Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 8 September 1888

Date: September 8, 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), 4:206–207. 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.07662

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




Camden
Saturday Noon Sept 8 '881

Your good letters come daily—I had quite set on sending you the mare & phæton2 but when I saw (& saw clearly) the situation I resigned to give the scheme up & have sold the rig to Rev Mr Corning3 here (the Unitarian minister) for ab't enough for some bills needing payment4—O now I feel relieved—

Nothing particularly different in my sickness—or if anything it is a mild suspicion of betterment—Tom Harned5 was here last evening, & Horace6 is most faithful & invaluable to me, comes every evening, & sees to the printing first rate—It is all going on favorably—Morse7 is in Chicago, working (moderately—writing some) & appears to be happy. Herbert Gilchrist8 has not been over here since—He has some plan or art-design I guess—mystified to me so far—Osler9 is still away—expect him back every day—Tennyson10 sent me his Cordial best greetings by H G—he is well—& I hear from Ernest Rhys11—I am lately looking at Froude's 2d vol. ab't Carlyle "Life in London"12—the refreshing natural old fault finder of everything & every person & writing, including his own utterances ("that cursed book" he calls the Frederic13)—

It is very moist & clouded & rather warm to-day—after two days and nights quite cold—but the summer season is over—I sit here the same—got down yesterday for five minutes but hitch'd back soon—Every body is good—"Whatever consists with thee," said Marcus Aurelius, "consists with me, O Nature."14—Best luck to your meter scheme15

Love16
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 8 | (?) PM | 88. [back]

2. In September 1885, Whitman received a horse ("Nettie") and a phæton as a gift from a group of prominent friends, and he used the horse and carriage for three years. A photo is available here[back]

3. Reverend J. Leonard Corning was a Unitarian minister in Camden, New Jersey, who often visited Whitman at the poet's Camden home. [back]

4. Whitman was paid $130 on September 7, 1888 by the Rev. J. Leonard Corning, a frequent visitor during the poet's illness (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

5. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel (1856–1914), 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). For more on his relationship with Whitman, see Thomas Biggs Harned, Memoirs of Thomas B. Harned, Walt Whitman's Friend and Literary Executor, ed. Peter Van Egmond (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972). [back]

6. 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]

7. 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]

8. 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]

9. 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]

10. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Tennyson began a correspondence with Whitman on July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]

11. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

12. Whitman is referring to James Anthony Froude's Thomas Carlyle; A History of His Life in London, 1834–1881 (1884). [back]

13. The Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) published his six-volume life of Frederic the Great from 1858 to 1865. [back]

14. The Roman Emperor's Meditations, written around 170–180 AD, express his Stoic philosophy, as Whitman quotes it here. [back]

15. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]

16. On September 10, 1888 Bucke wrote that he hoped to receive soon autographed copies of November Boughs (1888) and Complete Poems & Prose: "I shall look upon them as the crown and summit of all my W. W. Collection—a collection by the way which gives me a lot of worry sometimes to think what I am eventually to do with it. I regard it as so precious that no ordinary disposition of it will do." [back]


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.