Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 2 August 1889

Date: August 2, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07686

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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Braden Krien, Ryan Furlong, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden
Aug:2 '891

The sun is out—quiet & warm & very moist—nothing very new— Dull & rather poorly with me—I send two copies of the little new morocco bound ed'n of L of G.2 by this mail—is it that way you wanted? Yr letters come, always welcome.3 Had a letter f'm Hamlin Garland4—with first rate carte photo5:—notice a good potrait of Tennyson6 (in old age) in Aug: Century7—All well—


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. [back]

2. In celebration of his seventieth year, Whitman published the limited and autographed pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass, a volume which also included the annex Sands at Seventy and his essay A Backward Glance O'er Traveled Roads[back]

3. There are no extant letters from Bucke to Whitman between July 14 and August 4. [back]

4. Hamlin Garland (1860–1940) was an American novelist and autobiographer, known especially for his works about the hardships of farm life in the American Midwest. For his relationship to Whitman, see Thomas K. Dean, "Garland, Hamlin," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Garland had written two letters to Whitman, both dated June 1889. One letter included pages of notes that Garland indicated he wished to print; the other enclosed the photo Whitman mentions here. [back]

6. 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. Whitman wrote to Tennyson in 1871 or late 1870, probably shortly after the visit of Cyril Flower in December, 1870, but the letter is not extant (see Thomas Donaldson, Walt Whitman the Man [New York: F. P. Harper, 1896], 223). Tennyson's first letter to Whitman is dated July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]

7. Whitman is referring to the engraving of Tennyson on page 482 of volume 38 of The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (August 1889). [back]


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