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Walt Whitman to Herbert Gilchrist, 3–5 August [1878]

My dear Herb

I came down here yesterday afternoon in the 4½ train.1 Mrs Stafford has been for over a week, & yet is, quite ill—in bed most of the time—She lies in Deb's room—the one you used to occupy—She is pretty comfortable—is thinner, & more brunette than ever—Keeps pretty cheery—Will get around I think this coming week—had a good night last night & a fair forenoon to-day, (sitting up in the easy chair by the window) but is not quite so well this afternoon (it is now 3)—They have had no doctor so far—I think the immediate trouble is of stomach & bowel nature, deeply seated—& the general basic & more or less remote trouble is being fearfully & for a long time overwork'd in body & worried in mind—Still, as I said, I think she will be about again in a few days2—As at present, though a quite sick woman, nothing serious indicated—Debby3 has been home the past week, but is to go away to-night—Mr Stafford is well as usual—was up to the city with a load of straw yesterday.

Sunday forenoon Aug 4

I am writing this down by the pond, in the cool of the willows close by the gurgling brook—a hot walk down the lane & across the big field, but the strong sun welcome to me, for all that—Here I sit (have hung my shirt on a bush to dry)—

All here just as you used to see it—only more so—more luxuriant, un-trimm'd, bushy, weedy than ever—the locust (cicada) sounds firmly to-day here—

Mrs S[tafford] down in the kitchen this morning—I rose early & made the fire, & assisted Ruthey4 in getting the breakfast—We had a fine meal—I made the coffee & (of course) it was good—No mail to-day & I must wait to send this to-morrow—

August 5th

I am writing this up in Harry's & my room at K[irkwood]—Mrs S is much better to-day—She is about seeing to things somewhat as usual—(A great part of her illness is some peculiar trouble, or breakage or rupture to which women only are liable—in her case aggravated by overwork)—

It is a wet foggy forenoon—Debby went away with Jo Saturday night—George has gone up to the City with a load of sugar-corn—Harry has gone over to his work at the station—Ed to the store—Lizzie Hider5 was over here Saturday afternoon & evening—Bill Peak (epileptic), the miller's son at Tomlinson's, has been arrested for purloining a lot of Camden & Atlantic RR tickets—Old Mr Morgan6 has been dead six weeks—you knew that Mrs Lizzie Stafford (Ben's wife)7 was dead & buried—

Shall send this over by Harry to mail after dinner—Much obliged for the designs on the block—very nice—also the letter—both arriving safe—Give my best love to your mother—tell her I am well, & shall branch off somewhere (I hardly know where) for the rest of the summer, & will not forget to send some written or printed sign of my whereabout, if any chances—Her letter of a week since was rec'd just as I was starting out—

I shall go up either this afternoon or to-morrow.

Walt Whitman

let me hear whether this comes safe to you—


  • 1. Whitman was with the Staffords from August 3 to 6, 10 to 13, and 17 to 20 (Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 2. Susan Stafford was still ill on August 10 (Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). She was "only middling" on August 30. See the letter from Walt Whitman to Beatrice Gilchrist of August 30, 1878. [back]
  • 3. Deborah had married Browning on June 13. [back]
  • 4. Susan Stafford's daughter (1866–1939), later Ruth Stafford Goldy. [back]
  • 5. See the letter from Walt Whitman to Susan Stafford of February 6, 1881. [back]
  • 6. He died on June 13 (Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 7. Benjamin Franklin Stafford, a cousin of George, was married to Elizabeth Allen. [back]
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