Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Norman McKenzie to Walt Whitman, 29 June 1880

Date: June 29, 1880

Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977).

Location: Charles Sixsmith Collection at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester

Whitman Archive ID: man.00044

Contributors to digital file: Alicia Meyer, Eder Jaramillo, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein



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Sarnia Ont.
June 29th 1880

My dearest Friend,

Perhaps you thought I had forgotten you, but I have not much time to myself on school-days.1 Do you remember the nice sail we had that night on the lake and river, I will never forget it, you, and I had such a pleasant time up in the bow of the boat when I sat on your lap and asked you questions about the which you wrote about in your book named Two Rivulets. Our mid-summer-holidays begin on the thirteenth of July and I think that I am going down to London then if all is well and Mr Bucke2 has asked me to stay at his place first so that I will be able to see you again for I do miss you so much since you have gone. I suppose you will have plenty of fun on Dominion Day, I expect to as we always did before. I am going to by some fire-cracker and go up to the lake to shoot them off as it is against the law to fire them off within the limits of the town. When you write to me please tell me how you enjoyed Dominion Day for I would like to know. Please give my love to all and as I have told you all I know I will close here.

I remain
Your loving Friend
Norman McKenzie.


Notes:

1. Norman McKenzie was a high school student in Sarnia. Whitman undoubtedly met the boy when he visited a public school in Sarnia (Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada, 8–9); probably McKenzie accompanied the poet on "A Moonlight Excursion up Lake Huron" (7–8). Whitman replied (lost) to the boy's letter on July 4 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

2. 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). [back]


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