Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 28 July 1888

Date: July 28, 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), 4:193–194. 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.07648

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




Camden
Saturday afternoon
July 28 '881

Pleasant cool, calm sunny weather—a rain quite hard, & early this morning—I mustn't shout till I am well out of the woods but I feel perceptibly better—took a quite elaborate wash (bath) in a way that I like—helping myself leisurely—ab't two hours ago—& handled myself decidedly better than five days ago—a sort of nibble of strength—Yours of 26th rec'd—welcomed & cheering—I have told you ab't the facts of Nov: Boughs2—I have just read the revised proof of "Elias Hicks"—when ready, the publication of N B may wait quite a long while, for reasons.3

My opine is that our dear O'Connor4 is better—jaunting at present for the time an easier road on plateau land, like—(no doubt sufferings and botherations, plenty—but no one but a sick man—seriously sick—realizes the let up of some of the heaviest burdens)—O'C (do you know?) is writing a defence & essay, generally, on the Donnelly5 Crypto[gram]—(I predict that it will be better than the C itself)6—Ed Stafford7 has just call'd with some apples & a chicken—

Saturday Sunset

Have had my dinner, stew'd chicken & rice pudding—have not left my room yet, but shall get down a few minutes to-morrow or next day—Spirits good—A letter from Logan Smith8 to-day—he is a collegian & revels in it—


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 to: Dr R M Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jul 28(?) | 8 PM | 88. [back]

2. 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]

3. Whitman could not publish November Boughs (1888) until after the appearance of "Army and Hospital Cases" in the October issue of Century (see also Whitman's September 22, 1888 letter to Bucke). In his reply to this letter on August 4, 1888, Bucke offered the following suggestion: "I think myself a good idea would be to print a hundred or two hundred copies on good (and large) paper, bind them nicely and sell yourself for $5. or even $10. with autograph, by & by publish through McKay or another." [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. Ignatius Loyola Donnelly (1831–1901) was a politician and writer, well known for his notions of Atlantis as an antediluvian civilization and for his belief that Shakespeare's plays had been written by Francis Bacon, an idea he argued in his book The Great Cryptogram: Francis Bacon's Cipher in Shakespeare's Plays, published in 1888.  [back]

6. Mr. Donnelly's Reviewers was published posthumously. On August 7, 1888 Bucke wrote: "I am glad you are getting cheerful letters from O'Connor. I trust he is not suffering so much these times. Am a little sorry he is worrying himself about the Cryptogram which I fear is more or less of a fraud though perhaps not intentionally so on Donnelly's part" (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, August 9, 1888). [back]

7. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was the brother of Harry Stafford, a close acquaintance of Whitman. [back]

8. Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946) was an essayist and literary critic. He was the son of Robert Pearsall Smith, a minister and writer who befriended Whitman, and he was the brother of Mary Whitall Smith Coestelloe, one of Whitman's most avid followers. For more information on Logan, see Christina Davey "Smith, Logan Pearsall (1865–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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