Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 8 April 1888

Date: April 8, 1888

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:160. 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.07490

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
Sunday noon
April 8 '881

It is very pleasant & sunny to-day & I am going out in the rig abt 1 o'clock to my friends Mr & Mrs Harned2, three or four hours, & have dinner & a good generous drink of the best champagne—I enjoy everything—Nothing new with me—there seems to be some hitch in the Herald's publ'ng my little pieces3—(I hear that they have been appealed to in print to stop such stuff)4—I feel lately as if I sh'd make a start in putting November Boughs5 in type making perhaps 150 to less than 200 pp.—some 30 pp, perhaps, of poems to go afterward as Annex to L of G. My health though poor is "the same subject continued"—I enc: K[enne]dy's letter from Wilson6—(not important)—Rhys7 is still in Boston—Morse8 in Indiana—I like Eakins'9 picture (it is like sharp cold cutting true sea brine)—I have not heard a word of the Worthington suit in N Y10—not a word from my dear friend O'C[onnor]11 in Wash'n—


Walt Whitman


Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Dr R M Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: (?) | Apr 8(?) | 5 PM | 88. [back]

2. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel (1856–1914), 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). For more on his relationship with Whitman, see Thomas Biggs Harned, Memoirs of Thomas B. Harned, Walt Whitman's Friend and Literary Executor, ed. Peter Van Egmond (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972). [back]

3. In late 1887, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., editor of the New York Herald, invited Whitman to contribute a series of poems and prose pieces for the paper. From December 1887 through August 1888, 33 of Whitman's poems appeared. [back]

4. On April 1, 1888, Whitman sent a bill for $40 to the Herald (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). According to a note of April 7 from Bennett there was a slight error in Whitman's bill. Bennett requested ten more poems for April. [back]

5. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. On March 24, 1888, Wilson informed William Sloane Kennedy, author of Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896), that he was most interested in obtaining subscribers to the projected publication. On March 29 Kennedy observed, "I have not much faith in the despatch of F. W. Wilson. . . . I have sent him 20 names." [back]

7. Rhys had written to Whitman from Boston on March 7, 1888. For Whitman's commentary on the letter, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, January 29, 1889. Rhys wrote again on April 3, 1888; for Whitman's thoughts on the letter, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, July, 24, 1888.. At this time relations between Rhys and William Sloane Kennedy were strained; on March 1 (?) Kennedy had written to Whitman: "Rhys continues his schemes on society's pocket-book, & demoralizes my nerves frightfully when I see him, somehow." Whitman observed to Traubel in May: "You couldn't get 'em to fit nohow. Kennedy will hardly fit anything but a chestnut burr" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, May 17, 1888; Monday, October 2, 1888.) [back]

8. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109. [back]

9. Thomas Eakins (1844–1919) was an American painter. His relationship with Whitman was characterized by deep mutual respect, and he soon became a close friend of the poet. For more on Eakins, see Philip W. Leon, "Eakins, Thomas (1844–1916)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

10. A New York lawyer, Thomas J. McKee, wrote to Whitman on April 7, 1888: "I received your letter but had been looking into the matter for some days previously, Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke and Mr. Johnston having spoken to me about your claim against Worthington. The difficulty I find is this that R. Worthington failed some time since and is now unable to do business in his own name, and the business is now run by a corporation named the Worthington Co. of which Worthington's wife or some female relative is the President. The time within which to claim a forfeiture of the plates and books (two years) has run out and we are therefore limited to our action for an injunction and damages, I am therefore quietly trying to get all the facts I can as to what the 'Worthington Co.' has been doing with reference to your book. The Company is of some responsibility and undoubtedly have possession of the plates. As soon as I have facts sufficient to base a sure claim I will get the injunction and money. See also Whitman to Richard Watson Gilder, November 26, 1880, for an account of Whitman's dealings with Worthington. [back]

11. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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