Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 10 September 1888

Date: September 10, 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), 4:207–208. 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.07561

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden1
Noon
Sept 10 '88

I rec'd a card f'm Rolleston,2 Ireland, that he had the first proofs of the German L of G. from the printing office3—& wish'd me to communicate with Dr Knortz4—Your letters reach me & are always welcome—I keep up—but gain not—am & have been reading the latter two Carlyle books (Froude and Cabot)5—not exactly you would say the cheery pabulum fit for me—raw, wet, cloudy weather here—H Gilchrist6 came this forenoon to inquire, but did not come up to my room—I guess Kennedy's7 MS is in abeyance yet8—the Japanee Hartmann9 is going to try some essay-readings (European, great but here in America almost unknown persons & art—productions &c)—good luck to him!—("God help all wanderers" said the cute Irish kitchen girl, giving out some bread & meat to the tramp at the gate the other day)—The strength of my arms & shoulders remains good—the mentality grip ditto—spirits fairly ditto—we think of binding Nov. Boughs10 in wine colored silesia (a sort of linen—cheap)—& entirely untrimm'd—


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. | Sep 10 | 8(?) | 88. [back]

2. Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857–1920) was an Irish poet and journalist. After attending college in Dublin, he moved to Germany for a period of time. He wrote to Whitman frequently, beginning in 1880, and later produced with Karl Knortz the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into German. In 1889, the collection Grashalme: Gedichte [Leaves of Grass: Poems] was published by Verlags-Magazin in Zurich, Switzerland. See Walter Grünzweig, Constructing the German Walt Whitman (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995). For more information on Rolleston, see Walter Grünzweig, "Rolleston, Thomas William Hazen (1857–1920)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. This is an accurate summary of Rolleston's note to Whitman of September 1, 1888[back]

4. Karl Knortz (1841–1918) was born in Prussia and came to the U.S. in 1863. He was the author of many books and articles on German-American affairs and was superintendent of German instruction in Evansville, Ind., from 1892 to 1905. See The American-German Review 13 (December 1946), 27–30. His first published criticism of Whitman appeared in the New York Staats-Zeitung Sonntagsblatt on December 17, 1882, and he worked with Thomas W. H. Rolleston on the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry, published as Grashalme in 1889. For more information about Knortz, see Walter Grünzweig, "Knortz, Karl (1841–1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Whitman is referring to James Anthony Froude's Thomas Carlyle; A History of the First Forty Years of His Life, 1795–1835 (1882) and Thomas Carlyle; A History of His Life in London, 1834–1881 (1884), and James Elliot Cabot's A Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1887). For Whitman's evaluation of Froude, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, September 3, 1888[back]

6. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography). Apparently Kennedy had called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. On September 2, 1888, Richard Maurice Bucke inquired about Kennedy's projected book: "I fear publishers are not smiling upon him—fifty years from now they would be glad enough to get it" (Feinberg). Kennedy in his letter of September 4, 1888 (?) wrote that he was copying over his "Whitman MS. . . . I don't see much prospect of my book on you seeing the light soon" (Feinberg; Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, September 5, 1888). [back]

9. C. Sadakichi Hartmann (ca. 1867–1944) was an art historian and early critic of photography as an art form. He visited Whitman in Camden in the 1880s and published his conversations with the poet in 1895. Generally unpopular with other supporters of the poet, he was known during his years in Greenwich Village as the "King of Bohemia." For more information about Hartmann, see John F. Roche, "Hartmann, C. Sadakichi (ca. 1867–1944)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

10. 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]


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