Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 30 October 1889

Date: October 30, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07721

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

Contributors to digital file: Braden Krien, Ashlyn Stewart, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden
Oct:30 '89—near noon1

Still cloudy, dark & threatening rain—My sister Lou2 this forenoon with a nice chicken & some Graham biscuits—Warren3 (my nurse, my sailor boy) drove her out in a little wagon to the cemetery "Evergreen" where my dear mother4 & Lou's baby children are buried—as she wanted to go out there to see the graves—Ab't the same as usual with me —have been sitting here trying to interest myself in the morning papers—Tom Harned5 took 200 of the little book & has sold 100 of them already— they have not yet been delivered—Horace6 told me last night yours had not yet gone—I urged him to see they were sent forthwith—(there is a good deal in the little book—partly as a curio—partly as a momento of L of G. history)—

P M—Of course still sitting here—"potter" around, bathe or partially bathe, hitch around, &c: &c: to while away time—have quite a mail of papers &c: sometimes the queerest letters imaginable—No news yet of Ed's7 arrival & y'r reception of the packet of pictures—A friend has just been in with a lady's album for autograph—

These two scraps I cut from Boston Transcript just rec'd8—Kennedy's9 letter enclosed—(Mrs: K10 lately visited me—very pleasant & good)—


Walt Whitman



New York is to have a monument to Goethe.11 It is to be erected in Central Park, at an expense of $30,000. The sculptor is Henry Baerer,12 who designed the Beethoven monument in New York and the John Howard Payne statue in Brooklyn. The Goethe monument is to be twenty-four feet high, with a colossal bronze figure of the great German poet at the summit, and four lifesize sitting groups in bronze around the granite pedestal, viz., "Faust and Margaret," "Iphigenia and Orestes," "Hermann and Dorothea at the Well," "The Harpist and Mignon." The cost will be defrayed by the students and admirers of Goethe, with the coöperation of the Goethe Society.

——————————
EMIN BEY AND HIS WORK

In person, Emin is a slender man, of medium height, and tough and wiry figure. He is swarthy, with black eyes and hair. His face is that of a studious professional man, and that impression is heightened by the glasses which he always wears. His attitudes and movements are, however, very alert. He stands erect and with his heels together, as if he had been trained as a soldier. He was always reticent about himself, and his history was knownt to no one in the Soudan or the Provinces of the Equator. He was supposed to be a Mohammedan. I am not sure that he ever said that he was, but I am quite sure that he did not deny it when I knew him. It has become known later that he is a German, of university education; but there were many at that time who thought that he was a Turk of extraordinary acquirements. He is certainly a man of great ability in many ways, and of strong character. Just why such a man should have gone where he has and stayed there is hard to see. Probably it was largely force of circumstances and a spirit of adventure. Certainly when he went there there was no prospect of much pay or distinction, and he was actuated by no great philanthropic ardor. Responsibilities gradually came upon him, and he rose to them. It is easy to see how, in a character like Emin's—sympathetic, reflective and enthusiastic—noble purposes were developed with a noble example before him and great opportunities around him. Emin's uncertain power in a savage land is all that remains of the late khedive's central African Empire. [Colonel H. G. Prout, in November Scribner.


Belmont
Oct 27 '89

To Walt Whitman

I am immensely pleased (tickled) with the result of my little Wifekin Dame Kennedy's visit to you. She has read yr books & Bucke's13 ever since she has returned. She was finally converted by the impression made by your personal presence. Says she felt that strange thrill (caused by yr great magnetism) that so many others have felt. She wrote to-day a tremendous arraingment of the Leslie [Nutler?]14 I told you of. She hauled him over the coals finely. I rubbed my hands in glee after quoting some of the good great fellows (in England & America) who stand up for W. W. & love him she says, "Thoreau15 thinks he is a great fellow, & I think so, too." She says, "I saw with my own eyes, his nobility & manners," &c. She thoroughly understands and approves yr Children of Adam poems, too! Sees their noble purpose.

She doesn't need you so much as I did, though, for she has always been a liberated spirit. Her father & grandfather were deists.

I tell you she's a rare little soul, I wish you knew how keenly she pierces to the heart of shams & humbugs. Yet generous enough to forgive everybody. Tears spring to her eyes at the recital of some noble heroic deed. All unfortunates flock to her.

Just begun to rain. The wooded hills & farmstead slopes give grand spreads of dull-glowing brown; not bright but rich-subdued. Have you had any new cider yet. I "hant."

affec.
W. S. Kennedy.


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. | Oct 30 | 8 PM | 89. [back]

2. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Walt's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. Their son, Walter Orr Whitman, was born in 1875 but died the following year. A second son was stillborn. Walt lived in Camden, New Jersey, with George and Louisa from 1873 until 1884, when George and Louisa moved to a farm outside of Camden and Whitman decided to stay in the city. Louisa and Walt had a warm relationship during the poet's final decades. For more, see Karen Wolfe, "Whitman, Louisa Orr Haslam (Mrs. George) (1842–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Frank Warren Fritzinger (1867–1899), known as "Warry," took Edward Wilkins's place as Whitman's nurse, beginning in October 1889. Fritzinger and his brother Harry were the sons of Henry Whireman Fritzinger (about 1828–1881), a former sea captain who went blind, and Almira E. Fritzinger. Following Henry Sr.'s death, Warren and his brother—having lost both parents—became wards of Mary O. Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, who had also taken care of the sea captain and who inherited part of his estate.  [back]

4. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)." [back]

5. 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]

6. 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]

7. Edward "Ned" Wilkins (1865–1936) was one of Whitman's nurses during his Camden years; he was sent to Camden from London, Ontario, by Dr. Richard M. Bucke, and he began caring for Whitman on November 5, 1888. He stayed for a year before returning to Canada to attend the Ontario Veterinary School. For more information, see Bert A. Thompson, "Edward Wilkins: Male Nurse to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review 15 (September 1969), 194–195. [back]

8. The clippings from the Evening Transcript, mounted on the letter, dealt with a proposed Goethe monument in New York's Central Park and the life of Emin Bey. Emin Bey or Mehmed Emin Pasha ([1840–1892]; born in Germany as Isaak Eduard Schnitzer) was a physician and naturalist who became governor of the Egyptian province of Equatoria. When the province was cut off from the outside world as the result of a revolt, he was the subject of a relief expedition led by the famous central African explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley, who led a group up the Congo River in 1888. [back]

9. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography). Apparently Kennedy had called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

10. Kennedy had married Adeline Ella Lincoln (d. 1923) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1883. The couple's son Mortimer died in infancy. [back]

11. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) was a German writer best known for The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) and Faust (1808), in which Faust sells his soul to the devil. [back]

12. Henry Baerer (1837–1908) was an American sculptor born in Munich, Germany, who created numerous statues in New York City and Brooklyn. [back]

13. 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]

14. As yet we have no information about this correspondent. [back]

15. Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) was an American author, poet, and abolitionist best known for writing Walden and Civil Disobedience. He was a contemporary of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman. [back]


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