Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 29–30 July 1891

Date: July 29–30, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07964

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "July 26," is in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Stephanie Blalock, and Brandon James O'Neil



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Camden N J—U S America1
July 29 '91

Y'r good letter f'm Bolton,2 with acc't of reception there3 & good time, already notified to you—still warm here but not so oppressive—graham toast, rare egg, roast apple & coffee for my breakfast—Dr L4 here last evn'g—Mrs: D,5 Horace6 & Warry7 well—all good to me— my sister8 at Burlington Vt: easier in health—O'Donovan,9 the sculptor, continuing—he is to bronze it (nous verrons)—no mail this forenoon—

Evn'g—Small broil'd chop, string beans & boil'd apple for supper—Horace here—this is the 6th I have sent10

Thursday, 30th—warm weather still—but partially cloudy—head ache most of the time—use the catheter probably to advantage—bowel excretion so-so, (a passage this mn'g—first in four days)—visit f'm an old Brooklyn friend11 & his nice married daughter,12 (I get dazed & deaf when I attempt to talk, or am talked to)—As I conclude, it is well on afternoon raining & darkish. A pretty bad day with me—perturbed inside & out. Give my affectionate regards to all friends & inquirers


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 | care Mr Costelloe | 40 Grosvenor road | the Embankment | London | England. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jul 30 | 8 PM | 91; 91; Philadelphia, PA | Jul 30 | 11PM | Paid; London. S. W. | 7 P | Au 10 | 91. Whitman wrote this letter on stationery printed with the following notice from the Boston Evening Transcript: "From the Boston Eve'g Transcript, May 7, '91.—The Epictetus saying, as given by Walt Whitman in his own quite utterly dilapidated physical case is, a 'little spark of soul dragging a great lumux of corpse-body clumsily to and fro around.'" [back]

2. During the months of July and August 1891, Bucke traveled in England in an attempt to establish a foreign market for the gas and fluid meter he was developing with his brother-in-law William Gurd. On the trip, he spent time with Dr. John Johnston and James W. Wallace, the co-founders of the Bolton College of Whitman admirers. Bucke also visited the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. [back]

3. Whitman is likely referring to Bucke's letter of July 18, 1891[back]

4. Daniel Longaker (1858–1949) was a Philadelphia physician who specialized in obstetrics. He became Whitman's doctor in early 1891 and provided treatment during the poet's final illness. For more information, see Carol J. Singley, "Longaker, Dr. Daniel [1858–1949]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R.LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [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]

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. 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]

8. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde, youngest sister of Walt Whitman. For more, see Paula K. Garrett, "Whitman (Heyde), Hannah Louisa (d. 1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

9. William Rudolph O'Donovan (1844–1920) was an American sculptor. He was an associate of American artist Thomas Eakins and accompanied Eakins to Whitman's Camden home and fashioned a large bust of Whitman. Whitman liked O'Donovan but did not care for the bust, which he found "too hunched" and the head "too broad" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, July 15, 1891). [back]

10. Whitman is keeping track of the number of letters he has sent to Bucke in England. [back]

11. This may be a reference to William H. Taylor. Taylor was a former driver or the son of one and had written to Whitman on June 15, 1891. [back]

12. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]


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