Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 28 June 1891

Date: June 28, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07981

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: Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden1
noon June 28 '91

Much the same with me—perturb'd head ache—fine weather—moderate bowel movem't yesterday—T2 & Mrs: Harned3 here an hour ago—sent a budget of portraits to Dr J4 Bolton, yesterday (paid)—Suppose you rec'd the pp: proof birth day acc't5 : sent by H.,6 also the fac simile letter to Dr J June 1,7 both good—Suppose you'll get off July 8—may (may not) write again this coming week—probably will—all signs at present propitious enough—bon voyage

Regards & love for British friends all—Suppose you rec'd introductory note to Tennyson8 I sent9
Walt Whitman

f'm a paper here June 27

———

TENNYSON'S LINES TO A BRIDE

———

The English Poet Laureate Congratulates Princess Louise in Verse.


Special Cable to THE INQUIRER

LONDON, June 26—An interesting affair took place this afternoon at Buckingham Palace. Representatives of matrons, sisters and nurses of the Kingdom waited on the Princess Louise of Schleswig–Holstein,10 and presented her, in honor of her approaching marriage, with a diamond crescent and a set of Lord Tennyson's poems, bound in vellum, and in the first volume of which the Poet Laureate had written these simple lines, being the latest and probably the last from his pen:

Take, lady, what your loyal nurses give:
Their full "God Bless You" with this book
of song,
And may the life which heart in heart you
live
With him you love be cloudless and be long.

———

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 28 | 5 PM | 91; Philadelphia | JUN | [illegible] | Buffalo, N.Y. | Jun | 29 | 91; London | PM | JU 29 | 91 | Canada. 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 lummux of corpse-body clumsily to and fro around.'" [back]

2. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel (1856–1914), was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on his relationship with Whitman, see Thomas Biggs Harned, Memoirs of Thomas B. Harned, Walt Whitman's Friend and Literary Executor, ed. Peter Van Egmond (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972). [back]

3. Augusta Anna Traubel Harned (1856–1914) was Horace Traubel's sister. She married Thomas Biggs Harned, a lawyer in Philadelphia and, later, one of Whitman's literary executors. [back]

4. Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927) of Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, was a physician, photographer, and avid cyclist. Johnston was trained in Edinburgh and served as a hospital surgeon in West Bromwich for two years before moving to Bolton, England, in 1876. Johnston worked as a general practitioner in Bolton and as an instructor of ambulance classes for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways. He served at Whalley Military Hospital during World War One and became Medical Superintendent of Townley's Hospital in 1917 (John Anson, "Bolton's Illustrious Doctor Johnston—a man of many talents," Bolton News [March 28, 2021]; Paul Salveson, Moorlands, Memories, and reflections: A Centenary Celebration of Allen Clarke's Moorlands and Memories [Lancashire Loominary, 2020]). Johnston, along with the architect 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 (1852–1927)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Wallace is referring to a proof of Horace Traubel's article "Walt Whitman's Birthday, May 31, 1891," which offered a detailed account of Whitman's seventy-second (and last) birthday celebration at the poet's home on Mickle Street. Traubel's article was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in August 1891. [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. Wallace is referring to Whitman's June 1, 1891, letter to the Bolton physician Dr. John Johnston, which included Whitman's description of his seventy-second birthday dinner. Johnston had a facsimile of the letter made, and he distributed copies to many of Whitman's friends and admirers. See Johnston's letter to Whitman of June 11, 1891[back]

8. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Tennyson began a correspondence with Whitman on July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]

9. Whitman enclosed a newspaper clipping "f'm a paper here June 27" with this letter. He pasted the article in the lower right-hand corner of the letter. The clipping reports on the English Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson's verses written to honor Princess Louise of Schleswig-Holstein (1872–1956) on the occasion of her wedding. [back]

10. Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein (1872–1956) was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She was the daughter of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (1831–1917) and Princess Helena of the United Kingdom (1846–1923). Princess Marie Louise was married to Prince Aribert Joseph Alexander of Anhalt (1866–1933) in 1891. The marriage was annulled in December 1900. [back]


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