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Walt Whitman to Harry Stafford, 11 February [1881]

Dear Hank—

Yours of 9th rec'd​ —am a little surprised you take to L of G so quickly2—I guess it is because the last five years had been preparing & fixing the ground, more & more & more—& now that the seed is dropt​ in it sprouts quickly—my own feeling ab't​ my book is that it makes (tries to make) every fellow see himself, & see that he has got to work out his salvation himself—has got to pull the oars & hold the plow, or swing the axe himself—& that the real3 blessings of life are not the fictions generally supposed, but are real, & are mostly within reach of all—you chew on this—

Hank, I am still feeling under the weather—My appetite is fair, (when I can get what I like)—& sleep middling, but I am as weak as a cat, & dull half-dizzy spells every day—I sent off two sets of books to-day, got the money for them—one set to a big lady in England4—I enclose you a slip of a piece out to-morrow in the N YCritic, about the old man Carlyle, 85 years old, the grandest writer in England, just dead5—they sent for me to write it ($10 worth)—You read it carefully—read it twice—then show it to your mother, I want her to read it, without fail—(Hank, you do not appreciate your mother—there is not a nobler woman in Jersey)—

Your Walt


  • 1. The envelope for this letter bears the address: Harry Lamb Stafford | Kirkwood | Glendale | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Camden | Feb | 11 | N.J. [back]
  • 2. Evidently when Harry visited Whitman on February 7, the poet gave him a copy of Leaves of Grass, five years after they had become acquainted (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). Whitman noted sending this letter in his Commonplace Book. [back]
  • 3. Whitman may have stricken this word. [back]
  • 4. According to his Commonplace Book, Whitman sent the books to Mrs. Edward Smithson in York, England. [back]
  • 5. See the letter from Whitman to Jeannette L. Gilder of February 6, 1881. [back]
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