [back]
  • 4. Apparently Harry was drifting from job to job. According to some notes he wrote on April 21–22, he was working for the West Jersey Press. On May 21 Harry was looking for a job in Philadelphia or Camden. When he wrote to Whitman on July 9, he said: "I wish that I coul[d] get a situation in a good printing office. Try the Democrat of Camden for me, will you?" [back]
  • 5. Carpenter had called on Whitman at Kirkwood about May 15 and had met Harry Stafford at that time (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
  • 6. Apparently Whitman did not go to Kirkwood until June 25, Monday (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
Back to top