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Walt Whitman to Harry Stafford, 9 September 1881

Dear Harry

I keep about the same in health—am & have been very busy with the printing of my book, it goes on all right & suits me—246 pages are up (& mostly electrotyped)1

That was a sudden and dreadful piece of news, the death of Beatrice Gilchrist2—your mother's letter informing me was sent on here from Camden P O—Harry, please tell her I rec'd​ it, & thank her for sending me word—

Harry, I do not know the Secretary of the Navy or Treasury either3—do you still think of getting in one of the coast life-saving stations? I will write to any one you wish me to, for that purpose—fix on some particular person, who has the appointment, if you decide to try for it—I will do any thing I can for you—(By the by, tell Van I went twice to see a man in Camden, a boss plumber, three months ago—he said he could not take on any boy just then, but he probably would want one, & would send me word)—I am having good times here—have a good room & boarding house, the landlady4 is first rate & kind [to] me, (as often happens I find my best friends among the women)—then I have a friend here, a man of leisure, who has a good horse & phaeton, takes me out riding afternoons or fine evenings5—So you see I am putting in good papers—

Well, dear boy, how does it go with you? I hope all right—I rec'd​ your letter here—tell Mont if he feels disposed to write to me, (if he is in the store & has a spare hour) I will answer it—if he does, I want him to tell me all the news—(I get the Phil: Ledger, a friend in the office there sends it to me)6—Hot, hot as the devil here three days the past week—but I don't seem to melt yet—pleasant & cool now—I shall stay here three weeks yet—if you write direct same address (care J R Osgood & Co: 211 Tremont Street Boston)—Love to you, Harry boy, & keep a good heart—you know the verse of the old song

"A light heart & thin pair of breeches Goes through the world my brave boys"

Well the office has just sent me a fresh batch of proofs & I must go to work & tackle them—


Later—half an hour—I was keeping this, all enveloped &c. to take to the box when yours dated Sept: 3d​ has just come—so I open it to add a line—yes, I got the letter of over two weeks since (as above)—dear boy, I feel sorry about the ailing—write me about it all, soon as you get this—I send the papers you request, same mail with this7—Harry boy, if you want a little money write me & I will supply you—(Son, why did you send your letter to Camden?)

Always your old Walt

hope you will get this before Sunday—


  • 1. The entry in Whitman's Commonplace Book for this date reads: "have just read proof to page 245 of the book" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 2. In his Commonplace Book Whitman commented: "some gloomy news—sad, sad—the death of Beatrice Gilchrist—as accomplished and noble a young woman as I ever knew." Yet he did not write to the mother until November 28. On December 14 Anne Gilchrist wrote to Whitman: "Herby wrote to Mrs. Stafford first—thinking that so the shock would come less abruptly to you." [back]
  • 3. See the letter from Whitman to Harry Stafford of September 14, 1881. [back]
  • 4. Mrs. Moffitt. [back]
  • 5. Probably one of his new Boston friends mentioned in Whitman's Commonplace Book: Colonel Frank E. Howe, Captain Milton Haxtun, or Ed Dallin. [back]
  • 6. Probably a reference to Richard E. Labar, who, according to an entry in Whitman's Commonplace Book, was associated with the Philadelphia Public Ledger. Whitman wrote (lost) to Labar on August 21. Upon his return to Camden, on November 10, he made a "visit through the Ledger office with Dick Labar" (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
  • 7. According to Whitman's Commonplace Book, Whitman sent copies of The Long Islander (see the letter from Whitman to John Burroughs of August 3, 1881), the Boston Daily Globe (see the letter from Whitman to Louisa Orr Whitman of August 27, 1881), and his article "City Notes in August," which had appeared in the New York Tribune on August 15. For the last-named article, included in abridged form in Specimen Days (ed. Floyd Stovall [New York: New York University Press, 1963], 273–276, 354–355), he received $10. [back]
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