Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy and Richard Maurice Bucke, 18 April 1888

Date: April 18, 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), 4:163. 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.07589

Contributors to digital file: Braden Krien, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
noon April 18 '881

All goes as well & monotonously as usual (No news is good news)—I got up late, ate my breakfast (two or three broil'd oysters, a Graham biscuit & cup of coffee)—& here I am sitting alone in the little front room, feeling not discomfortable particularly—I have rec'd from Morse 2 a plaster cast bust of Elias Hicks3 wh' I have set up in the corner—like it—it is a little larger than life proportions—you may be sure Morse is making better work than ever—I send O'C[connor]'s4 letter to me5, just rec'd, as I know you will wish to hear & know—also send S Ford's letter6—Also send two little slips of a Herald bit—you keep one & send the other with these letters to Dr. B—(Maurice, I have rec'd y'r letter of 15th)—Have quite a good many visitors—Yesterday two young women, one from Ireland—a lady from Virginia (authoress)—Mr Quigley (law assistant of Col. Ingersoll)7—& a young Phila. littérateur &c. &c.—Receive many invitations & some queer letters—Spirits mainly good—Best love—


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
William Sloane Kennedy and Richard Maurice Bucke were two of Whitman's closest friends and admirers. Kennedy (1850–1929) first met Whitman while on the staff of the Philadelphia American in 1880. He became a fierce defender of Whitman and would go on to write a book-length study of the poet. 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). Bucke (1837–1902), a Canadian physician, was Whitman's first biographer, and would later become 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 endorsed: "Send the letters & one | slip to Dr. B | Dr I want Ford's & O'C's | letters returned to me." [back]

2. 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]

3. Elias Hicks (1748–1830) was a Quaker from Long Island whose controversial teachings led to a split in the Religious Society of Friends in 1827, a division that was not resolved until 1955. Hicks had been a friend of Whitman's father and grandfather, and Whitman himself was a supporter and proponent of Hicks's teachings, writing about him in Specimen Days (see "Reminiscence of Elias Hicks") and November Boughs (see "Elias Hicks, Notes (such as they are)"). For more on Hicks and his influence on Whitman, see David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America (New York: Knopf, 1995), 37–39. [back]

4. 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]

5. See the letter from William D. O'Connor to Whitman of April 14, 1888. [back]

6. A letter from art critic Sheridan Ford on April 13, 1888 invited the poet to give a series of lectures in England and Scotland in the fall. See also Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, April 5, 1889[back]

7. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]


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