Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 11 July 1888
Date: July 11, 1888
Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Aug. 12 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Notes for this letter were derived from The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977).
Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.07214
Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Alex Ashland, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock
ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE
11 July 1888
I was greatly pleased today to get your card of 9th.1 I heard too from Traubel2 and Harned.3 Harned enclosed a mem. from Donaldson.4 All seems to be going well around you, I wish all was going as well with you—as indeed probably it is, although I fear in the meanwhile you are uncomfortable, even suffering. Would it not be as well, Walt, to sell the horse5—Harned would attend to it—it will be just as cheap to hire by & by when you want to go out—if that time comes. As the matter stands the horse is eating her head off and taking harm from want of exercise.
I am sorry to hear that Baker is about to leave you but perhaps the next man will be as good.6 I am glad to think you are well enough to get on without a regular nurse but however well you get you must always henceforth have a man to help & take care of you
R M Bucke
Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).
1. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of August 9, 1888. [back]
2. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published 1996. For more on Traubel, see Folsom, Ed, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
3. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel, was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
4. This letter from Harned enclosing the memorandum from Donaldson probably concerns Bucke's circular (see Bucke's letter to Whitman of June 15, 1888). [back]
5. Whitman had been given a horse and buggy in 1885 as the result of a fund-raising drive by friends. [back]
6. Dr. Nathan M. Baker stopped being Whitman's caregiver on July 15, 1888, and was replaced by W. A. Musgrove. Musgrove was far less satisfactory than Baker. Traubel noted that "Musgrove is a cloudy man. I asked how M. got on. W. evaded the question by some general remark. . . . He [Musgrove] is only a nurse—not a doctor” (Horace Traubel, ed., With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, July 16, 1888). [back]