Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 14–16 June 1889

Date: June 14–16, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07670

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: Braden Krien, Ryan Furlong, Breanna Himschoot, Ashlyn Stewart, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden
1889
Friday noon June 141

Cloudy warm pleasant—feeling fairly (the main bother is this catarrhal, or whatever it is, head malady, quite bad much of the time)—Herbert Gilchrist2 here last evening—bowel action sufficient & regular at present—go out in my wheel chair3 toward latter part of afternoon—

Saturday, toward sundown—A brisk rattling thunder shower—(will probably change the temperature)—have relish'd my supper, a bit of beef steak & some bread pudding—if it were not for this "cold in the head" I w'd feel quite tolerable—rainy & warm & no getting out for me in the wheel chair to-day—n'importe—thankful for feeling as well as I do—

Sunday 16th near noon—Have had a bath, & am going in wheel chair to Harned's,4 to lunch, & spend a couple of hours—(The family goes off in the mountains next Wednesday)—Pleasant here, but pretty warm—y'rs rec'd—have been reading the N Y and Phil. Sunday papers—sitting here in 2nd story, Mickle—alone—

Best love to all
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 Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jun 16 | 5pm | 89; London | PM | JU 18 | 89 | Canada. [back]

2. 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]

3. Horace Traubel and Ed Wilkins, Whitman's nurse, went to Philadelphia to purchase a wheeled chair for the poet that would allow him to be "pull'd or push'd" outdoors. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of May 8, 1889[back]

4. 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]


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