Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy and Richard Maurice Bucke, 20 March 1888

Date: March 20, 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), 4:157–158. 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.07637

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
2 P M March 20 '88

It is a cloudy dark wet day—raining hard outside as I sit here by the window—am feeling pretty well—have just had my dinner, raw oysters & a slice of boiled ham—enjoyed the meal—Get lots of invitations, applications &c. every week—(O what lots of letters for autographs)—frequent visitors—sometimes an angel unawares—invites to swell dinners (or societies &c) invariably declined—Am idle & monotonous enough in my weeks & life here—but upon the whole am mighty thankful it is no worse—my buying this shanty & settling down here on ½ or ¼ pay, & getting Mrs. D[avis]1 to cook for me, might have been bettered by my disposing some other way—but I am satisfied it is all as well as it is—& whatever happens.2

—Morse3 is still out in Indiana with a probability of remaining—at least of not coming back here—I have not heard any thing definite of O'C[onnor]4—I still jog away the Herald bits5—I enclose Mary Costelloe's6 letter just rec'd—Isn't it cheery?


Walt Whitman

Send to Dr Bucke—both letters7


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. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Undoubtedly Whitman was informing Kennedy that he contemplated no change in his living arrangements, and that the proceeds from the Cottage Fund were to be used (or not used) as he saw fit. Although Whitman's friend was loath to offer any public criticism, some of the contributors were evidently annoyed that no accounting was made by the poet. Hamlin Garland, in 1889, asked Horace Traubel "what had become of the cottage money." Whitman retorted quickly: "It is a question not again to be reopened" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, July 8, 1889). [back]

3. Sidney H. Morse 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), 57–84; and David Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography (New York: Vintage Books, 1996), 546–590. [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. 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]

6. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. In the upper margin of the page Whitman has written the following note: "send to Dr Bucke—both letters." [back]


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