Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke and Horace Traubel, 24 October 1890

Date: October 24, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07849

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Zainab Saleh, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden
near noon Oct: 24 '90

Dear friends Doctor & Horace1

Cloudy & wet yet—am feeling fairly—the rain has kept me in lately of course—last night fair sleep—for breakfast small mutton chop & br'd & coffee—am sitting now by the fire (you can both imagine it all)—the Blasius people2 sent over yesterday to ask whether we wanted to "count the tickets" in the boxes first, as they were going to clear out & destroy them—I sent word that as far as I was concern'd I sh'd not come for any such purpose, & they might clear out & destroy for all me—have had some visitors—(am the object of some cranks & lunatics among the rest)—grip on me palpably yet—the temperature getting colder here—I enclose the printed slip sent by Wallace,3 England4—also the Hort: Hall note—Horace we all miss y'r evn'g calls here—So I suppose you have taken in Niagara—the Lakes and the St: Lawrence too are not to be despised—Best respects & remembrances to Dr Beemer5 & to Dick Flynn6 & to half a dozen more friends there—As I look out of the window the last of autumn appears plainer than ever.

—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. Bucke 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). Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919), an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher, is best remembered as the literary executor and biographer 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).

Notes:

1. On October 21, 1890 at Horticultural Hall in Philadelphia, Robert Ingersoll delivered a lecture in honor of Walt Whitman titled Liberty in Literature. Testimonial to Walt Whitman. Whitman recorded in his Commonplace book that the lecture was "a noble, (very eulogistic to WW & L of G) eloquent speech, well responded to by the audience" and the speech itself was published in New York by the Truth Seeker Company in 1890 (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]). Following the lecture event, Horace Traubel went to Canada with Bucke. [back]

2. The reference is probably to Blasius & Sons, retailers of pianos and presumably agents for the Philadelphia Horticultural Hall, where the October 21st lecture event honoring Whitman and featuring a lecture by Robert Ingersoll took place. On October 22, 1890, Whitman recorded in his Commonplace book his impressions of Ingersoll's speech: "Well the Ingersoll lecture came off last evn'g in Horticultural Hall, Broad st: Phila:—a noble, (very eulogistic to WW & L of G) eloquent speech, well responded to by the audience. There were 1600 to 2000 people, (choice persons,) one third women (Proceeds to me $869.45)—I went over, was wheeled on the stage in my ratan chair, and at the last spoke a very few words—A splendid success for Ingersoll, (& me too.) Ing. had it written, & read with considerable fire, but perfect ease" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

3. James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Along with John Johnston (d. 1918), a physician from Bolton, he founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Wallace, see Larry D. Griffin, "Wallace, James William (1853–1926)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. This may be a reference to the clipping from the Sunday Chronicle of February 27, 1887, referring to "Walt Whitman Junior," which Wallace sent on October 15, 1890[back]

5. Dr. Beemer was in charge of the "Refractory Building" at Bucke's asylum. Whitman met Beemer during his visit there in the summer of 1880. See James H. Coyne, Richard Maurice Bucke: A Sketch (Toronto: Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 1906), 52. [back]

6. Dick Flynn was an employee at Bucke's Asylum. Flynn came to Camden in 1889. See Whitman's August 27, 1889 and August 29, 1889, letters to Bucke. See also Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, August 27, 1889). [back]


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