Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 9–[10] December 1889

Date: December 9–[10], 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07738

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:404–405. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ashlyn Stewart, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
Dec: 9 '891

9 P M—Rather dull & stupid but all the organs, secretions &c: fairly condition'd I guess. The enclosed is f'm Rolleston2 who is or has been in Germany, (seems to have a magnetic draw thither)—My poemet greeting Brazil U S is bo't by McClure's newspaper syndicate & will be printed in them at Christmas3—he has sent the pay for it (I told you it was rejected by Harper's Weekly)—you must have just rec'd my adv: circulars,4 I sent four—(you can have any more you want)—damp & dark, & very mild here—I have had a bath, & am sitting here alone—Warren5 my nurse has gone off to get a violin lesson—Horace6 has been here this evn'g—I have rec'd the 10th & concluding Vol. of Stedman's "American Literature" collect7—good I fancy—

Tuesday, 1 P M—Fine sunny day—just had a good currying & pummeling—fair bowel action this forenoon—so far so good—am going out in the wheel-chair8—I believe nothing more this time—

God bless you 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. | Dec 11 | 6 AM | 89. [back]

2. Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857–1920) was an Irish poet and journalist. After attending college in Dublin, he moved to Germany for a period of time. He wrote to Whitman frequently, beginning in 1880, and later produced with Karl Knortz the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into German. In 1889, the collection Grashalme: Gedichte [Leaves of Grass: Poems] was published by Verlags-Magazin in Zurich, Switzerland. See Walter Grünzweig, Constructing the German Walt Whitman (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995). For more information on Rolleston, see Walter Grünzweig, "Rolleston, Thomas William Hazen (1857–1920)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Whitman is referring to the poem ultimately titled "A Christmas Greeting." In his December 3, 1889, letter to Richard Maurice Bucke the poet refers to the poem as "the little 'Northern Star-Group to a Southern' (welcome to Brazilian Republic)." This would become the poem's subtitle: "From a Northern Star-Group to a Southern. 1889–'90." See also "[A North Star]," a manuscript draft of this poem, in the Catalog of the Walt Whitman Literary Manuscripts in The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, DC. The poem was likely published on December 25, 1889, in various newspapers in the syndicate established by the investigative journalist Samuel Sidney McClure (1857–1949). McClure's Magazine began publication in 1893, and posthumously published some of Whitman's poetry (in 1897). [back]

4. The circular advertised Complete Poems & Prose ($6), Leaves of Grass ($5), and Portraits from Life ($3). The advertisement appeared in Camden's Compliment to Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1889); a facsimile of Walt Whitman's draft of the circular appears in Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, May 30, 1889[back]

5. 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]

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. A Library of Great American Literature: From the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time was an eleven-volume set compiled and edited by Stedman and Ellen MacKay Hutchinson and released from 1889–1890. [back]

8. 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]


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