Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Horace Traubel to Walt Whitman, 27 October 1890

Date: October 27, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04289

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. . 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.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, and Stephanie Blalock



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INSANE ASYLUM
LONDON ONTARIO
London
Oct. 27 '90.

Dear Walt—

Doctor1 is at his desk sending you one of the messages you so much affect. There is hardly need for me to add anything. Still I wish to say how much I have enjoyed all things here & how much I regret to have to make my stay so short.2 We were happy today to have the three notes from you. They arrived one with another,—a sweet sheaf fm the Southward. Bless you for all the fields you have planted & harvested for the world! What you say of Ingersoll's3 address4 goes home. Doctor's copy of that address arrived today. On Saturday I wrote Ingersoll quite a note—the first since the lecture—and today I got good word off to Baker5: a truly noble & loving fellow whom you would be [drawn?] to. I read Doctor my essay (N.E. Mag.6) Sunday night. He set me on my feet with certain improvements in phraseology, on the point of your Washington sickness. He thinks your & my terminology when we get off on that field lamentable if not laughable. Bucke has a big sneer when he minds. All is well with us. I am in love with Ina & Pardee.7 They have a more than Grecian loveliness of expression & demeanor—a commingling of two streams, antique & modern. They are such hopes as lead out to America's biggest future. We expect to have a generous drive tomorrow if it is clear. The sky tonight is overclouded. The earth here is flat, but the heavens tumble their gorgeous hills without stint. Canada—this part of it—is the land of horizons. Doctor gave a talk to students today, & this day I went with him to the dance— both times curiously instructed & quieted. I8 read Symonds'9 negative essay today. After the "master" of his letters, this is all [touchy?] & resc [illegible]. He must come out of his dim dread to say his say before he dies. When critics will cease to be icebergs, authorship will get its dues—not before!

Ever yours—
Horace


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. 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]

2. Following a lecture event in honor of Whitman at Philadelphia's Horticultural Hall on October 21, 1890, Traubel had traveled to Canada with Bucke. [back]

3. 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]

4. On October 21, 1890, at Horticultural Hall in Philadelphia, Robert Ingersoll delivered a lecture in honor of Walt Whitman titled Liberty in Literature. Testimonial to Walt Whitman. Whitman recorded in his Commonplace book that the lecture was "a noble, (very eulogistic to WW & L of G) eloquent speech, well responded to by the audience" and the speech itself was published in New York by the Truth Seeker Company in 1890 (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]). [back]

5. Isaac Newton Baker (1838–1923) was the private secretary and biographer of the orator Robert Green Ingersoll. [back]

6. Horace Traubel's article "Walt Whitman at Date" was published in the New England Magazine 4 (May 1891): 275–292. [back]

7. The Buckes had three daughters and five sons: Clare Georgina (1866–1867), Maurice Andrews (1868–1899), Jessie Clare (1870–1943), William Augustus (1873–1933), Edward Pardee (1875–1913), Ina Matilda (1877–1968), Harold Langmuir (1879–1951), and Robert Walpole (1881–1923). [back]

8. Traubel has written the rest of the letter at the top of the first page. [back]

9. John Addington Symonds (1840–1893), a prominent biographer, literary critic, and poet in Victorian England, was author of the seven-volume history Renaissance in Italy, as well as Walt Whitman—A Study (1893), and a translator of Michelangelo's sonnets. But in the smaller circles of the emerging upper-class English homosexual community, he was also well known as a writer of homoerotic poetry and a pioneer in the study of homosexuality, or sexual inversion as it was then known. See Andrew Higgins, "Symonds, John Addington [1840–1893]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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