Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 16 June 1891

Date: June 16, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05875

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.

Related item: Whitman wrote this letter to Bucke on the back of the final page of a letter he had received from William H. Taylor on June 15, 1891. Whitman enclosed Taylor's full letter for Bucke to read.

Contributors to digital file: Mykle Law, Amanda J. Axley, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden
June 16 '91

The great matter here is the hot wave, continued, but a palpable breeze to-day—Even at that it's the hottest weather ever known here with the same or worse prospect ahead—I am standing pretty well thus far now just after noon—got along fairly last night—bowel movement yesterday—Horace1 here evn'g—Stoddart2 will publish the report3 with some short cutting—Made my b'kfast on some nice stew'd cherries & brown bread—this letter4 is f'm an old Broadway omnibus driver NY chum—F'm 25 to 45 I c'd hop on & get up front a stage while going a good trot—also put my hand on a six barr'd fence & leap over at once—(terrible reminissance now)—


W W


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. 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]

2. Joseph Marshall Stoddart (1845–1921) published Stoddart's Encyclopaedia America, established Stoddart's Review in 1880, which was merged with The American in 1882, and became the editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1886. On January 11, 1882, Whitman received an invitation from Stoddart through J. E. Wainer, one of his associates, to dine with Oscar Wilde on January 14 (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 235n). [back]

3. Whitman is referring to Horace Traubel's "Walt Whitman's Birthday, May 31, 1891," an article that would be published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in August 1891. It was a detailed account of Whitman's seventy-second (and last) birthday, which was celebrated with friends at the poet's home on Mickle street. [back]

4. Whitman is referring to the June 15, 1891, letter from William H. Taylor that he enclosed for Bucke. [back]


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