Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 18 June 1890

Date: June 18, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07929

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: Ian Faith, Ryan Furlong, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Zainab Saleh, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden1
June 18 1890

Y'rs of 14th rec'd this mn'g.2 I continue fairly—go out in wheel chair3 every day—get along well, all things consider'd—have massage every day—do not write any thing since that Century rejection4 (do not feel to)—good letters from Col. Ingersoll5 to me6—my nurse7 is down stairs practising on his fiddle—he gets along 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. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jun 18 | 8 PM | 90 [back]

2. Bucke's letter of this date is evidently lost; it was sent to William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896), as Walt Whitman's next letter reveals. See the letter from Whitman to Kennedy of June 18, 1890[back]

3. 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]

4. Whitman's poem "On, on the Same, Ye Jocund Twain!" was rejected by the Century (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]). See Whitman's letter to Bucke of June 5, 1890. See also Richard Watson Gilder's May 14 rejection letter to Whitman. The poem was eventually published in Once a Week, June 9, 1891. [back]

5. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]

6. Ingersoll wrote letters on June 5, 1890 and June 16, 1890[back]

7. 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]


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