Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 6 April 1890

Date: April 6, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07761

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), 5:33–34. 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, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
April 6 '901

Still down sick—it holds on day & night—(well have they call'd it the grip)—I am sitting in my chair to write this, but I feel more like lying down, & shall presently do so—I am quite sure nothing serious or at all alarming—will probably blow over this coming week—No I do not know either the origin nor purpose of the McDermot piece2 nor do I care a straw—I have sent you Dr Brinton's fine monograph ab't Bruno3—(if you want one or two more I can send them)—We are having quite a clientage among scientists & doctors—a while ago it was actors & artists—Could not eat any breakfast—drank a cup of near-hot milk—shall try to take a bowl of chicken & rice soup at 4—pretty dismal with me—Warren4 is very good & kind & so Mrs: D[avis]5—Of course the massages are given up for the present—two days ago (f'm weather & other reasons)—I sweat freely, & was better offer—but these two current days are cold—

near 3 P M—have been lying down—up to finish this & send it off—weak & miserable & phlegm-suffocated to an extreme—O the beautiful bright clean sunshiny day & the young ones out in their pretty clothes—

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. | Apr 6 | 5 PM | 90. [back]

2. Until letters from Bucke between March 27 and April 14 surface, the allusion will remain a mystery. [back]

3. Giordano Bruno: Philosopher and Martyr (1890) consisted of two speeches before the Philadelphia Contemporary Club by Daniel G. Brinton (1837–1899), a pioneer in the study of anthropology and a professor of linguistics and archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, and by Thomas Davidson (1840–1900), a Scottish philosopher and author. It included a prefatory note by Whitman dated February 24, 1890 (see The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman: Prose Works 1892, ed. by Floyd Stovall, 2 vols. [1963–1964], 2:676–677). In his essay Brinton links the poet with Bruno in his rejection of the "Christian notion of sin as a positive entity" (34). On April 4, 1890, Whitman sent copies of the book to John Addington Symonds, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Gabriel Sarrazin, T. H. Rolleston, and W. M. Rossetti (The Commonplace-Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). See also Whitman's April 11, 1890, letter to Bucke. After the poet presented him with a copy of Complete Poems & Prose, Brinton expressed his thanks effusively on April 12, 1890. [back]

4. 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]

5. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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