Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 21 August 1890

Date: August 21, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07939

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, Zainab Saleh, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden1
Aug: 22 '90

Mr & Mrs: Ingram2 here yesterday f'm their journey back safe & full of glowing acc'ts of their visit to you & the Asylum3—No news yet ab't Dr: Johnston4 & I shall be uneasy until I hear—All well as usual with me—hot weather—light eating—frequent bathing—the bladder botheration my worst trouble—sent off a big parcel of books to Logan Smith5 & Edw'd Carpenter6 yesterday7

Love to you and all—
W W


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. | Aug 21 | 6 PM | 90; London | PM | Au 23 | 9 | Canada. [back]

2. John Henry Ingram (1842–1916), an English editor, collector, and biographer, wrote several memoirs about Edgar Allan Poe, largely in opposition to a Poe memoir written in 1850 by Rufus W. Griswold, which Ingram believed was filled with lies. Ingram also wrote critical studies of Thomas Chatterton and Christopher Marlowe. For more on Ingram, see John Carl Miller, "John Henry Ingram: Editor, Biographer, and Collector of Poe Materials," in A Guide to John Henry Ingram's Poe Collection at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 2007). [back]

3. Bucke commented on August 17, 1890: "Mr & Mrs Ingram are still here—they will go I believe tomorrow—we all like them well and have enjoyed their visit with us." [back]

4. Dr. John Johnston (d. 1918) was a physician from Bolton, England, who, with James W. Wallace, 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 Johnston, see Larry D. Griffin, "Johnston, Dr. John (d.1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946) was an essayist and literary critic. He was the son of Robert Pearsall Smith, a minister and writer who befriended Whitman, and he was the brother of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, one of Whitman's most avid followers. For more information on Logan, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Logan Pearsall (1865–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) was an English writer and Whitman disciple. Like many other young disillusioned Englishmen, he deemed Whitman a prophetic spokesman of an ideal state cemented in the bonds of brotherhood. Carpenter—a socialist philosopher who in his book Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure posited civilization as a "disease" with a lifespan of approximately one thousand years before human society cured itself—became an advocate for same-sex love and a contributing early founder of Britain's Labour Party. On July 12, 1874, he wrote for the first time to Whitman: "Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart. . . . For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature." For further discussion of Carpenter, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Carpenter, Edward [1844–1929]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Whitman sent two copies of Complete Poems & Prose to Carpenter on August 19, 1890 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). For the books shipped to Logan Pearsall Smith, see Whitman's letter to Smith of August 12, [1890][back]


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