Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 29 June 1888

Date: June 29, 1888

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:179. 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.07518

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden1
afternoon
June 29 '88

Rainy clouded cool now all day (yesterday afternoon & all last night—dont seem any improvement in strength or vim—dont yet get out at all of my room, or down stairs—but have been up & dress'd yet all day— now ½ pass'd 4—no visitors yet—have eat pretty fair dinner (a bit of roast meat)—preluded by a wine glass of medicinal wine glass of coca wine—

I have finished & formally signed & witnessed the will & testimentary matters complete—including the dispensating of copyrights & literary matters by a sort of trustee-board, yourself, Harned2 & Horace Traubel3—& assigned all [of] my worldly possessions to Ed,4 & to my sisters5—the "Nov. Boughs"6 has got to 66th page—Have you rec'd the copy from London Eng. copy of "Democratic Vistas"?7 (a pretty vol)—Osler8 was here last evn'g—goes off for a very few days (somewhere to sea shore)—I have sufficient frequent bowel movements—had a very slim day all yesterday —a little easier to-day—but slow, slow—my head gone—no grip—shall be glad enough with "Nov. Boughs" done printed with no discredit—wish it was all done—Love—


Walt Whitman


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: Dr R M Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jun 29 | 8 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, 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]

3. 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]

4. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), Walt's youngest brother, was mentally and physically handicapped. [back]

5. For a reprinted copy of the will, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, June 12, 1888[back]

6. 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]

7. The English edition of Whitman's Democratic Vistas, and Other Papers was published by the London firm of Walter Scott publisher in 1888. [back]

8. Sir William Osler (1849–1919) was a Canadian physician and one of the four founding staff members of Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he served as the first Chief of Medicine. Richard Maurice Bucke introduced Osler to Whitman in 1885 in order to care for the aging poet. Osler wrote a manuscript about his personal and professional relationship with Whitman in 1919; see Walt Whitman and Sir William Osler: A Poet and his Physician [Toronto: ECW Press, 1995]). For more on Osler, see Philip W. Leon, "Osler, Dr. William (1849–1919)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on the relationship of Osler and Whitman, see Michael Bliss, William Osler: A Life in Medicine (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999). [back]


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