Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 4 September 1888

Date: September 4, 1888

Editorial note: The annotation, "Sept 4," 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.

Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07232

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.1
ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE
LONDON.
ONTARIO
London, Ont.,
4 Sept 1888

Dear Friend

I have yours of 2d I do not consider that you owe me anything (the balance is the other way). As for Nettie2 I should like to have here and keep her for your sake as long as she lives but it is terribly bad business to send horses here. A horse worth $200. in Camden would only be worth $125 to $150. here, and there would be freight and a heavy duty to pay. I think you ought to have Harned3 or Traubel4 see to selling the horse & wagon there and use the money to hire an easy carriage whenever you are able to get out for a drive. The phaeton is not suitable for you now—not easy or solid enough. If you feel that you want to give me any thing (you owe me nothing), let it be in the form of books—autographed—"Centenial Ed."5 or "Complete Works"6 as you like, these I should look upon as being equal to greenbacks for solid value. The weather here keeps perfect—I am rejoiced that you are feeling some easier—you have a wonderful constitution and you may (I think will) make a good rally when the pleasant cool autumn days come.

Best love to you
RM Bucke


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LOND [illegible] | AM | SP [illegible] | 8 [illegible] | CA [illegible]; N.Y. | 9–6–88 | 9AM | 5; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP | 6 | 8PM | 1888 | REC'D. [back]

2. In September 1885, Whitman received a horse ("Nettie") and a phæton as a gift from a group of prominent friends, and he used the horse and carriage for three years. A photo is available here[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. 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 With 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 in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Whitman published a special issue of his 1871 Leaves of Grass in 1876 as a commemorative edition for the nation's centennial celebration. Two Rivulets was published at the same time to form a matching set. [back]

6. Whitman wanted to publish a "big book" that included all of his writings, and, with the help of Horace Traubel, he made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. The book was published in December 1888. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom's Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]


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